John Thune proposed a piece of legislation that will make a great campaign commercial for his opposition in 2010, should he have the temerity to run again. I state that caveat because of Thune's sterling record in representing agriculture. As a Congressman, he did not even belong to a caucus on agriculture, although he represented a state with an economy based on agriculture. After a campaign opponent pointed out this absence of interest, he did join some caucuses, and he also became the voice for some lobbies, as he is in the legislation (S527) he introduced last week.
The history of this bill is convoluted. And absurd. Totally absurd.
The bill is written to prevent the EPA, and others, from doing something they have said they will not do and cannot do, because they are not given the powers to do it, if they wanted to.
The best way to explain this farce is to use the example of Arvid, the Tooth Fairy. Arvid, as you might know, lives in Bloomington, Minn. When he is not working, he likes to hang out at the Mall of America. That causes problems for people who regard Tooth Fairy as a gender role mandated by scripture and Rush Limbaugh. These guardians of uprightness have circulated rumors about Arvid. They say he spends too much time trying on clothes at Victoria’s Secret, and with times so tight he finds it difficult to support his habit. So he not only takes teeth from under the pillows of sleeping believers when on his nightly rounds, but he might be, might be, mind you, tempted to take their piggy banks off their dressers.
The anti-fairy lobby looked at Arvid’s temptation, as they have imagined it, and calculated how much money Arvid might filch in a night, if he gave into that temptation that the lobby made up for him. He could haul in millions and put children out of the business of losing their baby teeth. They would have to lose them for free, with possible depredations of their piggy banks.
The anti-fairy lobby put out a news release on the magnitude of this potential loss and how it could ruin the baby-tooth industry if left unchecked, and asked if any U.S. senator would care to sponsor legislation to head off this threat to the free flow of baby teeth.
John Thune raised his hand. The anti-fairy lobby wrote the bill and John Thune introduced the piggy bank protection legislation.
That is essentially what happened in actuality, but the bill John Thune introduced was to prevent tax assessments on cow farts, pig belches, and other digestive emissions.
Here is the story. Denise Ross of Hoghouse blog wrote about it in The Mitchell Daily Republic. It began with a ruling by the Supreme Court that the Environmental Protection Agency must address the matter of climate change and exercise its responsibility to monitor and regulate pollutants that contribute to it. Specifically, the Court said that the EPA was derelict in its duty when it said that setting emission standards for automobiles was a matter of discretion. The Court said it was an absolute responsibility of the EPA to monitor greenhouse gases. So, the EPA issued a call for comments regarding the monitoring of those gases.
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture responded to the call. It collects and monitors information as to how much gas livestock emits into the atmosphere as a part of its research duties. It supplied data to the EPA.
That is where the American Farm Bureau Federation stepped in and took charge of the data for its own purposes. The AFBF does not want the livestock industry to come under the same rules for controlling greenhouse and polluting gases as "smokestack" industries. As the USDA data shows, livestock is a major contributor to those gases. Many countries, such as Australia, are proposing control measures for livestock gases. The AFBF had a panty-knotting party over the data provided the EPA.
The EPA has a tax and cap proposal for controlling industrial gases, through which it could require industries to pay taxes on the gases they give off into the air. The idea is that in order to avoid paying those taxes, the industries would find ways to reduce or eliminate the gases they would be taxed for. So, staff members at the AFBF, under the direction of Mark Maslyn, director of public policy, applied the proposed tax rates to the gases burped and farted by livestock. According to their calculation, the tax could amount to:
- $175 for each dairy cow
- $87.50 for each head of beef cattle
- $21.87 for each hog
Their conclusion was that farmers could not afford to pay these taxes and the rates would bankrupt the industry.
Factcheck.org has previously analyzed and demonstrated the contrived falsity of the Farm Bureau claims and the reporting of this in the media. That did not deter this phony legislation from being introduced or the Rapid City Journal Blog from lauding Thune's initiative.
The important facts behind this proposed legislation are:
- The EPA has never proposed imposing a gas tax on the livestock industry.
- The EPA does not have the authority to impose such a tax.
- The tax figures were contrived by the American Farm Bureau Federation, not by any established scientific or regulatory agency.
- This is a lobbyist-sponsored and lobbyist-written piece of legislation.
- It is a blatant attempt by dishonest conservatives to malign the government and the global=warming scientists with a false accusation.
John Thune has never been much for original thinking. His success has depended upon his reading of scripts prepared for him. For his successful election campaign, he merely recited the contrivances written for him by his campaign manager, Dick Wadham. For this piece of legislation, he is merely reciting the script prepared by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
In this piece of legislation, John Thune is reading a fairy tale.
Apologies to Arvid.