Biology in the News Explained

“Job-killing”: the new shorthand for any measure to protect long-term economic or environmental health

It’s really not all that surprising that already weak regulations in place to attempt to deal with the multi-billion dollar invasive species problems that this country faces are being derailed by those who seem to believe that economic growth is especially desirable when it is tied to ensuring long-term catastrophe. Because, naturally, if the liberals yell and scream, it must be good, right? The ACA is “job-killing” because it makes an attempt to fix long-term problems in health care, rather than continue to enhance corporate profits by every means possible (as our current health care “system” does by default; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!)

Cap-and-trade laws are “job-killing” because they assume (and indeed have been shown that) we can achieve economic growth while giving some thought to what sort of planet would be a good one to live on a generation or two down the road.

The term has started popping up in ever more absurd contexts. In this case, the notorious oversight committee chairman Darrell Issa held a hearing in an attempt to prevent minimal (but common-sense) U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulations limiting trade in alien invasive snakes, prompted by the disastrous effects of Burmese pythons’ establishment in the Florida Everglades as a direct result of the exotic pet trade.

He invited laughable testimony from a reptile importer, who absurdly claims there is not adequate science to prove that pythons are doing harm, to make his case.

Anyone who knows anything about invasive species knows that almost by definition, non-native vertebrate species are destructive to new ecosystems. From Asian carp to nutria to wild horses, billions of dollars have been spent to try and reverse the damage caused:

Already, federal and state local officials have put forward a $7 million plan intended to halt the expansion of Asian carp into the Great Lakes. Regional officials fear intrusion of the fish could starve out native species and decimate the region’s sport fishery industry, estimated to be worth $7 billion to the local economy. A previous report from Ecological Economics conservatively estimated that the combined cost of managing environmental damages to invasive plant and animal species adds up to almost $120 billion per year. The report noted that invasive species threaten 42 percent of species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Of course, in revisionist land, the ESA was an evil job-killing liberal plot, so more the better.

It really has reached the point at which taking any action perceived as hurting Obama is acceptable. The damage done by pythons in the Everglades has been documented for years, and threatens to undermine the billions of dollars already allocated and spent on restoration efforts, which include invasive species removal.

Fortunately there were some rational people at the hearing who, yes, happen to be Democrats:

In his opening statement, Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) noted, “with all due respect to our witnesses from the Association of Reptile Keepers, repealing a so-called ‘job-killing’ regulation to allow more pythons, boa constrictors and anacondas into the United States is not the kind of bold, bipartisan solution Americans are looking for to help the economy.” Committee Democrats also put forward several letters that countered many of the arguments of Barker and Chairman Issa regarding invasive pythons.

One thing is painfully, ironically certain: business interests nearly always get what they want in the U.S. — contrast our close-the-barn-door policies with those of New Zealand, a perfectly prosperous country, which has prevention-based (and therefore long-term money-saving) importation regulations*, rather than a belated regulatory reaction to obviously dangerous species that are introduced by the hundreds every year (both intentionally and not) in the name of “free trade.” So the “job-killing” mantra is so tired already in a system where the deck is already stacked in favor of short economic gain for a limited number of people.

But it is likely in this political climate (one pretty much defined by having an African-American Democratic president) that the mantra will hold sound-bite sway until we have irrefutable (and likely irreversible) evidence of its short-sightedness.  And even then, there will be plenty of Americans for whom individual “freedom” is defined by a delusional independence from all other persons and creatures which entitles them to exploit our common environment as they choose.




see the pdf document “Invasive Alien Species and Trade: Integrating Prevention Measures and International Trade Rules” which states:

In addition to these traditional border measures, an increasing number of countries employ stricter measures. In Argentina, an Environmental Impact Assessment is required for a new alien species to be introduced. In New Zealand, a person intentionally introducing a new species must fill out an extensive application, including the identity of the species, whether it has been considered for introduction by other governments and the results of those investigations, its possible adverse effects on the environment and its potential uses. The Environmental Risk Management Authority then considers the application, based on whether the species would result in significant displacement of native species, significant deterioration of natural habitats and other environmental and human health issues.


photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


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