Category Archives: Environmental Protection

Nassau County Executive Candidates Curran, Martins Address Environmental Issues in NYLCV Forum

Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island; Joshua F. Klainberg of NYLCV Education Fund; Adrienne Esposito of Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment; Nick Sifuentes of Tri-State Transportation Campaign; Marcia Bystryn, President of New York League of Conservation Voters; Kathleen Watchorn, coordinator of projects and programs for Adelphi University organized a Nassau County Executive Candidates Forum on Environment & Sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund hosted the 2017 Nassau County Executive Candidate Forum on Environment & Sustainability at Adelphi University in Garden City on October 15. The format was a panel of three posing questions to the candidates individually and separately, first to Laura Curran, the Democratic candidate, then, in a second session, posing the same questions to the Republican candidate, Jack Martins. With the Trump Administration and Republican Congress pulling back on environmental protection and climate action, the stand that localities take becomes more significant. What follows is a loosely edited transcription, putting the candidates’ replies together after each question—Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Opening Statements:

Laura Curran, Democratic candidate for Nassau County Executive at the New York League of Conservation Voters Nassau County Executive Candidates Forum on Environment & Sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Laura Curran: I never planned to get involved in politics. I wanted to help my schools, my community, succeed. That sparked my interest to step up and serve the community in a bigger way – I have been in the Nassau County Legislature for four years, I am proud to have worked across the aisle when it was the right thing to do for the people I represent –For example, I was able to restore 10 bus routes that were cut.

As a legislator, I have had a front row seat to the corruption, the mismanagement [of county government]. I know how hard people work, the high taxes we pay. I believe we deserve a government that lives up to us. When I hear about indictments, it’s clear that the machine is breaking down, is not accountable to the people.

Jack Martins: I believe strongly in the Kenyan proverb, we don’t inherit the land from our parents we borrow it from our children. That is motivating. It hasn’t always been the case – water quality, the way we have treated sole-source aquifer historically, the lack of comprehensive sewering, nitrogen outflow to bays and and Sound, have significant environmental issues that is our responsibility to take care of and not simply kick the can down the road. Options for us – priorities, investments in infrastructure – I have had a history of working across the aisle – with Schimel in Assembly – But if there is a critical issue for us here in Long Island it’s water. Environmental sensitivity, wind energy, opportunities for our economy, need to expand bus service.

Jack Martins, Republican candidate for Nassau County Executive at the New York League of Conservation Voters Nassau County Executive Candidates Forum on Environment & Sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Addressing Nitrogen Loading

 Adrienne Esposito, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment: You know the first question: nitrogen. The Bay Park sewage treatment plant is responsible for 85% of the nitrogen loading into the western bays and the western bays are dying – depleted fish, closed shellfish beds, wetlands degrading. The solution is to combine Long Beach with Bay Park, take treated effluent, use the water viaduct currently in place, and discharge out the Cedar Creek ocean outfall pipe. Will you expedite the process of hooking up Long Beach to Bay Park to the existing pipe to the ocean outflow pipe – so bays can be restored and thrive? 

Curran: This is a very exciting project. The county was trying to get outflow pipe for bay…. It’s expensive. The county wasn’t able to get (funding?) from the state, federal government. [But] this is an example of how government works well: smart guys had a eureka moment: they realized there is a viaduct under Sunrise Highway,100 years old from an old waterworks, so big, a grown man could stand up in it .What if we bring water up to the viaduct, out to Cedar Creek, 6-7 miles, then there is 2 mile outflow pipe already in Cedar Creek? Altogether it would be half the cost. A viability study showed the plan is viable – they would put a  polymer sleeve inside.

The key is expediting [the plan]. We have to work closely with towns and villages because we’ve got to get the treated effluent from Bay Park up the viaduct and back down. We’ve got to work with communities on either side, so we have to make sure they understand and have buy in –we  don’t want to shove it down people’s throats. It will reduce the amount of nitrogen into the bays immediately, restore the shellfish. It doesn’t take long before nature will rebound. It would be good for economy, too. A win- win.

Jack Martins: There is a critical need on Long Island, how we discharge effluent into South Bay. Right now, both Long Beach and Bay Park go to Reynolds Channel and we know the effect. Someone came up with the ingenious proposal to connect via existing viaduct – the most complicated part is how to connect from Bay Park to the water viaduct…The viaduct is viable, we can move forward immediately…There are a couple of different options. The sooner we close Long Beach sewer treatment plant …Connect Cedar Creek – lateral to plant to outflow – and discharged 3 miles out. It’s important because of nitrogen loading [which] killed the shellfish industry, killed coastal wetlands. We realized after Sandy that those coastal wetlands protect against tidal surge during these 100-year storms. That’s my commitment, that’s what we will do.

