Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) faced outrage from his constituents Tuesday when he told them that he would oppose environmental regulations because doing so would improve the environment. He explained that allowing companies to pollute for their own financial gain would actually make America’s air and waters cleaner because rich people like clean air and clean water.
“I worked at the World Bank, and they’re very interested and they have departments that do clean air and clean water. And guess what the No. 1 thing you can do to have clean air and clean water is? Increase your economic growth. Rich people, it turns out, like clean air and clean water.”
The crowd erupted with boos and jeers at his absurd answer. We should not be polluting the environment to grow the economy until everyone is rich and regrets the pollution. Millions of Americans will already be suffering pollution-related harms. Moreover the contributions to climate change will not be easily reversible and extreme weather patterns will threaten the lives and livelihoods of Americans living in vulnerable areas.
If we ultimately want a clean environment, we should refuse to let it be further polluted.
Brat’s plan is not a plan to stop pollution. It is a plan to delay stopping pollution, and to even go back in time to an era was pollution was more acceptable than it currently is.
Most importantly, the EPA works to protect all Americans from hazardous pollution, not just the rich. The suggestion that deregulating corporations that pollute the environment will make everyone rich is indefensible. As America has been becoming richer in recent decades economic inequality has been growing substantially. Even if deregulation made America richer overall, there is no reason to think that the poor and middle class will be better placed to demand a clean environment.
Brat is right that the rich demand clean air and clean water – and for the most part they get them. This only benefits the rich. Environmental injustice and environmental racism describe the phenomenon that poorer Americans and people of color in America are subjected to more environmental hazards than richer, whiter Americans.
We need the EPA to fight for policies that benefit the poor as well as the rich, and place the interests real people over corporations. Brat is a corporate shill unwilling to fight for his less privileged constituents, and he deserves to be booed by all the people he claims to represent but couldn’t care less about.
Watch the video here:
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.