Sundin column: Trumpery, billionaires, tax cuts and warming
Nearly two weeks ago Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States and assumed the role of commander in chief and leader of the free world. Americans of all persuasions (and the whole world) are wondering what the Trump years will be like. Will he adopt the statesmanship that the role requires, or will he continue the bullying tactics that won him the presidency?
His actions in the past month are not encouraging. He claims to know more about the wars in the Middle East than our generals and not to need frequent updates on current developments and possible threats to our country from the Central Intelligence Agency (which he maligns). He also ignores the scientific consensus on the causes of global warming. (Let’s call it what it really is instead of the euphemistic “climate change”).
He has insulted Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, one of our strongest allies and has expressed admiration for President Vladimir Putin of Russia, where he has major financial interests. And he continues to have a thin skin, launching into tirades on Twitter smearing anyone who has the audacity to challenge the validity of his “facts,” like his claim of millions of illegal votes in the election.
There is a fitting word for his outrageous statements — “trumpery” (meaning nonsense, rubbish). He seems to be more obsessed with these petty retributions than with the issues facing the country, which should be the primary responsibility of the occupant of the White House — which he injudiciously intends to be only when it suits him.
Donald Trump’s Cabinet choices are also cause for concern. He is surrounding himself with fellow billionaires, high corporate executives and military officers, potentially creating a new “establishment” no more responsive to the wishes of the voters who flocked to him than the “establishment” they felt was ignoring their economic plight.
For secretary of state, he has chosen Rex Tillerson, who was CEO of Exxon Mobile, which has an unsavory environmental record and is extremely unpopular throughout the Middle East. Tillerson also has a close financial relationship with Putin.
Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke, Trump’s choice for secretary of the interior, is skeptical of any connection between fossil fuels and global warming and supports coal production. Trump’s choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is also a global-warming skeptic and favors the oil and gas industry, and he has filed numerous lawsuits against the EPA challenging limitations on mercury emissions from coal plants.
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s choice for secretary of education, is a billionaire who grew up in a Calvinist church, never went to a public school and favors public funding of religious schools — contrary to the constitutional separation of church and state. Public schools unite communities, whereas charter schools divide them. In a similar vein, Trump’s selection of Marine Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense is a violation of our history of maintaining civilian control over the military.
My biggest concerns are Donald Trump’s positions on the U.S. economy and on the challenge of global warming. Supported by his pro-business Cabinet selections, Trump plans major tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, which he claims will grow the economy and create jobs. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Remember “Reaganomics” — the “trickle-down” theory that tax cuts for the wealthy would create jobs and prosperity for all? All it accomplished was a doubling of the national debt. Tried again during the George W. Bush years, it again doubled the national debt. A sign of insanity is to repeat what has previously failed and expect a different result.
By far my greatest concern is the indifference of Donald Trump and his coterie to the threat global warming poses to the habitability of our planet. Although some of them, in the face of incontrovertible data and evidence, may no longer be in denial of the fact that the Earth is warming, they still refuse to accept that the major cause is human activities — primarily burning enormous quantities of fossil fuels and massive deforestation.
The majority of Americans, nearly all of the other countries in the world and almost every reputable earth and climate scientist are united in recognizing that fact. Industry and older workers are understandably fixed on protecting their profits and jobs, but what will that do to upcoming generations if the result is the destruction of the livability of our planet? That is a legitimate major concern of younger generations everywhere.
Hal Sundin’s As I See It appears on the first Thursday of the month.
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