Planet Trump

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News from Ground Control: Planet Trump (March 17)

Friday, March 17, 2017

In a week during which headlines were dominated by talk of snooping microwaves, the Trump White House made other news unveiling its controversial proposed budget for 2018 – which includes slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s already small budget by 31 percent.

The White House budget stayed true to Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon’s declaration last month that it will lead the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

“We remind the president once again that no one voted for more children to suffer from asthma, for more people to drink water with cancer-causing chemicals, or for all of us to be exposed to harmful industrial compounds in our everyday consumer products,” said EWG President Ken Cook, of the proposed EPA cuts. “We must all stand up and fight back before it's too late.”

Here are several of this past week’s deep dives on that development, along with other worrisome environmental and public health actions taken by the Trump administration.

Los Angeles Times, Evan Halper (March 16, 2017) The Environmental Protection Agency is Targeted for Some of Trump’s Most Brutal Cuts

“Trump's budget proposal would effectively cripple the EPA’s ability to do anything on behalf of public health and environmental protection, and leave local and state governments on their own in fighting climate change, water contamination, air pollution from toxic industries,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.

The Huffington Post, Alexander C. Kaufman (March 16, 2017) White House Budget Proposes Sweeping Cuts to EPA, Environmental Programs

“The problem at EPA is not that it has too much power, but that it doesn’t have enough resources to do an adequate job of protecting our air, water and irreplaceable natural resources,” Ken Cook, president of the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. “This is not a philosophical debate about regulations or ‘deconstructing government,’ but about our health, our safety and the world we’re going to leave to our children.”

Politico, Ian Kullgren (March 13, 2017) How Perdue’s Power Benefits His Friends

“This isn’t like draining the swamp,” said Scott Faber, a lobbyist for the Environmental Working Group, a watchdog organization that’s been critical of Perdue. “This is like putting the original swamp monster in charge.”

The Washington Post, Editorial Board (March 13, 2017) Time to Grill Trump’s Nominee for Agriculture Secretary

Senators can and should explore Mr. Perdue’s ethics. Equally, if not more, important are the policy issues ahead. The Agriculture Department performs two main roles: feeding 44 million people at a cost of roughly $70 billion in fiscal 2016, via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and distributing billions to American agribusiness via various outmoded subsidy programs. (Mr. Perdue himself was a recipient of a quarter-million dollars of this largesse prior to his governorship, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group.) 

Mother Jones, Tom Phillpott (March 15, 2017) A Mini Version of Trump is About to Take Over the USDA

Meanwhile, a recent report from Environmental Working Group characterized Perdue as "mired in ethical lapses, self-dealing and back-room deals that raise troubling questions about his fitness to run the department." Two of the many examples cited by EWG—a $100,000 tax break gained by Perdue through well-timed legislation; an appointment to a powerful post for his cousin and business partner, now the junior senator from Georgia, David Perdue—I teased out in this January post.

EWG also shows that Perdue appointed execs from his fertilizer and grain-trading businesses to powerful state boards—again, without divesting himself of those businesses. Then there's this:

While in office, Perdue failed to meet his own ethical standards by repeatedly taking gifts—including sports tickets and first-class flights—from registered lobbyists. Shortly after taking office, Perdue signed his first executive order, which prohibited any state official from accepting gifts worth more than $25 from lobbyists.

However, a query of lobbyist expenditures shows that Perdue received at least 53 gifts from registered lobbyists over the monetary limit—totaling more than $23,000–between 2006 and 2010, including a $2,400 flight to a NASCAR race. In 2003, the Office of the Inspector General—an office established by Perdue’s second executive order—investigated whether Perdue’s personal use of state helicopters was appropriate, ultimately leading the Office of the Attorney General to prohibit such uses.

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