Here’s yet another example of the devastation that the Trump administration is causing the country while the nation’s eyes are diverted by his tweets.
Every so often, in between his outlandish tweet bullying and know-nothingness, we get a glimpse of what’s happening beneath the radar, but not often enough for Americans to realize how bad it is.
Columnist Tim Egan of the New York Times, long an advocate for the country’s national parks and the importance of saving natural wilderness areas for future generations, recently likened Donald Trump’s appointment of William Perry Pendley as the Interior Department’s deputy director of land management to the American Cancer Society putting the head of Philip Morris in charge of its operations.
“This is another Onion headline that writes itself: Trump’s pick for public lands doesn’t believe in public lands,” Egan wrote.
This has been a pattern — especially with anything concerning the environment — since Trump took the oath of office in January 2017. While he’s been tweeting his latest outrage about anything that annoys him, his gallery of, as Egan puts it, “awful human beings, monumental incompetents, wife-beaters, frauds and outright criminals appointed to high positions is large and varied. As wanted posters, they would fill an entire post office wall.”
Pendley is now in charge of the Bureau of Land Management that oversees 248 million acres of land that technically belongs to every American citizen. He is in charge of that land now after making a career of suing the government over regulations that protect fish and wildlife on those acres. And just a couple of years ago, he proclaimed that the country’s Founding Fathers wanted all lands owned by the federal government put up for sale in the first place.
The BLM is separate from the National Park Service, another arm of the Interior Department.
But, national parks, too, aren’t faring very well under this administration. You’ll remember that shortly after taking office, Trump ordered the shrinking of four federal monuments that had been formed to protect and preserve Native American lands in the west, so they could be opened for grazing and other for-profit endeavors.
The national parks have been woefully underfunded for the past several years, predating Trump’s ascension to power. But Trump’s first budget sought to cut maintenance dollars even further and, lest it be forgotten, he diverted $2.5 million from the money earmarked for maintenance at parks like Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and others so that he could pull off his 4th of July celebration on the National Mall this summer.
This is yet another example of Trump refusing to improve the country’s infrastructure, something he promised to do if elected, at the expense of tax cuts for big corporations and wealthy individuals. Thanks to those cuts — the only significant piece of legislation that Trump has achieved in his nearly three years in office — the country is facing a trillion-dollar deficit in next year’s budget. Consequently, while Wall Street lavishes in fewer taxes and bigger profits, many of the nation’s urgent needs continue to go unanswered.
What didn’t fly under the radar, fortunately, was Interior’s plans to rollback the Endangered Species Act that is credited with saving among other birds, plants and animals, America’s national symbol, the bald eagle. That announcement has created an uproar not only among environmentalists and conservationists, but anyone who has paid attention to recent reports that the world is facing the extinction of up to a million species because of the changing climate.
Hopefully, even the Trump-supporting Republicans in Congress will rally to stop that outrage in its tracks.
Pendley is just the most recent example of the people now in charge of America’s hard-won policies and traditions that have served the people admirably for decades. There’s the Department of Labor secretary who doesn’t believe in labor and the Department of Energy secretary who opposes renewable energy, the acting chief of immigration who wants to change the words on the Statue of Liberty, the secretary of state who doesn’t believe in diplomacy and, well, the list is virtually endless.
As the 2020 election approaches, it’s critical for America to look beyond the tweets.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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