Obamacare Critics and Defenders Team Up Against the Trump Administration’s Refusal to Defend the Health Law in Court The DOJ’s argument for striking down the health law’s preexisting conditions rules is weak.

Leave a comment

Last week, in response to a legal challenge filed by Texas and a group of conservatives states, the Trump administration took an unusual step by announcing that it would not defend Obamacare in court. Instead, the Trump administration took the position that the health law’s was unconstitutional, and that its preexisting conditions regulations should be struck down.

The federal government’s suit has drawn rebuke from some unlikely quarters. An attorney with 20 years of experience at the Justice Department resigned this week as a result of the administration’s position. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said it was “as far-fetched a legal argument as I think I’ve ever heard.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell distanced his party from the argument, saying that “everyone” in the Senate favored maintaining coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

Even Health and Human Services (HHS) Sec. Alex Azar, who signed the brief in question, described it as a “constitutional and legal position, not a policy position.”

It doesn’t appear to be much of one.

Among the more unusual responses to the administration’s argument came today in the form a brief filed by five academic experts with wildly divergent views about Obamacare. The brief is signed by Jonathan Adler, Nicholas Bagley, Abbe Gluck, Ilya Somin, and Kevin Walsh. Bagley and Gluck have both defended the health law’s legality in the past. Walsh has published several analyses of the legal arguments surrounding Obamacare. But Adler and Somin, notably, are libertarian-leaning law professors who have been quite critical of the health law over the years. (Both are also contributors to the Volokh Conspiracy, which is published at Reason.com.)

The opening of the brief stresses that the signers have spent the last several years disagreeing with each other, in some cases quite forcefully, about the legal and constitutional merits of the health law. The brief takes no position on the mandate itself. But in this case, they all agree that the federal government’s argument for striking down the law’s preexisting rules is, legally speaking, pretty terrible.

Understanding the brief requires a little bit of background. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that although Obamacare’s mandate was unconstitutional when viewed as a purchase requirement or economic command, it could stand because it raised revenue and therefore functioned as a tax. But last year, as part of tax reform legislation, Congress eliminated the penalty for not complying with Obamacare’s individual mandate. The mandate remained on the books, but for all practical purposes it had been repealed. And it no longer raised any revenue.

As a result, a group of conservative states, led by Texas, challenged the legality of the (now unenforceable) mandate, and further argued that because it is the centerpiece of the health law, all of Obamacare should be struck down.

This is an argument about what’s known as “severability” — whether the remaining parts of a law should be struck down if a court finds one provision to be illegal.

The Trump administration’s argument does not go quite as far as the states. It agrees that the mandate is now unconstitutional, and takes the position that although much of the law, including the Medicaid expansion and private insurance subsidies, can stand, the preexisting conditions rules should be tossed along with the mandate, because the mandate and the preexisting conditions rules are not severable. To back up its argument, the administration cites findings associated with the statute of Obamacare (that were also cited by the Obama administration in court) declaring that the mandate and the preexisting conditions rules are a bundle that should not be separated.

For critics of Obamacare, there is something naturally appealing about this argument: It uses the text of the health law, and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it, to attempt to knock it down. I have been open to arguments along these lines under the Obama administration, and I think they made sense at the time.

The problem, as the new brief points out, is that determining severability is about determining congressional intent. And the current Congress has made its position on the matter quite apparent. Often, this requires some sort of guessing. But at this point, we know exactly what Congress thinks about the law it chose to amend, because it very clearly chose to eliminate the mandate penalty while leaving the preexisting conditions rules in place. That is about as clear a statement of intent as you can ever imagine from Congress.

The brief argues that the administration’s argument relies on “time shifting” to make its case, and that the administration’s case effectively gets severability backward by “[disregarding] the clearly expressed intent of Congress and seek judicial invalidation of statutory provisions that Congress chose to leave intact.”

The findings about severability that the administration cites to back up its arguments about the preexisting were made by a different Congress, prior to the elimination of the mandate penalty and other alterations to the law. They were made in the context of what is now, essentially, a different law. They don’t apply.

I have been a critic of Obamacare for years, and I continue to believe there are many problems with the law. The preexisting conditions rules, while popular, distort the individual market and have contributed to rising premiums in the exchanges. (The popularity of those rules, of course, is one reason why Republicans haven’t touched them, and why GOP officials are distancing themselves from the policy implications of their argument.) But critics of the health law do themselves no favors by signing on to a fundamentally weak legal challenge like this.

