Timothy Noah

Farm Dust Alert

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Here is the lead paragraph to Robert Draper's Dec. 4 New York Times Magazine profile of Mitt Romney: 

“'Your story about dust regulation captures my interest,' Mitt Romney said to the farmer, sounding as if he actually meant it. It was a late October afternoon in Treynor, Iowa, the setting for one of those campaign meta-events at which a presidential candidate enjoys a casual moment with real people that is in fact carefully staged and dutifully broadcast by multitudes of local and national reporters hovering a few feet away. In this instance, Romney was participating in a round-table discussion with a dozen local businessmenhis kind of folksand exhibiting his teacher’s-pet flair for spewing out entrepreneurial minutiae."

Not to nitpick here, but farm-dust regulation isn't "entrepreneurial minutiae." It's political bullshit. There is no pending farm-dust regulation. What there is, is an attempt by Republicans to persuade everybody that there is a pending farm-dust regulation so they can pass a new law exempting the agricultural industry (yes, it is an industry, not some Thomas Hart Benton fantasy of agrarian transcendence) from an existing clean-air regulation that hardly ever affects farms (but, when it does, addresses a legitimate health issue). According to Think Progress, the bill is now worded so broadly that it also shields from regulation "particulate pollution from open-pit mining, lead smelters and chemical and industrial facilities," all in the name of protecting the family farm. If you're a TNR subscriber you can read my TRB column about this phony controversy here.

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