Some of you are probably glad to see me address more serious topics, while others might wish I'd get back to Bigfoot and ghosts and UFOs. For those latter, I'd ask your indulgence for (at least) one more politically-oriented post, that I was spurred to write because of comments from readers.
The conservative members of my audience have responded to my admittedly liberal bias with reactions varying from encouragement to outright scorn. Some have said, "Come on, now, it's not going to be bad. Just wait until some of the new administration's ideas are enacted, and you'll see that it'll make things better." Others have said "buck up, Buttercup" or "suck it up, Snowflake" or other such helpful phrases.
[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]
First, it's undeniable that President Trump and his new appointees -- not to mention the Republican-controlled House and Senate -- have a lot of us pretty worried. And despite the "Snowflake" and "Buttercup" responders, it's not simply because we're pissed at having lost. I'm 56, and I remember vividly the presidencies of Reagan and both Bushes, and I can never recall being this specifically upset at this many things, this early into the administration. Without even trying hard, I came up with the following, all of which happened in the last few weeks:
- In a move much like Canadian former Prime Minister Stephen Harper's gag rule on scientists, the US Department of Agriculture has forbidden scientists at the Agriculture Research Services to communicate with the public about taxpayer-funded work. "Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents," Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email. "This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content." And just yesterday, a similar order was given to staff at the Environmental Protection Agency -- no press releases, no blogging or tweeting by scientists, no new content on the EPA website.
- Before Trump was even inaugurated, the Republican-led Congress voted to block an amendment protecting people with pre-existing conditions from losing health insurance coverage; voted away the provision that allows children to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26; defeated a bill that would have insurance cover the costs of contraception; and denied an expansion of veterans' health care benefits.
- The Trump administration is reversing a mortgage-fee cut intended to help low-income and first-time home buyers easier access to mortgages. Even Trump's supporters were surprised at how fast this one came. "Wasn't expecting it -- and have no insight into how it all happened," one lobbyist said.
- In the face of virulent opposition from Native Americans and environmental groups, Trump has signed an executive order to force a move-forward on both the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipelines -- despite the fact that the first is routed through sovereign tribal lands, and that long-distance oil pipelines have been demonstrated over and over to be prone to leaks, resulting in fouled land and water.
- Congress has voted to rescind an Obama administration Stream Protection Rule, which requires coal mining operations to monitor water quality downstream of their mines -- even if those streams provide drinking water to downstream communities.
- A long-planned Climate and Health Summit in Atlanta, sponsored by the CDC, has been abruptly cancelled. No reason was given in the terse email to staff notifying them of the decision, but Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said that the decision was made to "preemptively call off the event, rather than risk running afoul of an incoming president who has repeatedly called climate change a hoax and has nominated climate change skeptics to his Cabinet."
- Speaking of the Cabinet, there has been widespread criticism of Trump's choice of Rex Tillerson to the post of Secretary of State, due to his conflicts of interest regarding business deals with Russia. Rick Perry, nominee for Secretary of Energy, is on the board of the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline. Tom Price, nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, has a portfolio of nearly a quarter of million dollars invested in the pharmaceuticals industry -- an industry the HHS Secretary would be expected to regulate. Last, there's Trump's own business-related conflicts of interest, which he has repeatedly refused to address.
- A bill has been quietly introduced into the House -- H.R. 193 -- calling for the United States to sever all ties with the United Nations. It's called the "American Sovereignty Act of 2017" and if passed, would cut off all U.S. support for U.N. activities, including peacekeeping and diplomatic missions.
- In a move that has drawn comparisons to Kim Jong-Un's requirement that his birthday be celebrated as a national holiday with parades and parties, Donald Trump has issued an executive order declaring the day of his inauguration as a new national holiday, the "National Day of Patriotic Devotion."
Okay. You get the picture.
I've been dragged, rather unwillingly, into political discourse largely because I am so alarmed at the direction our leaders are taking. Honestly, I used the words "liberal bias" earlier, but I'm really more of a centrist; I do think we need to rein in spending, I do think we've got a good bit of government bloat, and I do think the "nanny state" concept -- protecting people from their own stupidity and poor judgment -- has gotten out of hand. But this? I look at this list of actions, all in a little over two months since the election, with nothing short of horror. I see a corporate interests über alles approach, a move toward less transparency, a morass of conflicts of interest, a complete disregard for any kind of consideration of the environment, and a reckless surge forward to reverse changes in policy on medical insurance coverage and lending practices without any clear vision of how to improve them -- or what impact those might have on low-income families.
So, conservative readers: you tell me not to worry, that everything will be fine, that Trump et al. are going to Make America Great Again. Okay, convince me. However I think Donald Trump is kind of repellent, personally, I have no desire to see him fail.
The stakes are way too high.
I'm a facts-and-evidence kind of guy, and I'm listening. I promise to consider carefully what you say, if for no other reason because I hate being a gloom-and-doom pessimist.
On the other hand, if all you have to say is "suck it up, Snowflake," my response is gonna be "go to hell." So be forewarned.