Things I memorized years ago tend to pop into my head at the strangest times. One piece of literature I learned in Miss Anne Fletcher’s 8th grade history class (some 56 years ago), I remember in its entirety and it continues to shape a great deal of the way I perceive my country and its culture and heritage and place in the world. It begins, “We, the people of the United State. . .” Perhaps you too learned it in some long ago classroom, laboring over the order of the words, written in an unfamiliar formal language. It is classic18th century writing based on the philosophers of another time. But the ideas, ah, the ideas. These words have been transcribed into many languages, have fanned the flames of rebellion, and caused the beacon of Liberty to shine throughout the world. It says the purpose of this nation is like no other — in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity , do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Earlier the preamble to the Declaration of Independence announced that all men are created equal and that all are born with the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
These are the basic guidelines by which we are to be ruled as a people and as a nation. Now I am not naive and I know that dream must also be achieved through hard work or as Winston Churchill said about the British fight, “Blood, toil, sweat, and tears.” Nothing worthwhile was ever achieved easily and if you have studied your history, you know that “inalienable rights” were at the root on the Civil War and we are still attempting to fulfill the promise of “establishing justice and insuring domestic tranquility.” We know some battles are not easily won.
So it was interesting to me this morning how a couple of pieces in a puzzle clicked together for me as I was eating breakfast. I started the day by checking my phone for overnight messages, weather report, and news headlines from several newspapers including the New York Times. The lead article for this morning was a story on the Environmental Protection Agency rewriting a rule to make it harder to track the health consequences of various chemicals and thus to regulate them. This particular toxic chemical in question, is linked to kidney cancer, birth defects, immune system disorders and other serious health problems. The Trump administration appointee is Dr. Nancy Beck, formerly executive at the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade association. She is now top deputy for EPA. Over 80,000 highly toxic chemicals regulated by the EPA are now less likely to be subjected to heavy oversight and restrictions. Government too often directs burdensome rules at what she has called “Phantom risks.” I thought of the adage about letting the “fox into the hen house.”
Then, just by chance, as I ate my cereal, I read a couple pages in a book entitled “Bitten by a camel” by Kent Dobson. (You have to read the book to understand the title.) The line my eyes landed on was this. Dobson writes, “Perhaps you have read Einstein’s famous line, “No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it.” I actually stopped chewing for a moment as I thought, that is exactly what I was just reading about regarding the new direction of the EPA.
Now pick up the idea that for many generations people who worked in local, state and national government were called “public servants”. Although it might be in question, people who worked for government received lower wages than those in private industry, but the point was they spent a lifetime working for and promoting “the general welfare” of the people of the country. People wanted to work in or be appointed to departments where they felt they could do the most good.
There is the sometimes image of “pigs feeding at the trough” of government monies, that is working in a position where they could line their pockets and make the most of the opportunity to change laws and regulations for their own benefit.
Of the many men and women who have recently been appointed to serve in various governmental departments, a fair number of them have a great deal to gain privately by serving in these positions. I try to put the best construction on what people do, but I am not that innocent to see what someone who has worked for the Chemical industry could do to rules that regulate that industry to promote the common welfare. The EPA is supposed to be working for clean air, water and soil and atmospheres in our homes and businesses that are safe. People who have worked in asbestos related industries, or in the coal mines, or in places where toxic fumes permeate the atmosphere have been victims of the chemical industry. Or think of the Love Canal environmental disaster, or the super fund designations in Libby, Montana, or the clean up that has been going on in Glendive at the north end of Sargent Avenue. These are small potatoes compared to some of the clean up work going on in this country. If the EPA now walks along side rather than regulating these industries, we as private citizens are in a world of hurt.
Government is to serve the people, but that has always been an uphill battle. Where there is profit to be made we will find someone’s hand in our pocket. Now granted, we know over regulation is an issue as well, but the standard at all levels is the welfare of “the people” and that is us. We have a right to demand the highest standards to guarantee the safety of our children and the earth we have been given to care for.