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October 31st, 2014 09:47 p.m.




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King: Scientist in Congress a good idea

POSTED: May 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The presidential race is sucking up all the available oxygen these days. Hillary, Obama and McCain are everywhere. Their every utterance is hashed over by the media and the water cooler crowd alike, and it’s likely to stay this way until November.

An overstimulated public is forgetting about Congress, and in a certain sense the men and women we send to Congress may be more important than whoever sits in the White House.

The Bush presidency has been controversial to say the least, but remember: Congress has consistently given George W. Bush just about everything he asked for. If you don’t like where the country is today, you need to take a good long hard look at Congress. Start with the congressional profiles complied by the Congressional Research Service.

Just who are these men and women we send to Washington?

Well, the majority are lawyers. Then come businessmen. It seems reasonable to expect the men and women who make the laws to know something about law making, but when you look carefully you realize that: 1. The laws are too complicated and convoluted for the average man to understand; and 2. The laws favor the lawmakers and the businessmen.

Perhaps this is why almost half the Senate and about third of the House are millionaires. A few came to Washington with money, but there are fortunes to be made when one sits in the seats of power. Congress takes care of it own.

Perhaps that’s only reasonable. The business of the U.S. is business, but Big Business isn’t doing a lot for the average American these days. Be that as it may, I am interested in something else.

The world is changing. What kind of men and women do we need in government to guide us through the difficult times ahead? Somehow I don’t think more lawyers are going to help.

If you’ve read this column for any length of time you know I’m concerned about the environment: global warming, radioactive contamination and environmental stability. I want to see individuals in Congress with enough education in the sciences to understand these issues.

The 109th Congress had only eight members with scientific degrees. By the 110th Congress, the present legislature, the number had fallen to seven. No wonder science has taken such a beating from the Bush administration. Over and over and over again, politics has prevailed over the advice of science, even over the judgment of the government’s own technical and scientific advisers.

Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona told Congress the Bush administration tried repeatedly to suppress public health reports because of political concerns. Stephen Johnson, the Bush appointed EPA administrator, has yet to comply with a Supreme Court directive on greenhouse emissions issued a year ago.

Christopher De Rosa, the former FEMA toxicologist who raised concerns about formaldehyde in the trailers the government issued after Hurricane Katrina, was told he shouldn’t discuss the problem.

Congress has failed and failed again to stand up to the president. This is a dangerous situation, because it is becoming increasingly obvious climate change will impact almost every aspect of our lives: our health, the economy and national security.

Unless we have a Congress that understands at least as much about science as it does about law and business, we are in for a lot of trouble.

This is why I was encouraged when I learned that a young man with degrees in environmental science was running for the Senate. Rand Knight has his Bachelor of Arts with honors in environmental studies and a Ph.D. in ecosystems analysis. If he can win the Democratic primary, he will run against Saxby Chambliss for the U.S. Senate.

They say a nation gets the kind of leaders it deserves. I don’t know, but if the public doesn’t get involved early enough in the election cycle to seek out and support the kind of leaders we need, we will get leaders who go to Washington and continue business as usual.

I don’t know if Knight is the right man for the job. I don’t know if he even has a chance. He has no name recognition and little money, but if we don’t find and support candidates with education and experience in something other than making laws and making money, we deserve what we get.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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