Monday, February 27, 2017

What Next?

Donald Trump's Presidency is just entering its second month and we can say unequivocally that things are as bad and worse than we could've imagined. Trump himself has:
  • questioned the integrity of the 2016 election results, claiming without evidence that "millions of people voted illegally" (all for Hillary Clinton, of course), which is why he lost the popular vote,
  • maligned the judiciary (not for the first time), because the court decided his Muslim Ban was unconstitutional (thank you, Bob Ferguson, WA AG),
  • called the Press "an enemy of the American people,"
  • reneged on his pledge to release his tax returns after an IRS audit,
  • refused to abide by the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, thus ensuring continued conflicts of interest with his far-flung business interests,
  • blasted the Intelligence Community over their reports of Russian hacking of the DNC and interference in the 2016 election,
  • impugned the integrity of the FBI after imploring them to "knock down" press reports on Trump team contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.
In the meantime, under cover of Mr. Trump's "unpresidented" attack on everything and everyone he disagrees with, Republicans are ramming through Mr. Trump's terrible Cabinet nominees, and pushing through and/or repealing legislation that will change a regulatory landscape shaped by progressive principles.

One of their first moves in laying the groundwork for how they planned to operate, was to emasculate the independent Congressional Ethics Committee. After a public outcry, in which even Mr. Trump weighed in, the House reversed that plan. Instead, they appointed our former WA-4 Representative, Richard "Doc" Hastings to head the committee. We all know how conscientious Doc is on that front.
"Hear no evil" Doc Hastings to head up Ethics
At the top of the GOP's ambitious agenda is wiping out healthcare coverage for millions of Americans. Republicans have fought the Affordable Care Act literally from its inception. It goes against their conservative principle of "Every [rich] man for himself." The problem is, while Republicans bitched and moaned about ACA, aka "Obamacare" for eight years, all they did in that time was pass more than 50 symbolic bills to repeal it, apparently in an effort to make their base feel they were doing something other than obstructing everything President Obama tried to do. Now they have to actually come up with a replacement, and hey, it isn't as easy as they thought when they ridiculed the 2700-pages of legislation that accompanied the bill. "Noboby knew that healthcare could be so complicated," Mr. Trump said Monday. Yeah, actually, they did. More than once.

A draft of the House Republicans' bill to repeal Obamacare would replace its subsidies with less generous tax credits, increase the amount insurers could charge older Americans and effectively eliminate Medicaid for low-income adults. These provisions could leave a significant share of the 20 million people who gained coverage under Obamacare without insurance. It's not all bad, however. Taxes on tanning beds would be repealed under the GOP plan, thus ensuring that Mr. Trump can continue his orangeness without undue expense.

Healthcare isn't the only thing the GOP is working to degrade in order to "Make America Great Again." Frankly, it's hard to keep up with everything Congress is doing, even for Congressional Democrats. Collegiality is not on the GOP agenda, let alone transparency, or compromise. You can try following, but you might be better served by following, a fictitious site I just made up. But there are a lot of leaks.

Without doubt the government agency at greatest risk today is the Environmental Protection Agency -- an agency created by a Republican president, Richard Nixon. His creation of the EPA was not the reason he resigned in disgrace, but republicans, once serious about "conservation," have more and more come to hate the EPA. In an odd turn of events, republicans appreciation for Vladimir Putin has soared. It may be that republicans see environmentalists as today's communists, and they prefer fascism to communism, thus their support of Trump and by extension, Putin.

The environment is high on the list of GOP targets, and not just the "climate change hoax." Republicans employed the Congressional Review Act to scrap the Stream Protection Rule, designed to limit the dumping of mining waste in local waterways. The rule was put in place by the Department of the Interior in the final days of the Obama administration, tightening standards for contamination of water and restoration of streams damaged by mining operations. Joyful miners in Kentucky were sure to be grateful to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for protecting their well-being.
With the installation of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the EPA Americans can expect to see a severe degradation of the Agency's authority and capacity for enforcement of existing regulation, let alone new rulemaking.

As Walter Rosebaum has written in a recent edition of The Conversation,
"Environmental organizations can attempt to mobilize public support and pressure Congress to counteract Pruitt-led revisions of EPA’s organization and rule-making. In particular, increased activism at the state level can be a countervailing force to federal environmental retrenchment."
Activism at the local and state levels seems to be a formula for pressing Congress and, perhaps to a lesser degree, the Administration, on a board range of issues, from freedom of the press to freedom of choice. So, get on your hiking boots and get out there!

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