Local view: Great Lakes defunding proves GOP’s arroganceWe appreciate the Great Lakes for personal, natural and economic reasons. That’s why I had to write in response to a U.S. House subcommittee’s vote to slash funding by 80 percent for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (Our View: “Don’t cut funding for Great Lakes,”
By: Bill Mittlefehldt, Duluth News Tribune
We appreciate the Great Lakes for personal, natural and economic reasons. That’s why I had to write in response to a U.S. House subcommittee’s vote to slash funding by 80 percent for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (Our View: “Don’t cut funding for Great Lakes,”
In 2000, while I was serving on the board for the Foundation for the Future of Youth, my daughter and I decided to paddle from Duluth to New York City, gathering stories about why America works so well at the grass-roots level. The Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s freshwater. So one could say they are the backbone of the region’s economy.
Most of the world is borrowing water from the future by pumping aquifers to depleting levels. This is amplifying economic, political and natural risks for most people on the planet.
Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney left the Republican Party confused. Did it want to be led by evangelical Christians, Tea Party libertarians or moderates? This dilemma must be resolved before the next congressional election. So it might be instructive that Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Sen. Paul Ryan, now serves as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which proposed to cut domestic spending while avoiding military budget cuts. This was manifested when a GOP-led appropriations subcommittee recommended
$60 million of funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative after it had been funded at close to $300 million. The funding is designed to help address the pollution and navigation hot spots on all the Great Lakes. So it was peculiar the GOP thinks protecting our Great Lakes is less important than the inflated military budget.
Duluth-Superior’s port of possibility is responsible for 11,500 jobs, $540 million in wages and business revenue totaling $1.5 billion. One wonders who the GOP will attract as voters with such an arrogant cut to Great Lakes restoration.
Recent history suggests the GOP has issues with women’s rights. And the GOP has blocked efforts at improving immigration for Latinos who share much labor in red states. And the Republican Party consistently has turned its back on the high unemployment and incarceration of African Americans. In addition, the recent circus around the Farm Bill saw the GOP pushing to cut money from kids on food stamps. And listening to recent comments by Ryan and by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, it seems the unemployed may be responsible for their condition. All those groups will not be attracted to the GOP in the next election. But, in addition, add to that list all the people, businesses and communities made from Great Lakes water.
The world is in a freshwater crisis. Living by the greatest of the Great Lakes, we in Duluth and in the Northland tend not to notice the growing scarcity of clean, fresh water. But tomorrow we will have less clean water for more people. These facts leave those of us made from water wondering what leads to the GOP’s apparent political priorities. It appears the only group that could be attracted to such a narrow political agenda would be wealthy white guys. We need to pull the plug on such political arrogance.
Bill Mittlefehldt of Duluth taught economics for 30 years, earning state and national awards. In addition, he served as a community columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and is co-chairman of the Energy, Food and Environment Team at Peace Church in Duluth.