In the past years we have seen countless indications of the destructive consequences of running the U.S. for the exclusive benefit of corporations and those who profit from them. Yet more disturbing are the many indications that corporate capitalists and their political henchpersons have fully woken up to their power to influence the course of U.S. policy and events, by any means necessary, and get away with it. So, for example, the 2003 Waxman Report on Politics and Science in the Bush administration (pdf) found that the Bush administration was associated with an unprecedented level of intimidation of scientists, and suppression or manipulation of scientific results:
It finds numerous instances where the Administration has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings. These actions go far beyond the typical shifts in policy that occur with a change in the political party occupying the White House. Thirteen years ago, former President George H.W. Bush stated that “[n]ow more than ever, on issues ranging from climate change to AIDS research . . . government relies on the impartial perspective of science for guidance.” Today, President George W. Bush’s Administration has skewed this impartial perspective, generating unprecedented criticism from the scientific community and even from prominent Republicans who once led federal agencies. The Administration’s political interference with science has led to misleading statements by the President, inaccurate responses to Congress, altered web sites, suppressed agency reports, erroneous international communications, and the gagging of scientists. The subjects involved span a broad range, but they share a common attribute: the beneficiaries of the scientific distortions are important supporters of the President, including social conservatives and powerful industry groups.
The report is filled
with concrete, exhaustively documented case studies, each of which is a
scandal in its own right. But of course the corporate-owned media
barely mentioned the report, and meanwhile the pervasive manipulation
of science and scientists has if anything become more blatant. Consider this recent survey of Fish and Wildlife Services scientists (pdf), summarized by Waxman in this letter (pdf) to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton (who, by the way, suppressed and
lied about accidentally inverted FWS findings in reporting to Congress on the impact of oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge):
[The Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility] surveyed more than 1,400 field scientists in all of the FWS's regions. Based on over 400 responses to the survey, they conclude that "political intervention to alter scientific results has become pervasive within the Fish and Wildlife Service."
The survey results are striking. Of the respondents whose work is related to technical analysis, nearly a quarter "have been directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from a USFWS scientific document." Similarly, of the respondents whose work centers on endangered species, 44% "have been directed, for non-scientific reasons, to refrain from making ... findings that are protective of species."
Written comments from FWS scientists are also telling. One scientist wrote, "FWS regional HQ, DOI and White House leadership are so hostile to our mission that they will subvert, spin or even illegitimize our findings." Another scientist wrote about never before having seen "so many findings and recommendations by the field be turned around at the regional and Washington level."
The political influence has had a clear impact on moral at the FWS. One scientist writes that "biologists on the bottom just try to keep their heads down and stay out of trouble;" another writs, "all we can do at the field level is ensure that our administration record is complete and hope we get sued by an environmental or conservation organization."
Wonderful -- the only way for the FWS to fulfill its mission to "conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people" is to get sued and forced into doing so. There was even interference with scientists responding to the survey, who were instructed not to do so even after hours. Some other of the written comments:
"Get us real whistleblower protection through Congress"
"FOIA, FOIA, FOIA! Keep our agency honest through whatever means available."
"We need to get back to being advocates for the fish and wildlife resources, not advocates of development and big industry."
"Reducing retaliatory reprisals from management for doing complete assessments."
"I am discouraged that no matter what the project, somehow we will ok it. We have to. We cannot stop a project."
"It is the unwillingness of decisions makers to do the right thing for the resource. At the field level, my supervisor is faithful to the resources but is frequently told to back off from the regional office and D.C."
"In region 2, the regional director is more attuned with the Cattle Growers Association than his own ES biologists."
"After 4 years they have selected managers who will parrot their beliefs. As a result with few exceptions the entire echelon of FWS are not advocates for the fish and wildlife."
"I believe that the real problem with the agency lies with upper level management. Most of the time the fundamental science used to formulate biological opinions is sound and the lead biologist submits a quality product to the supervisor. Upper level management then buckles under political pressure and the recommendations/biological opinion initially submitted is revised and watered down to allow the permit to be granted."
"There is a culture of fear of retaliation in mid-level management. If the manager were to speak out for the resources, they fear loss of jobs or funding for their programs. (So they go into duck&cover" mode and wait for the politics to change.)"
I predict they will be waiting a long time.
-- Jessica Wilson