Complete Streets 

Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Eric Alexander, Vision Long Island: This issue is on human level: Nassau County has some of most dangerous roads in NYS for pedestrian, bikers, – restaurants, downtowns, growing 55-plus population, growing number of young people who don’t want to drive – what will you do to encourage walkability, ‘Complete Streets’. 

Curran – I often talk about how transit oriented development [TOD] will be what saves us as a region – it keeps young people, empty nesters, creates a tax base, jobs. But [existing] infrastructure doesn’t quite support TOD. There are places where we have to reengineer what already have.

I live in Baldwin in the town of Hempstead. We  won $5 million in funding for a Complete Streets project to redo our main road, Grand Ave, to make it more navigable for bikers, walkers, cars and buses. This is called a “road diet“:  taking two lanes in each direction and turning them into one lane in each for the part of the road that’s in the plan. There is [often] a lot of resistance because people are concerned about change, that it will take longer. But [delays are mitigated by] engineering traffic lights, making turn lanes that fan out so drivers can get to lights in time – that will make it more navigable. But when people can walk around, ride bikes, have alternatives to using a car, people tend to spend more money – they want to stop, shop – which is good for economic development. We’re built up in Nassau County, so we need to reengineer what we already have. That’s what we are doing in Baldwin. I am looking forward to working with zoning municipalities.

Martins: As we consider the next generation of downtown residents, transit oriented development, how we get around safely. I supported Safe Streets legislation in Albany – it made a requirement that when we reengineer streets, we do so in a way that is safe for cars but also pedestrians and cyclists. For us, it’s a question of who we are as a county. We have to have every option for transit – bicycles, pedestrians. We need to make sure we keep roads safe. I represented one of the most dangerous areas in New York State – Hempstead Turnpike – more fatalities – Complete Streets have to be integral to what we do. The county has hundreds of miles of county roads, some of the most heavily traveled in the country. As roads are redesigned, maintained, [we need to be] using Complete Streets [strategies]. That is my commitment. As we stress the need for transit-oriented development, Complete Streets are more important [including] connectivity to train stations.

Improving Public Transportation 

Nick Sifuentes of Tri-State Transportation Campaign © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Nick Sifuentes, Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Transit oriented development requires good transit – something that is slipping. Governor Cuomo announced an advisory council to address dual crises: congestion in/out of New York City, and lack of funding for MTA (including Long Island Railroad). As the future leader of Nassau County what are the policies and proposals you would like to see?

Curran: I would make sure we have strong advocate on the council – Suffolk has a strong guy, Nassau, we don’t even know who it is. I am happy that the third track is on track, because we need to ease getting on/off the island – how trains operate. I would also look to buses and encourage more people to ride the bus even if they don’t have to [instead of driving]. The more choice bus riders, the better we will be. There are interesting examples all over the country: ideas include creating smaller, more flexible routes, more app-based routes to make an appointment to catch a bus. I am excited to pursue these: for every $1 spent on bus transit generates many more dollars in economic activity. It’s not just poor people who need to use buses. It is obviously important for people to take buses to doctors appointments, university, jobs. That’s economic development… Also ride-sharing –I’m glad it’s [now] legal in Nassau County – young people aren’t driving as much.

Martins: Make mass transit more affordable. Use it to make LIRR more affordable, encourage people to leave their cars. As a parent, when I take my children into the city, I have to take out a loan to pay the roundtrip fare. We shouldn’t have that consideration instead of taking car. [Transit] has to be affordable . if they do something with congestion pricing, make it affordable for Nassau County.

Climate Change & Sustainable Development 

Adrienne Esposito of Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Adrienne Esposito: Climate change is real. There is no debate. And Long Island is at the forefront of impacts. New York State set a goal of 50% renewals by 2030 but we can’t get there unless offshore wind is part of the [energy] portfolio. Will you support offshore wind (with site-specific environmental assessment)? 

Curran:  Absolutely. We have to look for renewable energy. Wind is a gift and we should be harnessing it and anything we can do to harness wind. Also renewables are a growing industry, and I don’t want to be on the losing end. I fought against the LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] port off Long Beach.

Solar panels have a really hard time with permitting – people have to deal with towns, villages, all with different permits that expire differently. We have to work hard with partners –because that is right to do for the environment and the economy.

Climate change. I am concerned with the rhetoric of the president that [the US] will be getting out of the Paris Climate Accord– especially being a coastal community, we see the ravages [of superstorms, sealevel rise]. I am heartened that governors and mayors around the country say they will stick to the Paris Agreement, and I have vowed as county executive to do the same.

Trump has said it is no longer necessary to [require that tax money used for infrastructure must take climate change resiliency into account]. I would insure that every penny would be used [would take] climate change [into account, that is, sustainable development].

