What good is the EPA?

President Trump recently proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget more than thirty percent but I have seen relatively little outrage voiced over these cuts. It seems that Americans are more concerned about the Supreme Court nomination and Trump’s ties to Russia. While they are both important issues, I expected a greater outcry about the environment since it will have a greater impact on Americans long after Trump’s nominee vacates the SCOTUS bench.

Then it occurred to me that Millennials have never known a time when the smog in LA was so thick that you could barely see the Hollywood sign from the Hollywood Freeway for the entire summer. And Baby Boomers are about the only Americans who remember the Cuyahoga River being so polluted that it literally caught on fire. So many Americans take the relatively clean condition of the United States for granted because it doesn’t seem as urgent an issue as it does to those of us who remember how badly polluted this country used to be.

But all you have to do to get an idea of what the environment could be like is to look at present-day China. It struggles with air pollution and photos of China’s water pollution show that its environment is worse than the USA ever was. But China’s central government does not regulate pollution like the EPA has for almost fifty years in the USA. So pollution goes on relatively unabated there.

Instead, capitalism has been the biggest driver of China’s pollution problems. The invisible hand of the free market generally works against a clean environment as it looks to maximize profits by minimizing the societal costs born by free enterprise. I’m as big a proponent of capitalism as the next American but I don’t deny that, although private businesses do not, the American people do bear the societal costs. And the societal cost of industry is pollution.

But as bad as I know from experience that pollution can get in the USA, it’s the least environmental concern younger Americans should have. They haven’t felt Global Warming sneaking up on them but they are the ones who will feel its impact the most in the future. Military experts say climate change poses a “significant risk” to national security, not terrorism. And although Global Mean Sea Level has risen 0.13 inches a year for the past couple of decades, that’s nothing compared to what we can expect in the years to come if we don’t curtail the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The rise of the oceans will accelerate to reach another two meters by the end of the century. Say goodbye to Miami, New Orleans, and much of Manhattan.

Yet president Trump has pledged to rip up the Paris climate agreement, which would likely lead to its demise. So it’s clear that the EPA will be getting no love from him either. Unless Americans protest cuts to the EPA, prepare for all of its good work to be undone and a slide back to the polluted states of America.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

I have not watched all of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing of Neil Gorsuch regarding his nomination by President Trump to be a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) but I’ve watched a substantial amount of it. I’ve also read criticisms and statements in support of Gorsuch’s nomination. In my opinion, nothing that we know of disqualifies Gorsuch for the highest bench and there’s no reason for the senate to withhold consent to the nomination.

Nonetheless, many Democrat senators would like to prevent or at least stall his confirmation. For the most part, it’s because the Republicans refused to even allow a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the SCOTUS. I’ve already stated that the Republican senators’ refusal to consider Obama’s nomination was a dereliction of their duty to uphold the Constitution of the USA. But that applies equally to Democrat senators if they attempt to block Gorsuch’s nomination. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

For that reason, the senate should move to a vote on the nomination within a reasonable amount of time after Gorsuch’s hearing concludes. Democrats should not necessarily vote in favor of the nomination—they should vote their conscience. But unlike the way the Republicans treated Garland, Democrats should at least vote on the nomination. It is their duty and Gorsuch deserves it. Blocking the vote would only harm the Democrats in the senate.

The Democrats will face much more critical challenges in the future that they will need the GOP’s backing on. If the Democrat’s make blocking Gorsuch’s nomination an issue, the Republicans will simply make opposition to the Democrats automatic on future issues for purely partisan issues. It is likely that the senate will have sound, irrefutable grounds to impeach Trump before the end of his term as president but the senate will need the cooperation of the GOP to issue articles of impeachment. The senate will also need to deal with issues like health care, the budget, and immigration during the Trump administration. So I call on the Democrat senators to treat Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch in the same way they would have treated Obama’s nomination of Garland.

Focus the resistance

President Donald Trump is getting a lot of resistance since he was inaugurated—maybe too much. Complaints about the president going to Mira Lago every weekend, the amount of taxes he paid, and his latest tweet turning the blame for something he did on his target du jour are all over the media. But in the big scheme of things, these are trivial issues that have little import to the typical American. The ubiquity of these inconsequential issues becomes noise that drowns out the critical issues that Americans should be resisting.