The bigger problem with this case is that it has the potential to serve as a substitute for a policy agenda. Republicans still need a broad health policy vision that goes beyond simply attacking Obamacare. But as long as they are basing their hopes on a legal manuever as poorly thought out as this one, that’s not something we’re likely to see.

By Peter Suderman/reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Advertisements

Did Michael Pollan Kill God? Inside the NYT Food Columnist’s Exploration of Magic Mushrooms From Pollan’s new book “How to Change Your Mind” — currently on top of the New York Times best-seller list — it looks like he got what he was after.

Leave a comment

Michael Pollan had enlightenment envy.

Unlike most patients in clinical trials of psilocybin, when Pollan ate a magic mushroom, he wasn’t terrified by a terminal illness, he wasn’t suffering from alcoholism or depression and he hadn’t been diagnosed with a personality disorder.

But he “envied the radical new perspectives” of the people in psychedelic therapy whom he interviewed, and he found the idea of “shaking the snow globe” of his mental life appealing. “I also wasn’t sure I’d ever had a spiritual experience,” he said, and in late middle age, he felt “time was growing short.”

From Pollan’s new book “How to Change Your Mind” — currently on top of the New York Times best-seller list — it looks like he got what he was after.

But Pollan’s account of his journey contests the value or necessity of millennia of spiritual struggles, ages of religious insights and even, most radically, belief in the existence of God.

His lyric depiction of his “egoless, nondual state of consciousness,” of the “obliteration” of the very category of “personal,” of his “I” who was nevertheless not his self, and who was “unbounded by any body” and had “no desires of any kind,” reminded me of William James’s case studies in “The Varieties of Religious Experience.” Mystical experiences, James wrote, qualify, as “states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance.”

But if a single psilocybin trip could rewire Pollan’s brain, or ours, in the way that Buddhist monks take lifetimes to achieve, are the years we spend wrestling with faith, or ragging ourselves for being lousy meditators, just a waste of time?

Did Pollan really eat his way to a spiritual experience, or was it just a chemical experience — is there even a difference? If ’shrooms open doors to the depths of ineffable truths, does it really matter if God is dead or not?

By the time I hit middle age, I’d worked out my answer to “Is God dead?” without benefit of psychedelics. I got there in stages, like Kübler-Ross’s five stages of dealing with death, only instead of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, for me it was faith, reason, nihilism, mysticism and omg-we’ve-run-out-of-diapers.

I grew up in the same Newark neighborhood that Philip Roth did, though a generation later. Orthodoxy failed me when I asked my mother, who kept a kosher home, why it was OK for us to eat spare ribs at Ming’s on Sunday nights, and she explained that God was not troubled when our kind of Jews, the Jews of the Weequahic section, made common sense accommodations to modern life. Except, of course, when it came to dating shiksas, which carried a mandatory sentence of “he’s dead to me.”

Through the loophole of reasonableness that she opened, I drove a truck bearing I❤SCIENCE license plates. Culturally, I couldn’t have been more Jewish, but theologically, I became the Voltaire of Schuyler Avenue. Like 12-year-old Ozzie Freedman in Roth’s “The Conversion of the Jews,” the 12-year-old me challenged God’s power, questioned God’s morality, even disputed God’s existence. By the time I went off to college, it was to become a molecular biologist – to learn the scientific method and master the evidence for the secular materialist account of life.

But I also learned in college that ruthless doubt, once unleashed, can lay waste to more than childhood faith. It can reduce love to libido, altruism to evolution, justice to privilege, science to politics, taste to class, virtue to tribe, merit to luck, skepticism to cynicism and meaning to myth. I know that there are happy atheists, but it was to the dead end of dread that relentless rationality led me. It also led me to leave J.D. Watson’s lab and seek out new mentors: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche and Samuel Beckett.

What rescued me from nihilism was finding God everywhere, except in religion. That’s what I suspect a rising number of Americans mean when they tell pollsters that they’re “spiritual but not religious.” For me, it was meditation that set me on that path. I took it up as an adult, to stop grinding my teeth, but meditation took me to a kind of DIY mysticism. My toolkit has ranged from Rumi to Ken Wilber, from Huxley’s perennial philosophy to Heschel’s radical amazement, from mindfulness to gratitude — to being dumbstruck with awe at nature, at art, at my newborn babies’ fingers curled around mine, at Katz’s pastrami, at the starry sublime.

