Fifty years ago - when government worked

This month in history - July 1969

We take a break from our deep-dive into our broken democratic system for a quick history lesson.

What happened 50 years ago that was a unanimous point of national pride in the United States of America?  I'll give you two guesses.

OK, your first guess was the moon landing.  That would be right, and amazing, and literally the whole world was watching.   But I'll give you another guess.  Because there were 2 amazing events that took place in the U.S. that affected the whole world.   Think hard now...

Give up?  That's OK.  On July 10, 1969, the United States Senate passed on a unanimous vote the National Environmental Policy Act, which ultimately led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.  You read that right - the vote was unanimous.  100% in favor.  Everyone said "Aye".   (It later passed the house by 96%.)

So in this case, the essential question was:  Should companies be able to pursue their individual business models and disregard the common good of the environment?  The answer was an emphatic No.  The Common Good won.

This was a turning point in the history of the environmental movement in the United States.  It showed the world that we were serious about protecting the environment.  Or so it seemed.

Fifty years later, the EPA is under attack from within a sound-proof conference room at its own headquarters.  And the partisans in Congress even have trouble agreeing on whether climate change exists, let along designing policies to fight it.  Earlier this month, the EPA announced that it is reversing a decision made in 2015 to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that the EPA’s own scientists have shown may damage brain development in children.  Chlorpyrifos is used on more than 50 fruit, nut, cereal, and vegetable crops although it has been banned for household use.  What’s in your breakfast?

Can we even imagine that something as important as the EPA would receive a nearly unanimous vote in today's Congress?  Can we imagine anything receiving unanimous support in today's divided Senate?  Let's check the record.

On June 4, 2019, the Senate voted 93-0 to celebrate the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment providing women the right to vote.  That was too easy.  Let's try something harder.   

On May 23, the Senate took up a bill to fight robocalling.  It passed 97-1.  Apparently, there is one senator who likes robocalls.  His name is Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).  His phone numbers are Washington D.C.:  202-224-4343, Bowling Green, KY:  270-782-8303.  Let's send a few robocalls his way.

We'll return next time with more about reforming our system.  In the meantime, keep those calls coming -- to Senator Paul, that is.


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