Just in time for Earth Day, the Bush administration has imposed a ban on additions to the endangered species list, suspended regulations restricting toxic runoff from mining sites, recommended the construction of new roads through 58 million acres of national forest land, pressed forward with plans to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, moved to abolish the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and proposed a 6.4% cut in the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency.
These are just a few of the assaults committed by the Bush team in its first 100 days in office.
When we went to the polls this past November, most of us did not vote for George W. Bush. A little over a year from now, we will go to the polls again, to restructure the balance of power in the Senate and the House. In the mean time, Republicans face the threat that Strom Thurmond will not live out his term, tipping the Senate scales from an even 50/50, to a two-vote majority for the Democrats. All of which explains the unseemly haste with which the Bush team has moved to implement its agenda.
With or without the consent of the governed, the new president has moved with alacrity to pay off his campaign debts. Bush reimbursed credit card giant MBNA by revising provisions of the bankruptcy statutes to include credit card debt. As a favor to Enron, the nation's largest energy wholesaler, the President refused to intervene in California's power crisis. Mr. Bush withdrew from talks on the Kyoto Treaty global warming treaty, and reneged on his pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, a payback to The Edison Institute, a trade association of investor-owned utilities. During the campaign, Mr. Bush promised to cut power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide, but suddenly "carbon dioxide is not a pollutant under the Clean Air Act," and will not be regulated.
The healthcare industry received the favor it paid for when the Bush administration announced plans to scrap new federal standards designed to protect the privacy of medical records, adopted in the last month of the Clinton adminstration. The new rules would have required doctors to obtain patient consent before disclosing information both orally and in writing, strictly limited the amount of information that could be disclosed, and required hospitals to enforce the rules by revising contracts with suppliers. According to the White House, the new regulations would "disrupt routine operations of health care, and impose costly unreasonable burdens on doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmacists, and other providers."
Mr. Bush has also rescinded new standards for drinking water which would have required the reduction of allowable levels of arsenic by 80%, from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion, and announced plans to back off on new efficiency standards for home air conditioners and heat pumps, saying that a 30% decrease in energy use would impose "too high a cost burden on consumers."
And this week, the adminstration signalled a shift in China policy that directly involves the financial interests of the Bush family.
While 24 American detainees were being held at the air base on Hainan Island, China, Prescott Bush, older brother of former President George H.W. Bush, and uncle of the current president, was arriving on United Airlines' first flight from Chicago to Beijing, as leader of an American business delegation. Prescott Bush is chairman of the US-China Chamber of Commerce, a trade group "dedicated to developing increased US-China trade and investment activities by assisting American and Chinese companies, professionals, and the general public, to better understand the business environment and cultural traditions relevant to successfully doing business in both countries."
In a letter to prospective Chamber members, Uncle Prescott laid out the bottom line: "As we are marching into the 21st Century, the interaction between the US and China has created a sea of opportunities: dynamic growth and endless possibilities for profits. However, these opportunities exist if and only if we understand the commercial requirements and the cultural, legal, and market constraints of both countries with a will towards adapting to them."
Which might explain why on April 17, less than three weeks after a Chinese jet collided with an American EP-3E intelligence gathering plane, and less than one week after the release of American detainees, White House senior national security advisors appear to have caved in to Beijing's demands, recommending that the Bush adminstration defer the sale of the Aegis air defense system to Taiwan. Aegis destroyers equipped with a state-of-the-art ship-borne radar are capable of simultaneously tracking more than 200 targets, and are considered by Taiwan to be crucial to its defense against possible missile attacks from mainland China.
The following week, the president was to be in Quebec City, negotiating to turn the entire Western Hemisphere into a free trade zone, or as the non-corporate sector calls it, a sweatshop. Considering what the Bush adminstration has accomplished in just 100 days, protests are already long overdue.
Judith Gorman is a journalist based in Vermont.