Still, I’m not much of a mystic – I bet I spend more time sleepwalking than mindfully experiencing the moment. But quotidian reality, if we remember to notice it, can be a portal to enlightenment. “I had developed a set of fairly dependable mental algorithms for navigating whatever life threw at me,” Pollan says about his daily routine, “and while these are undeniably useful tools for coping with everyday life and getting things done, they leave little space for surprise or wonder or change.” Pollan needed a drug, and a rupture from ordinary reality, to experience transcendence. But my experience is that reality itself can disclose the divine. If you pay attention, everything — not just sunsets, but laundry, too — can be surprising, even startling. Everything can be an occasion for wonderment; everything can prompt the ultimate question, “Why is there anything at all?”

Psilocybin is a turbocharged route to finding enchantment in everyday life. More than a thousand published papers attest to its safety when administered in appropriate settings. I have no problem with Pollan or anyone else taking a short cut to illumination. In fact, according to a Johns Hopkins study in a recent Journal of Psychopharmacology, the drug works best when it’s combined with the kind of slowpoke old-school stuff I’ve turned to, like meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and mindful breathing. Psilocybin, the Hopkins study says, brought about the largest, most significant, and most enduring positive changes in “interpersonal closeness, gratitude, life meaning/purpose, forgiveness, death transcendence, daily spiritual experiences, religious faith and coping” when subjects also meditated, had a mindfulness practice, kept a journal and “engaged in activities they personally judged to facilitate spiritual growth (e.g. being in nature, contemplative movement, artwork or service activities).”

William James, shaking the snow globe more than a century before Michael Pollan, also tried a chemical on himself — nitrous oxide. He called the “metaphysical revelation” that came to him when high on laughing gas “a reconciliation.” This was how he explained it: “It is as if the opposites of the world, whose contradictoriness and conflict make all our difficulties and troubles, were melted into unity.” Every religion, every mystic tradition, contains that vision of the world. You can reach it with fasting, with sitting, with prayer; you can find it in a fungus; you can see it in a grain of sand, and hold infinity in the palm of your hand.

“Melted into unity”: What a heartening prospect. Whether it’s a struggle or a thrill ride, the seeker’s path to purpose is the world’s path to peace. If God isn’t dead, She won’t care how you get there.

By Marty Kaplan / Forward

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Louisiana warns 37,000 Medicaid recipients they may face loss of care over budget cuts

Leave a comment

Louisiana lawmakers made deep cuts to the proposed budget to make up for a $650 million shortfall, which could end a temporary tax funding Medicaid benefits. The governor also warned that both of the state’s medical schools might have to close and that several big hospitals may have to lay off staffers.

For Jamie Duplechine, a quadriplegic who has spent more than half of her 38 years in a wheelchair, it’s an endless source of amusement that three of the caregivers who watch her around the clock in her Louisiana apartment just happen to be named Shonda, Shamanda and Sherry.

Image: Shonta Faulk uses a harness to get Jamie Duplechine into bed

Image: NBC News

Karen Scallan is also on a first name basis with the caregivers who come to her suburban New Orleans home to help her take care of her 17-year-old son, who has Down syndrome — and free her up so she can work and take care of her 63-year-old husband, who suffers from diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

So when the letter arrived this week warning them that they were at risk of losing their health care services starting on July 1 because of their state’s budget crisis, they reacted the same way — with dread.

“I have staff with me throughout the day and night,” Duplechine, who was paralyzed at age 15 in a car accident, told NBC News. “They do my hygiene, my catheter care, my bowel care. They cook my meals, they bathe me, they drive me everywhere. Without them, I’m in a devastating state.”

 

More sadness at NBC News

Posted by Libergirl

The War on Opioids Probably Helped Kill Prince His fentanyl overdose came from counterfeit Vicodin, and he likely didn’t know what he was ingesting.

Leave a comment

Pop legend Prince died of a fentanyl overdose in 2016, probably because he bought what he thought was Vicodin on the black market. Today officials announced they are closing the investigation into Prince’s death and will not be filing any charges because they don’t know where he got the pills and found no evidence that any of his associates knew that the “Vicodin” he had been taking was actually fentanyl.

