Trump Declares All Out War on the Poor, the Environment, the World –
By Glynn Wilson –
The hour grows late. The situation dire and dark.
The proposed fiscal 2019 federal budget unveiled Monday by President Donald J. Trump, which is certain to draw criticism and debate in Congress and massive acts of resistance from the public, sets out to try to use the sales of oil, gas, coal and uranium from increased mining and drilling on public lands to help fund infrastructure projects for the Department of the Interior.
In what the New York Times calls “Donald Trump’s Nasty Budget” on its editorial page, the proposal would slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, transportation and other essential government services while increasing the federal deficit. Combined with the tax cuts Republicans passed in a partisan deal last year, this would “amount to one of the greatest transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich in generations. It would also charge trillions of dollars in new debt to the account of future Americans. It’s a plan that could please only far-right ideologues who want to dissolve nearly every part of the federal government, save the military.”
“If Congress adopted Mr. Trump’s proposal, millions of people would stand to lose health insurance, subsidized food, low-cost housing and other benefits. The result would be to greatly increase poverty and hunger in America,” the Times editorialized. “This is surely not what most of Mr. Trump’s working-class supporters imagined during the primary and general election campaigns.”
The blueprint from the Office of Budget and Management proposes cutting the Department of the Interior’s budget by 14 percent, from $13.2 billion to $11.7 billion. This includes slashing funding for the National Park Service, which oversees America’s national parks, what Ken Burns called on PBS “America’s Best Idea.”
We spent much of 2016 warning this would happen of Trump was elected, but of course not enough people listened. We also wrote about it in 2017 after it was already happening from a national park campground inside the Washington, D.C. beltway.
The planned cuts are similar to last year’s proposed budget, which called for cutting the department’s funding by 12 percent, zeroing out Abandoned Mine Land Grants, the Centennial Challenge Fund, the Heritage Partnership Program and the National Wildlife Refuge Fund.
This proposed budget takes the cuts even further, while increasing funding for programs that “support safe and responsible development of energy on public lands and offshore waters,” according to the proposal. It includes a plan to create a fund that would be financed by sales of “energy resources” on national parkland, something that has been resisted for decades after the creation of the national parks, where nature was supposed to be left in a pristine state for the long-term benefit of the flora and fauna as well as the enjoyment of future generations.
The Public Lands Infrastructure Fund would aim to provide up to $18 billion to address what Interior calls the department’s “deferred maintenance backlog,” The fund would support infrastructure projects for building more roads, visitor centers, etc. in national parks.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a press call Monday that the fund would be filled “exclusively from new energy developments on public lands.”
“Sovereignty should mean something — so we’re focusing on that,” he said of using offshore and onshore drilling leases to fund infrastructure projects. “Without a strong and steady stream of revenue we cannot afford to do everything we need to do.”
The Bureau of Land Management announced in February that the agency’s current lease sales brought in nearly $360 million last year.
“Oil and gas lease sales on public land directly support domestic energy production and the president’s energy dominance and job growth priorities for America,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said at the time. “…2017 was a big year for oil and gas leasing on federal lands, and these sales provide critical revenue and job growth in rural America.”
Under Zinke’s pro-development, anti-environmental protection lack of leadership, the opposite of what the agency was created to do, he has proposed a strategy for ramping up the leasing of public lands for offshore oil and gas drilling as well as uranium mining around the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. This has faced opposition and criticism from environmental groups all over the country and the governors of nearly every coastal state, especially Florida, where the plan was scaled back. This budget brings it back up again.
This administration is also taking steps to begin leasing out the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil and gas drilling, something that has been been fought as a hallmark of wild land protection for a generation and championed by many national environmental groups since the inception of the environmental movement in the late 1960s and ’70s.
When asked directly for a comment on the proposed budget, U.S. Senator Doug Jones of Alabama called the administration’s proposal a “non-starter” and said it is more of a “wish-list” than an actual budget that could be acted upon by Congress.
“But it does tell us very clearly what their priorities are,” he said. “I am very concerned that the White House wants to privatize TVA, which would hurt folks in north Alabama. It also appears they want to cut programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are so critical to the people of Alabama. And while I’m all for a strong infrastructure plan, the White House’s plan takes money away from other important initiatives like the Highway Trust Fund and cuts funding for rural water systems.
“Clearly this budget proposal is a non-starter,” Jones said. “But I’ll continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to make common sense investments that strengthen our communities.”
The question is, will the public find out about this horrific budget proposal in time and spring into action in large enough numbers to stop it in its tracks? Or are people so burned out from the past year’s constant “shock and awe” and “fire and fury” campaigns and Twitter storms from this president that it is hopelessly distracted or even giving up?
Democrats all over the country seem to be sanguine to wait on the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to get rid of Trump and just talk about their opposition on Facebook and Twitter. We fear this will not be enough to save America from a debilitating crisis of democracy if not an ultimate disaster, like nuclear war.
While the fuzzy feel good scenes from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea are heartening, many fear that Trump plans military action that could lead to nuclear war after the games are over. Everybody has now seen the photos and videos of Vice President Mike Pence basically taking a knee, or in this case a butt, by sitting down at the opening ceremony while those representing the rest of the world stood to cheer the unified Korean team enter the stadium. If this is not a sign of the war stance and lack of diplomacy of this administration I don’t know what would be.
While tens of thousands of people like to post the hashtag #resist on Twitter and Facebook, it is going to take more than that. A million people need to go to Washington not just once to march peacefully with smiles and funny signs. We need a million pissed off people surrounding the White House demanding Trump’s resignation.
© 2018, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.