But what we haven’t seen before is a large-scale desertion of enterprise by those who are tired of being demonized for their creativity. With the deck stacked against them, more and more job-creators are simply throwing in the towel.
And who can blame them? We’ve seen, for example, the villification of David and Charles Koch. The President, who avails himself of Air Force One whenever he pleases, likes to verbally assault corporations—especially those that own jets. Executives at GE have skated on the verbal abuse so far, but that may be due to the company’s ownership of MSNBC—or, perhaps, its coziness with the White House.
Energy companies shouldn’t have to prostitute themselves to the executive branch of the government merely to avoid being denounced from the bully pulpit. No organization should have to do that.
And this is where the Environmentalist-Executive Complex has taken us:
I was at a public hearing in an inner-city Birmingham neighborhood for various government officials to get public input on some local environmental issues. There are several hot topics, but one of the highest-profile disputes is over a proposal for a coal mine near a river that serves as a source of drinking water for parts of the Birmingham metro area. Mine operators and state environmental officials say the mine can be operated without threatening the water supply. Environmentalists claim it will be a threat.
I’m not going to take sides on that environmental issue, because I don’t know enough to stake out an informed opinion. (With most of the people I listened to today, facts didn’t seem to matter as much as emotional implications.) But Ronnie Bryant wasn’t there to talk about that particular mine. As a mine operator in a nearby area, he was attending the meeting to listen to what residents and government officials were saying. He listened to close to two hours of people trashing companies of all types, and blaming pollution for random cases of cancer in their families. Several speakers clearly believe that all of the cancer and other deaths they see in their families and communities must be caused by pollution. Why? Who knows? Maybe just because it makes for an emotional story to blame big bad business. It’s hard to say.
After Bryant listened to all of the business-bashing, he finally stood to speak. He sounded a little bit shellshocked, a little bit angry — and a lot frustrated.
My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use?
I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you.
I have no idea what Bryant will actually do. He might have made a quick emotional decision based on anger at feeling blamed for things that are frequently just normal health issues of life. He might reconsider and go ahead with his project.
The only thing I’m sure of is that what I saw today is a broken process and a sham. We all want a decent environment in which to live, but when various people at a public meeting — including federal officials and community members — talk about “environmental justice” and make it clear that their intent is to make it harder for businesses to operate, well, I can see why a businessman would decide to quit. I consider myself an environmentalist — because I want to live in a safe, secure, clean world — but what I saw isn’t reasonable concern for the environment as much as it’s an ideological agenda.
Yes, I know that this was a local incident, but the barriers being put up at the state and local level echo those that the Administration is erecting at the Federal level—from the off-shore “permitorium” that is so damaging the Gulf States to the foot-dragging on approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline to take Canadian crude to refineries in Texas—which would decrease our reliance on oil from unfriendly countries, and those whose extraction is done in environmentally problematic ways (e.g., Nigeria).
What this Administration and its allies on the left refuse to recognize is the degree to which people are suffering out here. The economy of Washington, D.C. has been booming over the past three years, but the rest of the country is enduring the pangs of the Second Great Depression.
And hope has been dying; the natural optimism of the American spirit is, at long last, fading.
The environmental extremists, and their allies in the White House, remain oblivious.
Because, you know . . . they have jobs.