Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hysteria Can Lead To Bad Policy

Is The Asian Carp A True Threat To The Ecosystems Of The Mississippi River & The Great Lakes?

Hysteria Can Lead To Bad Policy
by Harry C. Alford
NNPA Columnist

(NNPA) - Public policy is very important to us in many ways. Our economy, health, welfare, safety and general quality of life depends on good public policy which is fortified with laws, rules and regulations. Bad public policy can lead to financial disaster, sickness, danger and insecurity. Lately, our elected officials and advocates have been using “knee jerk” responses to problems that simply require common sense and direct action. Let’s look at some examples.

It is 2010 and malaria is the number cause of death in Africa. The chances of a village child making it to adulthood are very low. There is a big initiative going on about funding mosquito nets. Oh yes, let the children sleep under these mosquito nets and the mosquitoes, number one source of malaria, will not be able to infect them. They are spending millions of dollars on these nets and you see countless ads on television pleading for you to donate towards the purchase of them. I guess the manufacturer of these nets is spurring this hoopla.

Has anyone ever wondered what happens when these children wake up and leave the nets? That’s simple. The mosquitoes will be there waiting to bite them. It does no good! What we need to do is eradicate the mosquitoes like we did in this nation about 100 years ago. Malaria has not returned to the US and that is a model to emulate in Africa as well as other places. It is just too simple! Kill the mosquitoes.

Our waterways are being infested with a foreign fish known as the Asian Carp. This voracious eater of algae and filth was initially imported to clean up catfish
ponds in Mississippi and Arkansas. Somehow, they made their way into the Mississippi River and have been thriving ever since. These fish can grow to be six feet long and weigh one hundred pounds. Any area infested with them will see the loss of trout, bass and other fish that feed on algae. From Mississippi to now Illinois the Asian Carp has been on the move and it appears to be threatening to come through the river lock system that connects the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes.

Environmentalists are saying “enough” and I agree. However, their knee jerk approach is to seal off the seven locks along the Illinois and Calumet rivers. Doing that would also stop $25 billion dollars in annual commerce along the 14 states benefiting from the daily shipping. It would also require industry to then ship along the East Coast and through the St. Lawrence Seaway raising the cost of doing business astronomically. Like the mosquito, the Asian Carp is not wanted or needed.

It is causing pain so let’s kill them. We can harvest them and process them into fertilizer and/or feed and cat food until they are gone. It is just that simple but we have to explain this to two senators, various congresspersons and a gang of city council people (Chicago). Just kill the pest!

Another fine example is that of tobacco. This industry is as old as Columbus.

However, they want to eliminate it by a “death of 1000 cuts”. They attack snuff, cigarettes, and cigars in various fashions. They have taxed cigarettes so much that they have actually created a very lucrative counter fitting industry that is worldwide. Like illegal drugs, our law enforcement agencies cannot keep up with the pace of the counter fitting. Thus, bullying the tobacco industry actually promotes crime. If they eliminate snuff, they will soon come after cigarettes. Then, after doing that they will come after my cigars and I will fight that with every breath I take. Ice cream is not healthy so will that be next?

They are even becoming racial about this. The latest rage being kicked around in Congress and at the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is to eliminate menthol from cigarettes. Menthol flavor is the favorite of African Americans who smoke cigarettes. Nearly 80% of all menthol flavored cigarettes in the United States are bought by African Americans. The brand Newport is the king of sales. Yes, they want to strike a big blow directed at us Black folks. How brazen can they get?

The fact is we should communicate and together come up with solutions that are direct and simple if possible. We don’t have to destroy industry if an unwanted fish enters our waterways and we don’t have to put children at risk to protect a lethal pest. Also, we need not to eliminate choice for the sake of healthy habits. Quick thinking and bad information can cause this kind of hysteria and we must be vigilant and follow the road of common sense. Every problem has an intelligent solution; we just need to find it.

Harry Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: Email:

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