OK, here's something that might even be scarier than the latest report about the dumping of "mystery liquids" in Pennsylvania's water supply. The man that Gov. Tom Corbett is tasking to deal with the problem is utterly clueless.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Michael Krancer, your next Pennsylvania environmental protection commissioner:
In his opening remarks, Krancer emphasized a business-first philosophy of environmental regulation, saying "Responsible, strong, vibrant and growing business is necessary as an engine for the protection of the environment."
If anyone had doubts about that, he said, "One need only look to the former Iron Curtain experience and the pollution that is there to prove that a moribund economy is the enemy of environmental protection."
Democratic Senator Daylin Leach, who had introduced Krancer and said he "could not be happier" with Krancer's appointment, responded "They also had very weak environmental enforcement, and that's a reason there were the pollution problems there were."
Leach is right (about enforcement, not about Krancer) and Krancer is beyond clueless. The reality is that by the tail end of the Industrial Revolution, both capitalistic and communist economies were ruining the environment, partly from ignorance and partly from governments in both systems not aggressively tackling the problem.
I was a kid in America in the 1960s, and I knew enough then to see that a) the economy was booming and b) the environment was dying. I grew up a couple of miles from the Hudson River, which was totally off-limits for fishing or swimming back in those days (and we didn't even know what PCBs were) -- and at least the Hudson never caught on fire as did smaller urban rivers in Cleveland and Chicago. The American steel industry was also booming in the post World War II era, and it was lethal to 20 residents of the western Pennsylvania town of Donora who breathed in the smog during a crisis in 1948.
How soon we forget.
It's true that when the Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989, we learned that environmental problems in Eastern Europe were more widespread -- at that time -- than they were in the West. That was not the result of capitalism, but democracy. In America, the public elected leaders -- including, believe it or not, Richard Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency -- who saw a need for landmark laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and a government agency with power to enforce them.
This is important, and it also speaks to the reason why I've written a book and numerous blog posts about the Reagan myth, because a bogus version of history is increasing distorting our politics in 2011, especially with the Reaganized-and-lobotomized new generation of GOPers coming into office this year. We've already seen Wisonsin's Scott Walker who thinks he is emulating Reagan's toughness in firing striking air traffic controllers in 1981, when all he is really doing is finishing the task that Reagan started of destroying the working class in this country. Now comes Michael Krancer who's looking to Poland for a through-the-looking-glass version of world history when he can looking right here at his home state to see how forty years of democratic progress is at risk.
Tom Corbett (did I mention that he received $835,720 from the oil-and-gas industry, because I can't mention that enough) has only been governor for five weeks or so. Pray for Pennsylvania.