Though just last week I got really pissed off at Tim Dickinson’s Rolling Stone piece on Proposition 8, this week he has a really good article about all of the last-minute regulations Bush is putting into place as he walks out the White House door. Of course, we know all about the anti-choice HHS rule . . . but there’s a lot more than that.
While every modern president has implemented last-minute regulations, Bush is rolling them out at a record pace — nearly twice as many as Clinton, and five times more than Reagan. “The administration is handing out final favors to its friends,” says Véronique de Rugy, a scholar at George Mason University who has tracked six decades of midnight regulations. “They couldn’t do it earlier — there would have been too many political repercussions. But with the Republicans having lost seats in Congress and the presidency changing parties, Bush has nothing left to lose.”
Some of the highlights:
Under a rule submitted in November, federal agencies would no longer be required to have government scientists assess the impact on imperiled species before giving the go-ahead to logging, mining, drilling, highway building or other development. The rule would also prohibit federal agencies from taking climate change into account in weighing the impact of projects that increase greenhouse emissions — effectively dooming polar bears to death-by-global-warming. According to Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, “They’ve taken the single biggest threat to wildlife and said, ‘We’re going to pretend it doesn’t exist, for regulatory purposes.’”
In early December, the administration finalized a rule that allows the industry to dump waste from mountaintop mining into neighboring streams and valleys, a practice opposed by the governors of both Tennessee and Kentucky. “This makes it legal to use the most harmful coal-mining technology available,” says Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Factory farms are getting two major Christmas presents from Bush this year. Circumventing the Clean Water Act, the administration has approved last-minute regulations that will allow animal waste from factory farms to seep, unmonitored, into America’s waterways. The regulation leaves it up to the farms themselves to decide whether their pollution is dangerous enough to require them to apply for a permit.
In October, two weeks after consulting with industry lobbyists, the White House exempted more than 100 major polluters from monitoring their emissions of lead, a deadly neurotoxin. Seemingly hellbent on a more toxic future, the administration will also allow industry to treat 3 billion pounds of hazardous waste as “recycling” each year, and to burn another 200 million pounds of hazardous waste reclassified as “fuel,” increasing cancer-causing air pollution. The rule change is a reward to unrepentant polluters: Nearly 90 percent of the factories that will be permitted to burn toxic waste have already been cited for violating existing environmental protections.
In another last-minute shift, the administration has rewritten rules to make it harder for workers to take time off for serious medical conditions under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
In a rule that went into effect on December 8th, the administration also limited vision and dental care for more than 50 million low-income Americans who rely on Medicaid. “This means the states are going to have to pick up the tab or cut the services at a time when a majority of states are in a deficit situation,” says Bass of OMB Watch. “It’s a horrible time to do this.” To make matters worse, the administration has also raised co-payments for Medicaid, forcing families on poverty wages to pay up to 10 percent of the cost for doctor visits and medicine. One study suggests that co-payments could cause Medicaid patients to skip nearly a fifth of all prescription-drug treatments.
Under midnight regulations, the administration is seeking to lock in the domestic spying it began even before 9/11. One rule under consideration would roll back Watergate-era prohibitions barring state and local law enforcement from spying on Americans and sharing that information with U.S. intelligence agencies.
And that’s not even the full story. Please do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.
The title of the article gets this exactly right: these regulations are a giant fuck you to the American people, and further ensure that which was already guaranteed: the Bush legacy will be that of putting governmental and corporate power over the basic health, labor, environmental and civil rights of U.S. residents. It’s disgusting, and though it’s tempting to shake our heads and firmly believe that Obama Will Fix It, there’s more bad news.
John Podesta, the transition chief for the Obama administration, has vowed that the new president will leverage his “executive authority” to fight Bush’s last-minute rule changes. But according to experts who study midnight regulations, there’s surprisingly little an incoming executive can do to overturn such rules. The Bush administration succeeded in repealing just three percent of the regulations finalized before Bill Clinton left office in 2001. “Midnight regulations under Bush are being executed early and with great intent,” says Bass of OMB Watch. “And that intent is to lock the next administration into these regulations, making it very difficult for Obama to undo what Bush just did.”
The article continues by going into Obama’s options for rolling back these rules, and there are a few, but I remain pessimistic and really fucking pissed off. And as the article further notes, even if Obama does take the time and effort necessary to overturning all of these dangerous and deadly regulations, it’s only going to distract him from the other tasks he has ahead. So while we finally have a president who tells us he’s committed to environmental sustainability and minimizing the effects of global warming, he’ll have his hands full with even more balls to juggle in just that single area. We want him to be able to do everything, but to some extent that’s just going to be impossible. So what does he choose? What do we even want him to choose?
As much as I want to remain hopeful for the future and that some sort of positive change is coming our way, this acts as a really sore and depressing reminder of what we all already knew deep down in our hearts. The effects of the Bush years aren’t going to be just disappearing anytime soon. Worse, some of those effects may just be beginning.
- Bush Poised To Implement Dangerous New DHHS Rule by Cara November 14, 2008
- Seven States Sue Government Over Anti-Choice DHHS Rule by Cara January 17, 2009
- Leave the morals at the border by Jill April 4, 2007
- Obama getting it wrong on birth control by Jill January 27, 2009
- Bush Administration Promotes Discriminatory Practices Related To Birth Control by Marcella Chester July 19, 2008