BOGUE, Kan. - Rep. Huelskamp claimed in his column last week that he's not playing politics. I'm waiting for his "I caught this really, really, really big fish" story.
"We can all agree," he says, that the Obama stimulus "did not work."
Well, it didn't fix the train wreck of 2008 when the unregulated and mis-regulated "free market" banksters went home with multi-million dollar bonuses (thanks to taxpayers). It didn't save us from ridiculous tax cuts for the rich.
It didn't recover the ongoing cost of two wars and several covert military operations. It didn't stop the relocation of jobs abroad. That much we grant, but ...
According to a detailed study (pdf) by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus created several million jobs. Readers can wade through it all or browse the chart (p.3) a chart showing quarter by quarter employment changes from 2009 onward.
Because our population grows, an estimated 125,000 more citizens enter the job market each month, or 1.5 million annually. In spite of that, the stimulus did make things considerably better than they would have been. Steven Benen at the Washington Monthly (June 6) used CBO figures to graph the private sector jobs (not census workers) lost or gained during the last year of the Bush administration and the first 14 months of the Obama administration. Benen's article is titled Defying Explanation, by which he refers to fact-twisting like Huelskamp's.
Another Huelskamp windstorm blew in earlier (Aug. 31). "It's more than the rumor mill grinding," he writes. He cites a public meeting at which an Illinois farmer challenged Obama to stop "burdening" agriculture with "unnecessary and burdensome" regulations. The President advised the farmer to check with the USDA -- which does, in fact, oversee many agricultural regulations. Others are overseen by the EPA, a steady Tea Party fixation.
While he slips in greenhouse gases as a tip of the hat to the Koch brothers, Huelskamp's column suggests the farmer's concerns were about dust regulation and milk spills.
Political newbie reporter, M.L. Lee, born in South Korea, a 2009 college graduate obviously not up to snuff on agricultural regulations proceeded on a self-inflicted wild goose chase at the USDA (Call Uncle Sam: Obama's unhelpful advice)
Huelskamp concludes Lee just found what the Illinois farmer would have found, had he himself tried to get information. If so, the farmer would have been a little thick, too. A qualified reporter with minimal agricultural journalism skill would discover that it's the EPA via the Clean Air Act that deals with dust and milk spills (and, yes, Tim, greenhouse gases). Huelskamp cites it all with Sean Hannity glee.
Well, Huelskamp is six months behind on milk spills -- which he still claims the EPA treats like oil spills. On April 12, the "EPA exempted milk and milk product containers from the Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule, potentially saving the milk and dairy industries more than $140 million per year. This regulation had been in place since the 1970s."
The EPA change came as a result of Obama's executive order on regulatory reform. But dust we art, to dust we shall return.
In EPA lingo dust is "coarse particulate matter" -- along with ash, and chemical pollutants measuring 10 microns or less in diameter. A Reuters' reporter reports that's about one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. Maybe not so good to breathe lots of, eh?
Well, I called EPA Region 7 Office in Kansas City, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and was directed to Kris Lancaster, EPA spokesperson. "There's no truth," he said, "in the claims about regulating dust on country roads. In fact, there's never been action to regulate farm dust in our four state area [KS, MO, NE, IA]" I gathered from his tone that those in the agency tire of the paranoia.
Lancaster provided links to interactive maps of Region 7 air monitors. In Kansas, most of the 17 sites are in or near urban areas. Three are in western Kansas -- Dodge City Community College, Goodland, and Cedar Bluff. KDHE monitors and reports problems. I talked with Tom Gross at KDHE to learn more. Only Dodge City collects hourly data. The other two use periodically examined filters.
The Clean Air Act is reviewed every 5 years. Last year, a team of EPA scientists began studying whether the existing standard of 150 micrograms per cubic liter is okay or should be made tougher. In the past week, I've followed hourly measurements at Dodge. Nothing even close to 150.
But Farm Progress America's drama-heavy Max Armstrong on the Kansas Agriculture Network carried a report last week offering that the EPA "has plans to regulate the dust, called coarse particulate material. which occurs while driving on unpaved roads, using tractors in the field, moving from pen to pen or pasture to pasture." Bull.
If Rep. Huelskamp isn't playing politics, I don't know what you'd call it.
This column appeared earlier in the Hays Daily News, 9-23-2011