Remarkably, at the same time officials are announcing that there will be no charges over the drugs that actually killed Prince, officials also announced a civil settlement with a doctor who prescribed painkillers to Prince’s associates, knowing the drugs would actually go to the musician. Although these were not the drugs that killed Prince, the doctor who helped him get access to painkillers through third parties has agreed to pay $30,000 and subject himself to federal monitoring for two years.

There does not seem to be any acknowledgment that efforts to make it harder for Prince to get his hands on the painkillers to which he became addicted might caused him to seek black-market substitutes that were much more dangerous. From the story in the Minneapollis Star Tribune:

“Doctors are trusted medical professionals and, in the midst of our opioid crisis, they must be part of the solution,” U.S. Attorney Greg Brooker said in a statement announcing the settlement. “As licensed professionals, doctors are held to a high level of accountability in their prescribing practices, especially when it comes to highly addictive painkillers. The U.S. attorney’s office and the DEA will not hesitate to take action against healthcare providers who fail to comply with the Controlled Substances Act. We are committed to using every available tool to stem the tide of opioid abuse.”

Just today Jacob Sullum noted that opioid-related deaths are rising dramatically even as opioid prescriptions decline. That’s partly because lack of access to the drug through doctors is driving people to the black market, where they purchase pain pills of unknown provenance and composition. The circumstances of Prince’s death should be a warning to the feds that cracking down on doctors is exactly the wrong way to prevent overdoses.

Also today, previously unseen footage of Prince practicing and performing “Nothing Compares 2 U” in 1984, years before he handed it over to Sinead O’Connor, has been released by his estate:

By Scott Shackford/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Judge blocks Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks

Leave a comment

A law in Mississippi that bans women from receiving abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy was temporarily blocked Tuesday by a federal judge.

The Associated Press reported that U.S District Judge Carlton Reeves granted a temporary restraining order on Tuesday. It was sought by the state’s only clinic that offers abortions.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed the bill — the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban — into law earlier this week.

The law bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, down from a 20-week restriction already on Mississippi’s books.

 

More from The Hill

Posted by Libergirl

Why Are Black Children Committing Suicide?

Leave a comment

For years, most thought that suicide was not a serious problem in the African-American community. Indeed, overall, the total suicide rate for African-Americans is half the rate of whites. However, this low rate is misleading because the suicide rate for Black youth is rising rapidly.

A 2015 study from Dr. Jeffrey Bridge of the Nationwide Children’s’ Hospital was one of the first to identify the disturbing new trend. Bridge’s work analyzed suicide rates for children ages 5 to 11. The results were dramatic: In the period studied, 1993 to 2012, the suicide rate for Black girls trended from 0.68 to 1.23 per million. In the same period, the suicide rate for white girls remained essentially the same — 0.24 per million. More disturbingly, while the report revealed a significant decrease in suicides for white boys during the relevant time frame, it found a steep increase in suicides among Black boys in the same period. In 1993, Black boys had lower rates of suicide than their white peers. But by 2012 the suicide rate for Black boys had doubled. The study found that white boys committed suicide at a rate of 1.31 per million, compared to 3.47 per million for Black boys.

What is happening?  Why are Black children committing suicide?

Source: Graphic Taken from Bridge, et al., “Suicide Trends Among Elementary School–Aged Children
in the United States From 1993 to 2012,” available at http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.692.4001&rep=rep1&type=pdf

One issue that impacts the increase in suicide is race. Bridge’s work noted, “Black children may experience disproportionate exposure to violence and traumatic stress and aggressive school discipline. Black children are also more likely to experience an early onset of puberty, which increases the risk of suicide, most likely owing to the greater liability of depression and impulsive aggression.”  However, Bridge was careful to note that it was unclear if these factors were directly related to the increase.

Dr. Gene Brody, distinguished research professor of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Georgia, has also researched this issue. In a study co-written with colleagues, Dr. Brody found that perceived discrimination in late childhood and early adolescence could contribute to depressive symptoms in Black children. Additionally, he found that the risk for depression increased with an increase in family income. The study explained that higher income generally increases exposure to other racial groups, which also increases exposure to racial discrimination.

Could racism be the underlying cause of this deadly trend? To get more insight into this issue, Atlanta Black Star reached out to several mental health experts.

