The enormity of the crimes of the capitalist system never cease to amaze me. Marx describes in Capital the cost in human lives of unregulated capitalism as it developed in Great Britain and elsewhere in the mid-nineteenth century. The truncated lives and early deaths of the young women and children working 18 hours a day in the spinning mills, the death from lung diseases and overwork in factories and mines Marx meticulously detailed.
Hand in hand with the profits that made Victorian England the worlds leading economic power, and its consequent imperial ambitions, we find this not so hidden underside of death and misery for millions of workers and poor people.
Now we live in more enlightened times. How advanced we are here in America. The dismal horrors of nineteenth century unregulated capitalism are of blessed memory, or so our modern apologists for this rotten and inhuman economic system assure us.
But wait! Buried inside the pages of a recent edition (6/10) of the newspaper of record, The New York Times, a headline at the bottom of the page catches the eye: "Study Ranks Bush Plan to Cut Air Pollution as Weakest of 3." It seems, as we shall soon see, that death comes from our friends the capitalists in many forms.
The Bushites, it turns out, have been exposed by a report on air pollution from a commission they themselves authorized to study the effects of their anti-pollution proposals.
Later the commission then compared the Bush plan (to lower pollution caused by coal burning power plants), called the Clear Skies Act – by now you should know when the Bushies come with a name like that the skies will be dirtier than ever – to two different plans put forth by members of the Senate.
Needless to say, Bush’s anti-pollution plan is really a pro-industry plan. Not even the Republicans can ignore completely the deadly effects of increased air pollution – the cause of the now epidemic spread of childhood asthma in the inner-cities (code word for "slums"), and untold thousands of deaths annually from lung diseases and other breathing complications (stress, cardiac conditions, etc.).
The problem is not to help out the afflicted, but how to do something that has the least possible negative effect on the power and pollution industry. Ergo, the Clear Skies Act which requires the least amount of commitment from the industry and lets it avoid the expenditure of the necessary money to develop anti-pollution devices to clean up the garbage they pump into the air 24/7.
As of today, according to the Times article, pollution from coal burning power plants kills about 24,000 people a year – the majority of whom live in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.
Let us hope they don’t drag themselves to the polls to cast their dying votes for Bush.
Bush’s plan would reduce the death toll to 10,000 a year. The Senate plan of Thomas Carpers (Dem/Del) cuts the toll to 8,000 annually. The plan of Senator James Jeffords (remember him, the Republican from Vermont who jumped ship and became an Independent thus briefly giving the Democrats control of the Senate) reduces the death toll to 2,000 a year. This plan is co-sponsored by Senator Kerry.
The Times quotes Sen. Jeffords as saying, "Rather than move forward on legislation to make our air cleaner, we have spent the last three and half years trying to prevent the Bush administration from weakening clean air standards." Evidently 24,000 deaths a year are not enough for the Bush administration.
Well, those are the plans. Its an election year so nothing is happening on the pollution front right now other than 2,000 people a month coughing and suffocating to death so power plants can make their profits without having to come up with pesky pollution control devices. In fact, however, the plans won’t even go into effect until 2020 – a sixteen year breathing spell for the power industry. During these sixteen years 384,000 people will be killed off by the capitalists and their coal burning power plants. If the Bush plan were put in force today that number would be 160,000 as opposed to the Jeffords-Kerry plan’s 32,000 (you can’t have capitalism completely free of needless deaths and diseases).
So, the Republicans would kill off an extra 128,000 people. That is why I think there are at least 128,000 reasons to defeat Bush.
Thomas Riggins is book review editor
of Political Affairs (www.politicalaffairs.net).