Today’s Los Angeles Time editorial on the EPA proposed ozone standards, “Stricter on Ozone,” is really a classic of the form, the column that instructs society on how to improve itself (or more accurately, how government — always GOVERNMENT — can improve society) with no thought to the real world in which such action is to occur.
First, define the problem in the most drastic, dramatic way possible. “That stuff you’re breathing could be killing you.” OK. Reader’s attention grabbed.
Most Angelenos refer to the brown haze blanketing the city as smog, but more technically it’s a noxious mix of particulate matter and gases, the prime ingredient being ozone. Most of our ozone comes from cars, trucks and other vehicles, but it’s also produced by smokestacks, wet paint and other sources. It makes asthma worse and might even cause it; ozone also irritates the lungs and can kill those with respiratory problems, especially children and the elderly.
Then, identify the desired action, but do not even mention any contrary facts or arguments.
The federal government strengthened its ozone standard in 1997, but a decade of research has shown that the rules still aren’t strict enough. So the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed tightening them, and will hold a daylong public hearing on the issue today in Los Angeles.
Some more detail, background, etc. And wind up with a scolding tone, characterizing those whom disagree with you as bad actors.
The EPA under the Bush administration has long been trying to shrug off its obligation to regulate ozone, and the proposed standard was developed only after the agency was successfully sued by the American Lung Assn. If it fails to crack down, it clearly will be violating its legal responsibility to protect public health.
You what’s missing from all this? Is typical of editorials (especially L.A. Times editorials) in its absence? Any engagement, even a mention, that there are counterarguments, that for example, EPA’s methodology has been challenged and is not a reliable basis on which to base public policy. That the health arguments are subject to serious debate.
Worse, the L.A. Times makes no acknowledgement that there are costs to the action that’s being demanded. To the L.A. Times, the EPA can simply issue its ruling and force industry and drivers and other offenders to clean up. Problem solved.
Perhaps the Times did not read the EPA’s fact sheet on the proposed standards:
Because of the high degree of uncertainty in these calculations, EPA cannot estimate whether costs will outweigh benefits, or vice versa.
The Times’ editorial borders on magical thinking, the belief that we can just wave a wand and improve the air with no negative consequences whatsoever. And the taxpayers who will bear the costs, the people thrown out of work? Well, they’re just like tiny little ants from up high in the Times’ ivory tower.
UPDATE (1 p.m.): Prompted by handling of another topic entirely (Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt), Slate blogger Mickey Kaus reviews the L.A. Times.
I have run out of ways of saying that the LAT is a pathetic stuffy, faux-newspaper run by respectable liberal twits and doomed to die!
Yeah, and that goes for the editorial page, too!
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