Dr. Rheeda Walker, associate professor and director of the Culture, Risk, and Resilience Lab at the University of Houston, has extensively studied suicide in the African-American community. She explained, “Our identity begins to solidify in adolescence. When a child or adolescent internalizes that she is ‘less than’ others or that he ‘does not belong’ because of the color of his or her skin, that can be psychologically damaging. Ideally, we want our children and youth to feel empowered — to feel that they can accomplish anything that they put their minds to doing. However, institutions and misguided individuals in our society aim to instill in us that being Black is unacceptable.”

Dr. Mia Smith-Bynum, associate professor of family science in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland-College Park, elaborated. She explained, “The societal notion that Black children are not vulnerable or even human makes them confront race earlier.  The societal attitudes that our children are not actually children begins early. That our children are suspended more often even in preschool is one example of that.”

She continued, “As children get more sophisticated, and as boys grow to be young men, they understand that when they were little and cute, they got positive treatment, but once they start looking like adults, it activates stereotypes that the nation has about Black people.

“There is a type of racism for Black men and boys that is particularly harmful.  It’s not that Black women and girls don’t face racism, but the stereotype of Black men as criminal and violent places amplifies threats to their personal safety. Black boys have less room to define themselves and their identity on their own terms and this can lead to significant mental health problems.  The stereotypes are often used to justify police shootings in our public discourse.”

Smith-Bynum added, “Early to mid-adolescence is a vulnerable period. Between the ages of 10 to 15, there is a lot happening: You are going through puberty; your racial identity is developing. Our boys see so many negative racial stereotypes around African-American men. Our girls see toxic images of Black women in our media. When this cultural racism  combined with a kid that is shy, has self-esteem issues, has difficulty regulating emotions, or is experiencing other kinds of distress — economic unpredictability, bullying — the risk is elevated. Race is not the only factor, and it’s usually not enough to cause suicide by itself. But there are some kids for whom it amplifies issues that are already existing.”

The experts were asked to explain Brody’s finding that higher incomes can lead to higher suicide risk for African-American children. Smith-Bynum said, “A parenting paradox for middle-class Black parents is how to capitalize on the benefits of their success without putting their children in settings that will destroy their self-esteem. Some white environments are hostile to Black children’s self-esteem, especially those that have very few Black children. In this instance, income does not necessarily help. It is not a given that income will protect, because kids in these environments are exposed to discrimination — it just an issue of volume and degree.”

Dr. W. Lavome Robinson, professor of clinical psychology at DePaul University, elaborated: “To the degree that a child interacts with other cultures and racial/ethnic groups, it increases the opportunity to experience racism. We must get rid of racism, but we must also equip youth who might be impacted by racism with coping skills so they won’t be overwhelmed.”

Dr. Smith-Bynum agreed, stating, “It is critical that parents of Black parents of Black children build up their children’s self-esteem about being Black. Parents should make sure that their children know Black history so that when they confront racism, they will know what they are confronting is not because of who they are or anything they’ve done, but because racism is something that has existed well before their time. Teach them in an age-appropriate manner. Give them strategies to help them deal with racism. Do not leave them to their own devices. Whether it’s telling a child to keep calm, or to exit a situation as soon as possible — give them practical tips on what to do in racist situations.”

The experts were asked if African-American children display depression and suicide symptoms that differ from those in other groups.  Walker explained, “In general, mental health professionals and people in the lay community tend to associate suicide with depression. Across racial groups, anxiety is also a strong predictor, but in African-Americans, anxiety could be an even more important risk factor that is worth paying attention to with regarding to recognizing who could be at risk for suicide thoughts and be

When asked what Black parents should look for to determine if their children are at risk, Dr. Walker noted, “Parents can pay particular attention to changes or shifts in a child’s behavior or mood. Even if a child says that everything is OK, changes in mood that seem ‘out of the blue’ are worth paying attention to. It is important to reassure the child that the parent or caregiver is there to listen. Parents also have to be aware of their own depression and how they are managing stress. We cannot help our children if we have not first helped ourselves.”

What can parents do if a child is exhibiting suicidal tendencies? Dr. Smith-Bynum said, “Depression and anxiety are medical issues and need medical intervention.  If you have diabetes, you can pray, but you should also go to the doctor.”