Martins:  Absolutely. Curious at [the goal of] 50% [renewable] by 2030. I visited Portugal a couple of years ago – toured their renewable portfolio. Portugal gets 60% of their energy from renewable – hydro, wind, solar, voltaics. We should too. I’m a big believer in offshore wind, a great resource for us – the corridor for offshore wind runs from Block Island to south Jersey. We’re in a great position to benefit from cheap energy from wind. I also understand great strides are being made in developing battery technology to store energy at Brookhaven National Labs. That would be an economic boost for us. Right now, the largest project in New York, the east end off Long Island is being staged from Rhode Island. That means jobs are in Rhode Island, economic development is in Rhode Island. It needs to be here on Long Island. If we make a commitment to offshore wind as energy, we should make a commitment to have those jobs here. We live on an island, we have a maritime history. Embrace it, make offshore wind industry here -manufacturing blades, turbines, opportunities for engineering next generation of offshore wind.

IDA Tax Incentives 

Eric Alexander: Sustainability and smart growth, but also economic development. To focus growth in downtowns, the Nassau County IDA over the last 7 years provided tax incentives to thousands of units of affordable housing, mixed-use development by train stations… In an election year, attacking IDA incentives is politically popular but they have been anchors of revitalization efforts such as in Farmingdale’s affordable housing component. Will you continue that policy?

Curran: Farmingdale is a perfect example of transit oriented development.. The biggest problem now is you can’t get parking on a Saturday night. IDAs play a serious role, but are subject to attack because if you have nine self-storage facilities getting tax breaks, they aren’t economic drivers that create jobs. But when done right, [IDA tax incentives] can be real motivator, bring the right kind of development into Nassau County. That involves land use planning, that when we do a deal with a developer or business, that real jobs are being created or real taxes being generated from an enterprise, so the investment of taxpayers is returned. We need more transparency in the IDA – open up meetings to the public, let the public give input. When I talk about getting community buy-in for projects, that’s the way. You can’t force things on communities.

IDA is a real asset but must be used properly and if a developer or business doesn’t do what was promised, that there be a muscular way of addressing that.

Martins: My experience as mayor of Mineola, master plan, transit oriented development, overlay district –I  see the effects when a community comes together – the commitment it has to expand housing stock, providing affordability for senior, next generation housing. The role for county government: it needs to work with local communities to identify areas where TOD makes sense – Hicksville, Farmingdale, Westbury, Glen Cove ….  We as a county could expedite and incentivize. What I would do differently would be to make sure developers who are seeking tax (rebates) make sure they tell communities. Communities feel let down. Developers come before zoning boards and say they need greater density, etc, and then will have the ability to build this, and the community makes a decision to support that request, gives a variance they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. [The community] expects a revenue stream and a tax base that comes back to community. But the first thing is [the developer] goes to the IDA and gets tax credits which undermines what the community expects. So there needs to be transparency, part of the discussion before the decision, not after, that causes so much friction we see.

Generating Revenue for NICE Bus 

Nick Sifuentes: How would you create additional revenue for the NICE bus?

Curran: I have suggested pots where money could come from:  there is money that was borrowed 8 and 10 years ago that hasn’t been spent (that is a one-shot); the fund balance has way more than needs to be (also a one-shot). You are talking about recurring revenue. I propose that a small piece of ride-sharing money, Uber or Lyft – say 25 cents or 50 cents a ride – to go to buses. It makes sense because all are part of transportation. We could use a small portion of MTA tax and put that toward buses. And red light cameras are $12 million over budget – use some of that for buses. That’s also within the theme of transportation.

Laura Curran, Democratic candidate for Nassau County Executive addresses issues of environment and sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Martins: One of the first things I did in in the senate in 2010 and 2011 – I was identified as one of 50 most influential people on Long Island – my efforts to secure funding for Long Island bus was underpinning – NICE bus has a $130 million budget, $66 million from New York State, $45-50 from the fare box, the county puts in $6 million and the rest from ancillary fees, etc. – unbelievable the County only provides $6 million for a system that is so critical to the economy, when years ago, the county paid $20 million. Our responsibility is to put money in place because most who take bus have no other option – we want them to leave the car home – going to work, school, doctors appointments, that they have access to vibrant bus service. I suggested that for ride hailing, we have a surcharge – Uber, Lyft – that surcharge go toward bus. 10-11 million rides a year, 50c surcharge, would put $5-6 million directly into buses. A 50c surcharge is not only appropriate, but would provide a dedicated, steady revenue for buses.

Protecting Drinking Water 

Audience Question: What is the most Important environmental issue facing the county and how would you address it?

Curran: The aquifer. We get our drinking water from one place: underground. I am concerned New York City is looking to open 70 wells in Queens. We don’t get another source of water but the city does [upstate reservoirs]. They are concerned about flooding basements so they want to bring down the watertable, but the consequences for us could be disastrous: saltwater intrusion, and could cause Grumman and Lake Success plumes [of contamination] to shift [direction. The Grumman plume is 4 miles by 2 miles and 800 feet deep, almost reaching Massapequa. I am glad to see Cngressmen King and Suozzi working together to [get the federal government] to clean it up. The fact this has gone on this long and the Navy and Grumman are not held accountable for decades….

Martins: The most critical issue facing us as a region, Nassau County, is water supply, making sure we protect our sole-source aquifer against all comers. We live on an island, and the aquifer is tied to Suffolk, Queens & Brooklyn. Our responsibility is to protect it. New York City has other options to get water from upstate reservoirs. Our only plan, A to Z is the sole-source aquifer. We haven’t treated it well over the years, with industrial and manufacturing years post World War II, a lot of damage done – Lake Success, Bethpage. We’ve seen the water supply under constant attack. We have great water providers – we do a good job in maintaining water supply –it is as clean as you get from bottled water- but we have a responsibility to do more – responsibility to surface water – protect our coastal waterways, make sure we enhance sewer systems, sewer treatment plants, make sure that years and decades of nitrogen charging, loading into bays are a thing of the past.

Preserving Open Space

Audience Question: How would you preserve open space in Nassau County from development?

Curran: A Great question because pretty much [all of Nassau] is developed. We have to keep what we have green – that is good to recharge the aquifer. We have to use space we have more wisely – in-fill. You sometimes see suburban sprawl – there is already concrete – you can in-fill with transit oriented development, with the buy-in of the community. There is a lot of new technology now. For example, the boat basin parking lot was redone with permeable pavement – that’s expensive, so you can only do it in small places but I hope it will become less expensive down the road. But in this way, it also keeps water coming into the aquifer.

Something I am excited about – with all the potential – is to look to a resiliency officer [for the county] to coordinate all these things, work with Public Works, the IDA, and other departments to coordinate efforts for environment.

Martins: The good news in Nassau County: we don’t have farms any more. We don’t have the kinds of open space issues that perhaps they have out east. We do have open space, it has to be preserved. Most of our development going forward – transit oriented – is reusing space already used, and taking and reassembling parcels. We have seen it in communities with TOD has been predicated on assembling parcels downtown – see it in Westbury, Farmingdale – we are mature communities. That development will take place not on existing open space but existing used space that is being recalibrated and brought into 21st century – to meet energy, parking, density requirements – so we have a more robust selection of housing than we have currently. Nassau County doesn’t have the housing stock, the variety, it needs – a lot will take place in downtowns around train stations to be most effective. Protect open space that exists, protect parks, invest in them, make sure are as good as ever have been.

Future of Renewables in Nassau County

Audience Question: What do see as the future of Nassau County when it comes to solar, wind, charging stations for electric vehicles? 

Curran: We should have charging stations for electric cars. We have a county employee who plugs in and was written a letter to ‘cease and desist’ from the county attorney for ‘stealing county property’. We should start by the county using electric vehicles.

Jack Martins, Republican candidate for Nassau County Executive addresses issues of environment and sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Martins: Charging stations, infrastructure wise, is easy. If we made a commitment to have more readily available – we can see best practices in other states, countries, where they have taken the initiative so we have more robust use because people trust infrastructure to be there to recharge. We haven’t done it. There is need need for a full array of renewable energy resources. We should look at the entire portfolio and see where it makes sense – voltaic cells as car canopies in parking lots – why aren’t we? Acres and acres of asphalt we can use to create energy and electricity now through EV. We have a corridor of offshore wind east of Long Island. I spoke to Deepwater Wind, no one better positioned than Long Island to build, maintain, develop that offshore wind corridor. Shame on us, New York State, if they aren’t going to prioritize those turbines, and those blades aren’t built here on Long Island. If we are going to spend billions of dollars for commitment to offshore wind, I want to make sure it is here in Nassau County economy.

Communities Impacted by Climate Change

Do you support legislation to provide for equitable distribution of resources to communities impacted by climate change specifically communities of color often left out?

Curran: We have to make sure all communities treated fairly. See the effects of climate change. The south shore still has zombie houses because of Sandy. They didn’t have an adequate advocate to help them rebuild. As legislator, I helped them connect to NY Rising, get small business funds, to get resources to rebuild.

Martins:  Tax money, investment. We have to look at how dealing with county that is predominantly viewed as affluent while understanding we have areas of significant poverty – in places you wouldn’t necessarily think of – people have a home but are struggling to pay mortgage, taxes, raise families because the high cost of living isn’t an accident. We have among highest costs, so we have people relatively wealthy given their home, but still living with challenges. How we take resources, distribute, whether having to do with infrastructure improvements, access to cheap renewable energy, water safety quality, we have that synergy. I have never seen in my experience certain areas cut out of resources that way, but we have to be sensitive to it.

