BY ON April 21, 2011

Dominique BrowningSometimes I wonder, how do politicians who are profoundly irresponsible live with themselves? Do they believe the stories they tell? Do they think the point of their representation is to play games? Do they care about children? Human lives?

Rep. Joe Barton is a Texas Republican. His performance at a Congressional hearing last week is sickening–literally. Texas children’s health is at risk. He is laying groundwork to delay the new EPA Mercury and Air Toxics rulings. This in a state that has seven of the twenty-five filthiest coal-burning power plants in the country.

Barton flat out denies that there is any “medical negative” to the particulate and mercury pollution spewing from those smokestacks. He isn’t a doctor. He isn’t a scientist. And he doesn’t have time, or the inclination, to listen to what they say. He simply doesn’t “believe” in the evidence–as if it were a matter of faith.

What kind of politician doesn’t travel among his people, go into hospitals, talk to doctors and nurses and mothers and dads, in a place where asthma rates have skyrocketed? What kind of politician refuses to notice the anguish of parents who hold a baby struggling to take a breath? What kind of politician refuses to pay attention to the science of mercury poisoning?

This cynical testimony is like something out of Dickens. It is heartless, unfeeling, and just plain wrong.

Testimony like this undermines the integrity of the House. It reduces a political process to a circus. It may make coal plant owners happy–in the short run. But they, too, have to live with the knowledge that they are poisoning people.

Coal pollution is no joke. Our children are at risk. And Texas parents ought to let Barton and his colleagues know that supporting pollution puts them on the path to hellfire and brimstone.

TOPICS: Air Pollution, Asthma, Coal, Economics, Mercury Poisoning, Politics, Pollution