When asked about Black parents’ potential mistrust of the medical establishment, particularly psychology, Dr. Smith-Bynum had a clear reply: “Our community’s skepticism about medicine is well-earned. But a family should look into the skill set of anyone who provides care for a child and interview the providers to find a comfortable fit — look for someone who has experience working with African-American children and families. If you find a therapist that doesn’t work, find another. We are sometimes deferential to medical practitioners, but we don’t have to be. You don’t have to stay with a therapist you aren’t comfortable with. There are ways to find a person of color for a provider. Focus on depression as a health issue. It is true that, as a field, psychology has not always done right by Black people, but it is also true that depression is a serious medical issue. The stigma around mental illness should not outweigh your child’s health. It is literally a matter of life and death.”

Is there anything Black parents can do to reduce their child’s suicide risk?  Smith-Bynum sai, “Parents can help their children by creating an open line of communication from an early age. Kids have to know that they can bring you their deepest, darkest secrets. In a high-achieving Black family, if there is a high-pressure environment, kids may not want to admit their feelings for fear being seen as a failure. They need to know that they are loved unconditionally and that there is nothing that can destroy your love for them. Hopefully, with that, they will feel comfortable coming to you when they are in distress. If they do, be sure to get them medical care.”

But Robinson noted that parents are not to blame and that all of society has a role to play in solving this issue. She said, “Schools have children at their command and offer enormous far-reaching promise. Children need more than reading, writing, and arithmetic — children, of all races — are coping with any number of things each day. Schools should infuse stress management and coping skills into the standard core. In this manner, all children will be given the tools for managing stress, to prevent adverse outcomes associated with racism-related stress and other stressors.”

Robinson added, “Suicide is devastating, but also preventable.” Because suicide is preventable, Black parents and others who care about Black children must challenge every person and every entity that works with Black children to do better. Black children deserve to live in spaces that support, rather than damage, their developing minds. With work, change is possible.

By Nareissa Smith/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Bottled Water, Brought to You by Fracking? The link between fracking and the bottled water industry is one more reason to take back the tap.

Leave a comment

The new Food & Water Watch report Take Back the Tap: The Big Business Hustle of Bottled Water details the deceit and trickery of the bottled water industry. Here’s one more angle to consider: The bottled water business is closely tied to fracking.

The report reveals that the majority of bottled water is municipal tap water, a common resource captured in plastic bottles and re-sold at an astonishing markup—as much as 2,000 times the price of tap, and even four times the price of gasoline. Besides being a rip-off, there is plenty more to loathe about the corporate water scam: The environmental impacts from pumping groundwater (especially in drought-prone areas), the plastic junk fouling up our waterways and oceans, and the air pollution created as petrochemical plants manufacture the materials necessary for making those plastic bottles filled with overpriced tap water.

There is a growing international awareness that plastic is a serious problem. In 2016, about 4 billion pounds of plastic were used in the bottled water business, and most of those bottles are not recycled—meaning they often end up in landfills or as litter. There’s also the matter of whether we should be putting our drinking water in those bottles in the first place: The most common packaging (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) includes compounds like benzene, and the bottles can leach toxins like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

But perhaps the biggest problem is where we get all this plastic in the first place. Many of the raw materials used to create those plastic bottles come from fracking. In addition to air and water pollution, the fracking boom has delivered an abundant supply of the hydrocarbon ethane, which is used in petrochemical manufacturing to create ethylene, which is turned into plastic.

One of the global powerhouses in this industry is a company called Ineos, which needs to expand fracking in order to keep profiting from plastics. To do this, massive “dragon ships” carry ethane from the United States to its facilities in Europe. The company wants even more of this raw material, which is one of the big reasons that Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners is building the Mariner East 2, a dangerous pipeline that will travel across hundreds of miles of the state of Pennsylvania. Getting more ethane means Ineos can turn more of those hydrocarbons into plastic, with the accompanying industrial pollution and carbon emissions we have come to expect from a company that has amassed a horrendous environmental record.

The corporate water business is a costly scam that affects our air, water, and climate. It robs communities of a resource that is a public good and must be treated as one, and it relies heavily on dirty fossil fuels to produce and transport a product that it sells at an extravagant markup. It rakes in billions of dollars while our public tap water infrastructure—that these companies benefit from—remains in desperate need of federal funding to provide all Americans with access to clean, affordable drinking water.

By Wenonah Hauter / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: