In a post a few days back, I observed that the big Wall Street banks were in for a fall because they had become so arrogant in their power and wealth. One example of this is on the swipe fee issue, where their over-the-top market manipulation and hyper-aggressive political tactics are ticking off not just old progressive populists like me, but a lot of the rest of the business community. Small retailers, grocers, restaurant owners, gas station owners, and cabbies have become incensed the way these banks and their credit card companies charge exorbitant swipe fees and will not negotiate on the matter. I have started working with retail business groups on this issue simply because I’d much rather see these Main Street business folks get more of the $48 billion going out the door in swipe fees than the big banks that control more than 80 percent of the market. This issue is likely to come up for a vote within days in the Senate, so raise some hell.
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Contrary to the impression that some politicians and pundits give with their frequent goofy rhetoric and games, politics and policymaking is a very serious business, sometimes quite literally a life and death matter. The most obvious case of that is sending troops off to war, but there are many other life and death policy decisions our politicians have to make as well. The debates that happen on Capitol Hill matter a great deal. If you cut Social Security benefits and force seniors to pay more for Medicare, many seniors will have more trouble finding the money for groceries and utilities, and could freeze or starve to death. If you deny people health care coverage, more people will die from the lack of necessary care — 40,000 people per year by one estimate. If you cut off people's unemployment benefits and do nothing to create jobs for the long-term unemployed, more people will commit suicide, and more people will starve to death. And if you allow more deadly poisons into the air, a lot of people — including children — will die. This is not speculation; these are very well documented facts, confirmed by numerous scientific studies and statistical analyses.
Take the Clean Air Act. EPA research shows that the Clean Air Act prevents 160,000 deaths of our fellow Americans every single year. Even more specifically, their data shows that 230 of the deaths prevented in 2010 were infants, the smallest and most vulnerable people of all. Because mercury, arsenic, dioxin, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde, and all kinds of other poisonous chemicals don't get into our air supply, 160,000 of us are still walking around that wouldn't be otherwise — and every one of us is a lot healthier. The Clean Air Act is government at its best: a policy that has been one of the most successful legislative achievements in the last 100 years.
But for some reason (oh, wait, I know the reason: all those tens of millions of dollars polluters give to them), Republicans don't want to fund the Clean Air Act. They don't care how successful it has been. They don't care that it works exactly the way it was intended in cleaning up our air and saving all those lives. And apparently they don't care about all those people — even those innocent babies — who are going to die as a result.
Now I don't know about you, but I really like babies. I think they are God's greatest creation. Holding them, talking to them, making funny faces to try to get them to smile at me — it's one of my very favorite things to do in life. So I’d really prefer if more of them made it to adulthood.