Recycle Treated Effluent

Why not recycle sewage and turn into drinkable rather than dispose into the ocean?

Curran: That’s not so crazy – people who run sewage treatment plants are working on a project – try to explain in not-boring way –to  treat sewage so it looks like water – Sewage treatment plants use hundreds thousands gallons of water a day to do the work of cooling, etc. – Now, they draw that out of the aquifer. Wouldn’t it be better to take treated effluent, treat a little more and use that to do the work of sewage treatment plant, instead of drawing water out of aquifer? We are close to make this happen.

Martins: It’s an interesting point. I was happy to participate in Great Neck Water Pollution Control District – state of art facility – where they treat to a level where potable. I said, ‘You first.’

I had an opportunity to deal with different groups, where sewage can be treated and used for irrigation, plant maintenance and different things where not wasting potable water, can be reused for different purposes –  not quite ‘there’ for drinking water… But if we send [effluent out to ocean] 3 miles – dilution rate for effluent – it will have negligible effect on ocean – it is coastal wetlands that are impacted if released right there – like Reynolds Channel. I would like to see part reused – whether for irrigation. We have to focus on continuing the current process of getting it as far from shore as possible so not to impact coastal wetlands, coastal environment, coastal economy. 

Closing Statements 

Curran:  I want to make Long Island environmentally sound, safe, healthy. I moved to Nassau County 20 years ago before we had kids. I came for the Long Island dream:  single family house, great school down the block, parks, beaches. We knew we would pay high taxes, but that was part of the deal. As a taxpayer, resident, it is frustrating to see money spent on nepotism, bloated contracts when it could be used to develop technology. Your money is being wasted. I’m in this race because want to restore trust in government, make sure I hire people based on what they know, not who they know, that your money is not part of my reelection campaign. I am eager to get to work. Elect me to give Nassau County the fresh start it so richly deserves.

Martins: There are a lot of issues at play in this year’s election . I encourage you to do your homework, read up on candidates. Whether challenges are environment,t economy – up to county to pay for own budget. For 17 years, we have been under NIFA, not elected – make decisions, affects ability for us to make decisions for ourselves. We need to take control of own finances, pay bills, balance budget – get rid of NIFA so we can commit resources ourselves – whether environment, infrastructure, TOD, creating jobs we all want – so our children have the ability to come home, find jobs, rent apartment and stay here. The best years for the county are ahead, but contingent upon us making decisions about taking control of own county – an  idea we haven’t been able to do, so should be shameful to all of us, myself included. Write that check and make that commitment going forward.

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Climate Disasters Should Force Re-think of Trump (‘Cheater-in-Chief’) Tax Plan

How will the nation fund the recovery from the increasingly devastating climate disasters? The lates record-breaking climate catastrophes, Harvey and Irma, should cause re-thinking of the investment in climate action and Trump’s plan to cut taxes for the wealthiest © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Hurricane Harvey had just devastated Texas, the worst natural disaster up until two weeks later when the entire state of Florida was about to be destroyed by Hurricane Irma, as whole Caribbean island nations as well as the US territory of Puerto Rico had their infrastructure utterly decimated. And Hurricane Jose was on Irma’s tail. Meanwhile, Los Angeles and Oregon were being consumed by record wildfires. Congress had authorized $15 billion toward Hurricane Harvey relief and to replenish the nearly depleted funds of FEMA.

Indeed, in North Dakota on September 6, as Hurricane Irma was barreling toward Florida, Trump, the Tax-Cheat-in-Chief, gave an incoherent speech touting his tax plan that began with his incredulity in discovering that North Dakota was undergoing a massive drought.

“I just said to the governor, I didn’t know you had droughts this far north.  Guess what?  You have them.  But we’re working hard on it and it’ll disappear.  It will all go away,” Trump said.

Accuweather is projecting the cost of Harvey and Irma alone at $290 billion, or 1.5% of total GDP, which would erase the growth of the economy through year-end, according to Dr. Joel N. Myers, president and chairman.

That’s also more than one-fourth of the $1 trillion that Trump proposed for a 10-year infrastructure plan. Where will the money come from? And if all infrastructure spending has to be directed to Texas and Florida, where does that leave the rest of the country? Not to mention the $1 billion Trump is demanding as down payment on a $70 billion border wall.

Does this get you thinking that Trump and his administration, especially EPA Administrator and shill for the oil industry Scott Pruitt, should rethink their self-serving notion of climate change denial (self-serving because it is used to fuel their argument that they can overturn environmental regulations on the massively profitable fossil fuel industry)? Of course not.

But it should also cause them to rethink their totally corrupt plan for tax reform which is intended to starve the federal government of funds, balloon the budget deficit and national debt, all to shift more of wealth to the already fabulously wealthy. Especially when so many people have lost their businesses and jobs, which will certainly impact tax revenues.

Let’s just consider for a moment what taxes are supposed to be for. And yes, a considerable amount goes to pay for interest on bonds, but bonds are what are used to pay for infrastructure – they represent an investment in the future. And as we are considering how to replace the destroyed and decimated infrastructure, why not build back with sustainability in mind.

Just as in his speech declaring his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement (forged with US leadership and signed by 195 countries), Trump, who took a $900 million tax deduction on his failed Atlantic City casino and probably has never paid 40% tax in his life,lies to rationalize his tax plan, beginning with the lie that the US is the highest taxed nation in the world (not true) and that workers wages will increase if only shareholders and CEOs and the wealthiest 1% could keep an even greater percentage of their money (history shows the opposite).  (See New York Times, The False Promises in President Trump’s Tax Plan)

Remember: the wealthiest people used to be taxed at 90% – that was after World War II when the nation had to rebuild its treasury. We were able to afford the GI Bill which probably did more to create a middle class than anything since the New Deal. Now the wealthiest pay something between 35 to 40% – except that they don’t.

Trump (and Ryan) want to give a $170,000 annual windfall to the wealthiest Americans, while crumbs ($700) to the middle class who will lose the only tax deductions they can use.  $170,000 times four years worth mean in terms of free money (from tax-paying schnooks) is a lot of dough to invest in politicians and policy with a spectacular return: policies like enabling Big Pharma Sharks to hike up life-saving drugs by 5000%; Oil Barons to make sure incentives for wind and solar energy don’t help these industries develop into competitors; real estate developers who can delight in the tax advantages that let them take a $900 million deduction and build without interfering regulations on lands that are needed to soak up flood waters and health insurance companies to raise premiums to pad profits.

Now this nation is looking at more than $290 billion just to recover from the climate disasters which are becoming more and more frequent, hitting the high density developed urban centers.

If taxes for those who have the means to pay don’t cover the cost, who does? Ryan and the Republicans love to talk about “sacrifice” but the only ones they demand sacrifices from are not the wealthiest or the corporations, but Social Security and Medicare recipients, struggling middle class kids who need to take out loans to pay for college. Their concept is to take money out of the consumer economy, which starts a downward unvirtuous cycle of economic contraction. How do we know?” Because we have seen this movie before: the Bush tax cuts. Meanwhile, median income has risen to its highest levels in 1999 (under Bill Clinton) and 2016 (under Barack Obama) and their tax-and-spending plans.

The Trump/Ryan tax “plan” requires a federal budget that slashes spending for infrastructure, for research and development, for education, for environmental protection (and of course, eradicating any mention of climate change), even slashing spending for diplomacy and foreign aid. It depends on slashing Medicaid and subsidies to keep health insurance affordable (that’s why they are so desperate to repeal Obamacare).

It slashes the tax rate for corporations which already do not pay the nominal 35% rate. Many highly profitable corporations – including General Electric, Pepco Holdings, PG&E Corp., Priceline and Duke Energy – paid nothing into federal coffers from 2008-2015 yet benefit from all the services the government provides including roads, public safety, an educated workforce, mass transit, a military to defend their shipping.

To get to a tax cut without obscenely increasing the national debt, the Republicans say they will get rid of “loopholes” like the mortgage credit and property taxes – that would only complete the decimation of the Middle Class and destroy any semblance of an American Dream. What would make more sense, if they really cared to “reform” the tax code and stop the income distribution from middle class to the already fabulous rich, is to take away the mortgage tax credits on 2nd, 3rd homes and such, and take away the many special deductions that real estate developers like Trump has benefited from, as well as the loopholes that let hedge fund managers shield all but a fraction of their income from taxes that wage-earners pay.

Indeed, the policies that Trump are proposing – specifically, eliminating the tax deduction for state and local property taxes – would hurt blue-states that tend to have higher state and local taxes because they tend to have higher property taxes but provide more services and get less in federal payments than they send to the government, while red-states that have low state and local taxes (and crappy schools and health care) get more from the federal government (paid for by blue states) than they send.

And what about Puerto Rico. which already was in economic disaster – having defaulted on $70 billion in debt – and basically written off by the US government. It’s infrastructure is now totally destroyed. How will it be rebuilt? Here’s what I imagine:  Trump is so transactional, I can see a foreign country (China?) with big bucks and an interest in having a foothold in the Western Hemisphere buying Puerto Rico from the US. After all, what is $100 billion or $200 billion to put the island right?

Of course Trump’s tax “reform” plan – sketched out as if on the back of an envelope without any analysis – is really all about tax cuts to the wealthiest and to corporations. As Hillary Clinton said during a debate (which she won): “trickle down economics on steroids” from the guy who took a $900 million deduction for a failed real estate deal, which taxpayers – normal working stiffs – wind up paying for.

Those who have actually analyzed the plan have said that the wealthiest people – who have done astronomically well for decades, while middle class Americans have scarcely had a salary increase in 40 years, so that the gap between rich and poor has reached Grand Canyon proportions – would get a tax windfall of $170,000 a year, while middle class families would get something like $700. Where do the 1 percenters put that extra money which they scarcely need? Well, they invest in buying politicians and influencing policy, of course.

Tax “reform” figures into the Trump obsession with repealing Obamacare and leaving 32 million people without health insurance. It figures into the administration’s dismissal of the Gateway Tunnel project so important to the New York region’s infrastructure and economy.

But now, Trump’s Republican states are being whacked with climate catastrophes, and the money has to come from somewhere.

And let’s also be reminded that the growth in the economy – first, saving the nation from plunging into another Great Depression, and now rebounding to the highest median income, lowest unemployment rate ever and highest rate of health insurance coverage while reducing the poverty rate – happened because of Obama Administration policies and would have been even more effective in terms of raising wages and living standards if the Trump Administration did not steamroll back policies, like overtime pay, parental leave, and federal minimum wage and obstruct infrastructure development and the transition to clean, renewable energy.

People remark that the devastation in their neighborhoods from these massive climate disasters is like a bomb went off. Well, in wartime, taxes are raised – that’s how the rate on the wealthiest hit 90%, to pay off the World War II debt. This is wartime. This nation has to rebuild, and sustainably, responsibly. We need to invest in 21st and 22nd century technologies, to keep the United States a global leader. Otherwise, we will cede our leverage to China which has basically embraced the American model of spreading its political ideology (nominally, “Democracy”) through capitalism (nominally “free market” as opposed to centralized control) and is literally buying up influence over Africa and Asia.

Of course, Trump’s tax plan is Paul Ryan’s tax plan (Trump never actually had a plan), and the Republicans are content to let Trump destroy the nation and end the social safety net including Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and possibly embroil us in World War III, until they can get jam through the tax plan they have coveted since Reagan.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Long Islanders Rally at Congressman Peter King’s Office to Save the EPA

Dozens of Long Islanders, constituents of Congressman Peter King turned out for a rally at his Massapequa office to demand he reject cuts to the EPA budget.

Dozens of concerned Long Islanders gathered outside of Congressman Peter King’s office at 1003 Park Boulevard, Massapequa Park on Thursday morning to demand that he pledge to oppose any cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as Congress prepares to reconvene.

The House Appropriations Committee has approved slashing the EPA’s budget by hundreds of millions of dollars, undermining its ability to protect Long Island’s water, air, and climate. The entire House is set to vote on the proposal in September.

“We hope that Rep. Peter King, having lived through Superstorm Sandy, and seeing the current devastation of Hurricane Harvey and other recent hurricanes, will oppose any cuts to funding for the Environmental Protection Agency,” Lisa Oldendorp, lead organizer of Move Forward Long Island, said. Long Islanders are acutely aware of the need for clean water, air, and soil. Suffolk County has the worst air quality in NY State and the toxic Grumman plume is heading south towards Massapequa.  We hope that Rep. King will oppose any and all budget cuts to the EPA.”

Destruction at Breezy Point, New York after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The Trump Administration and Congress fail to learn the lessons, reflected in policy and budgeting, that would mitigate such costly climate catastrophes © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Our hope is that Peter King will uphold his commitment to protecting Long Island families from the impacts of water and air pollution by refusing to accept a budget that cuts any funding to the Environmental Protection Agency,” Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer with the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said. “His decision to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus is a step in the right direction in tackling the biggest crisis we face as a nation but will be meaningless if the agency tasked with protecting our natural world is dismantled.”

Dozens of Long Islanders, constituents of Congressman Peter King turned out for a rally at his Massapequa office to demand he reject cuts to the EPA budget.

Shay O’Reilly, organizing representative for the Sierra Club, stated, “The EPA budget today is already 20% smaller than it was in 2010. Rep. King must listen to his constituents and stand up for the health and well-being of communities in his district by voting against any budget that cuts funding to the EPA.”

Dozens of Long Islanders, constituents of Congressman Peter King turned out for a rally at his Massapequa office to demand he reject cuts to the EPA budget.

Margaret Maher, a volunteer with Food & Water Watch and a constituent of Rep. King’s, said: The five-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, and the devastation in Texas, are a reminder of the tragic reality of climate change. Long Islanders need the EPA to protect our water, air and climate. Representative King must draw a line in the sand against any cuts to the EPA budget.”