Even Trump’s signature Wall is not worth the Resistance. Net illegal immigration from Mexico has hovered around zero for the past few years, so little would change with a wall on the border. There would continue to be a strong legal interchange of people, products, and culture across the border. The Wall would not stop the twelve-million undocumented Mexicans already in the USA from continuing to be our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. Sure, it would be a waste of $20-billion, with all the more advanced technological solutions that could be deployed on the border, but that’s just a drop in the federal budget bucket.

Americans need to tamp down the noise and focus their resistance to the president’s agenda on the issues that are seriously detrimental to Americans. The most critical are his efforts to create a Trump autocracy. Muzzling the Fourth Estate and dictating what is legitimate press and what is fake news is the first step in implementing an autocracy. Trump’s constant distortion of the meaning of English words to fit his demagogic or authoritarian needs is an Orwellian page right out of 1984. His attempts to delegitimize the courts and claims that the president is immune to laws are tactics that would be taught in Autocracy 101.

It’s also important for Americans to see Trump’s tax returns. But it’s not so we can know how much taxes he paid. Any shrewd businessman will do their best to minimize their tax liability and they should not be criticized for doing so in a legal manner. We need to see his tax returns so we can learn how his personal finances could influence the actions he takes as president. What if Trump owes a Russian oligarch a large sum of money? What if he is trying to get permits to develop properties in China? What if he passes a law or removes a regulation that favors his companies in the USA? These are important things Americans can learn from Trump’s tax returns.

Americans need to resist Trump’s environmental agenda if they care about their children and grandchildren. The damage that would be caused if Trump is successful at rendering the Environmental Protection Agency impotent would be slow to notice but would endure for generations to come. Many Americans have forgotten or are too young to know that the skies of Los Angeles used to be so smoggy that you could rarely see the Hollywood Sign from the Hollywood Freeway and our waterways used to be so polluted that the Cuyahoga River in Ohio literally caught on fire. But Trump will reverse the gains we’ve made cleaning up the environment in recent decades if he is unchecked. And the international community must begin combating Global Warming immediately to prevent irreversible damage to the entire planet but Trump’s denial of Climate Change will jeopardize the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Health care is another issue of significant importance to Americans because we pay more than any other advanced country for our health care but have some of the worst outcomes. Both Democrat and Republican presidents tried for decades to reform health care for Americans. None of their efforts were successful until President Obama passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PDF) (ACA). The ACA is not perfect but it’s much preferable to the system we had before the law was passed. Yet the GOP is intent on repealing it and replacing it with a bill that would result in over twenty-million Americans losing their health care insurance and the costs rising even more dramatically—especially for seniors and Americans with disabilities or other pre-existing conditions.

There are other important issues that Americans face with Trump in the Oval Office and Americans need to resist all of the most harmful ones. But most of the criticisms levied against him in the media are relatively trivial compared to these. In fact, it might be a deliberate tactic on Trump’s part to get Americans talking about his tweets to distract them from things like his connections to Russia. Don’t let him get away with it. Stop posting every trivial criticism of his administration on facebook and focus your resistance on the issues that really matter.

Not my president — NOT

I have been a vocal critic of Donald Trump since he began his campaign for president. Against all odds, he somehow managed to win the election and is now the president-elect. Nonetheless, many of my fellow Trump opponents assert that he is “not my president,” not only meaning now while President Obama is still in office but also after Trump’s inauguration in two weeks.

I don’t share this sentiment. Yes, I know that Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by around three-million votes but that’s irrelevant. The US Constitution says that our president is elected by electors, not the American electorate, and the Electoral College has certified Trump’s win. So there’s no denying that Trump will be sworn in to the office of POTUS and I am a citizen of the USA.

Therefore, although I don’t have to like it, I acknowledge that he will be my president. I think that those of the not-my-president camp should also acknowledge it and here’s why. If Trump were not my president, then I would not care about him. I could put him out of my mind and focus on other issues. But I’ve already expressed why it will be so dangerous to our country for him to be the president.

This danger is real enough that Americans should not hide their heads in the sand and deny his position. We need to stand up to him and fight to protect our civil rights. Acknowledging that Trump is our president is the first step to being committed to the struggle. It is the very fact that he will be our president that makes the fight so important. And it won’t be just one battle. This will be a war that will likely stretch on for four years, with at least two of them having a majority of the legislature backing Trump (for the most part).

So drop the “not my president” line and take up arms against our president-elect with me. I don’t mean physical weapons; I mean political weapons. Arm yourself with the facts about what Trump will be doing as president. Speak out loudly about what he does and why it’s wrong before he begins muzzling our free speech. Vote for legislators in the midterm election who will join us in the fight against our president. Don’t let to-be-President Trump’s fact-free zone drown out our fight.

I can understand why some people are tired of how PC the society in general has gotten but not why they would want a president who is so politically incorrect. There’s a reason why the word “political” is used in the term “politically correct” — because politicians should be held to a higher level of decorum than the population at large is. A president’s words have a much larger impact than yours or mine do.

The True Gentleman

“The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”

— John Walter Wayland

This is Trump. This is your country on Trump. Any questions?

It’s final—Donald Trump will become the president of the United States of America in a couple of months. So it’s now relevant to contemplate what the USA will be like under his administration. First off, it’s clear that he will not enter the Oval Office with a mandate of the American people. While Trump is sure to be elected by a strong majority of the Electoral College next month, Hillary Clinton will probably win the popular vote for president. Trump will lead a country in which a majority of American voters do not want him to be their president.

He will also have to forge foreign relations in a world where he is very unpopular. While it is not a globally unanimous sentiment, Europe hates Trump and according to Pew Research, much of the world has no confidence that Trump will do the right thing regarding world affairs. So it’s likely that all of the wounds that President Obama has healed in international relations with the USA after President Bush so badly damaged them will be reopened if you trust Trump’s words.

But neither foreigners nor Americans who have been paying attention to Trump will be able to trust the president’s word after he takes office. I’ve already written about how much of a liar Trump is. I realize that everyone lies, including Hillary Clinton, so it’s not that he lies that bothers me. It’s the extraordinary scale of his lying that concerns me. FactCheck.org dubbed Trump the “King of Whoppers” and PolitiFact awarded Trump’s campaign misstatements “Lie of the Year” in 2015. He even lies about his lies by switching his positions on issues from one side to the opposite and back at a dumbfounding rate and regularity. That’s why the world feels so much uncertainty about Trump’s presidency and Americans will be unable to rely on anything he will say as president.

In terms of the homeland itself, your country on Trump will be wet…and dry. Miami won’t be flooded by the Pacific Ocean during his administration but Trump has pledged to cancel last year’s Paris Climate Change accord and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s a miracle that the world could reach an agreement that 193 countries would sign on to, so it’s likely to unravel with the world’s second leading emitter of carbon dioxide leaving the accord. That means you can expect Global Warming to continue and the seas to rise over the USA’s coastal cities after Trump has done his damage and left the White House. And without an EPA, Flint, Michigan won’t be the only place where you won’t be able to drink the water.

Americans will also have less access to health care on Trump. I continue to be a critic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but it’s preferable to no Obamacare at all. I know Trump has promised to replace the ACA after he repeals it but he has told you nothing about what he would replace it with. And it’s completely unrealistic to think that your Republican-dominated congress will pass any health care reform law, so you will be back to the way things were before the ACA: more than 15-million Americans who gained health insurance under the ACA will again have to go without it while the cost for health care will return to its pre-ACA levels of skyrocketing increases.

On Trump, ethnic relations among Americans will be rent to pieces. Between calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and countless other xenophobic comments, Trump has made America hate again. Because Trump is setting an example that it is acceptable, many Americans will be more willing to publicly express racism and prejudice of people who don’t look or act like a WASP. And the American targets of that bigotry will suffer from it and fear showing their diversity in public, thereby creating divides between “us” and “them” in whatever forms we and they take.

But perhaps the greatest damage the USA will sustain on Trump is the erosion of your freedoms and civil rights. Trump has repeatedly exhibited extensive disregard for the USA’s constitution. And by calling for “taking out” (he did not mean on a date) the families of members of ISIS and torturing terrorists with waterboarding, he has shown that he’s also willing to commit international war crimes. Trump threatened to throw Hillary Clinton in jail, if he were president, for charges that FBI director James Comey said “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring and has called for new libel laws to quash any journalists who publicly disagree with him. These are the actions dictators, including King George III of England, have historically taken to suppress any political opposition and wrest power from their people in totalitarian states.

The harmful side effects of Trump are many and I could go on at much more length about what your country will be like on Trump. But if, after fifteen months of Trump’s campaigning, you still support him, you already know everything about him that will damage your country but have chosen not to acknowledge it. It won’t change your denial to read about it here. And everyone else already knows the repercussions of the USA being on Trump. So I’ve said my peace and I’ll leave the next four years on Trump to history. Any questions?