Dozens of Long Islanders, constituents of Congressman Peter King turned out for a rally at his Massapequa office to demand he reject cuts to the EPA budget.

Texas Catastrophe Points to Need to Prioritize Climate Action, Re-Prioritize Federal Budget (Mother Nature Can Be A Real Bitch)

The climate catastrophe in Texas should be a wake-up call to prod Trump Administration, Scott Pruitt of the EPA and Congress to prioritize climate action, not a border wall, in the federal budget © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

With Harvey reaping its terror and Hurricane Irma warming up for its debut, Texas’ climate catastrophe is the latest example of how tragically foolish it is to invest billions to combat ISIS (hardly an existential threat), $70 billion to build a wall along the Mexico border, $1 trillion to rebuild the nuclear weapons arsenal, yet deny the reality of climate change with the attendant costs in the multi-billions of every single one of these climate catastrophes – the cost to the Treasury and taxpayers to rebuild infrastructure, to pay for public health consequences, to lose the productivity of the workforce.

“This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history,” Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, stated. “AccuWeather has raised its estimate of the impact to the nation’s gross national produce, or GDP, to $190 billion or a full one percent, which exceeds totals of economic impact of Katrina and Sandy combined. The GDP is $19 trillion currently. Business leaders and the Federal Reserve, major banks, insurance companies, etc. should begin to factor in the negative impact this catastrophe will have on business, corporate earnings and employment. The disaster is just beginning in certain areas. Parts of Houston, the United States’ fourth largest city will be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood.”

Meanwhile, around the globe there are even greater flooding disasters –1,200 have died so far and 900,000 homes destroyed in floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, taking with it farms and crops that will lead to the next climate catastrophe, famine.

Now Congress will soon take up a budget that proposes to slash the EPA into nothing (Scott Pruitt has already scrubbed any research and mention of climate change from the website and is doing his level best to stop any data collection), cuts to FEMA that was already $25 billion in debt before Harvey, cuts to Health & Human Services and every other social safety net. But Trump threatens to shut down government if he doesn’t get nearly $2 billion (a downpayment on $70 billion) for his border wall with Mexico.

Dozens of Long Islanders, constituents of Congressman Peter King turned out for a rally at his Massapequa office to demand he reject cuts to the EPA budget.

Which has posed more of a national security threat to Americans? Climate disasters or ISIS? The wrong-headed approach to national security came to a head with a rally that drew about 60 people on short notice on Thursday, August 31 at the Massapequa, Long Island office of Congressman Peter King, who makes a great show of concern for protecting national security but drops the ball on the national security implications of climate change.  (See story)

You only have to compare the horrid waste of blood and treasure because of a disdain for addressing the realities of climate change to the results of the efforts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) consisting of New York State along with eight other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states (not New Jersey because Governor Chris Christie thought it would better position him to become the GOP presidential candidate if he withdrew from RGGI and denied the reality of climate change). Founded in 2005, the RGGI, the nation’s first program to use an innovative market-based mechanism to cap and cost-effectively reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change, is updating its goal to lower carbon pollution by reducing the cap on power plant emissions an additional 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. With this change, the regional cap in 2030 will be 65% below the 2009 starting level.

RGGI has already contributed to a 50% percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from affected power plants in New York, and a 90% reduction in coal-fired power generation in the state. To date, New York has generated more than $1 billion in RGGI proceeds, which are applied to fund energy efficiency, clean energy and emission reduction programs.

RGGI continues to exceed expectations and has provided more than $2 billion in regional economic benefits and $5.7 billion in public health benefits while reducing emissions in excess of the declining cap’s requirements. Analysis by Abt Associates – found participating member states had 16,000 avoided respiratory illnesses, as many as 390 avoided heart attacks, and 300 to 830 avoided deaths by reducing pollution. The health benefits in New York alone are estimated to have exceeded $1.7 billion in avoided costs and other economic benefits.

And contrary to the lie that clean, renewable energy and sustainable development will hurt the economy and increase consumer costs, the economies of RGGI states are outpacing the rest of the country and regional electricity prices have fallen even as prices in other states have increased. So even as the RGGI states reduced their carbon emissions by 16% more than other states, they are experiencing 3.6% more in economic growth. Each of the three-year control periods contributed approximately 4,500 job years to New York’s economy and 14,000 to 16,000 job years region-wide.

Meanwhile, New York consumers who have participated in RGGI-supported projects through December 2016 will realize $3.7 billion in cumulative energy bill savings over the lifetime of the projects, according to New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

New York is actively promoting clean energy innovation through its Reforming the Energy Vision strategy and initiatives. Additionally, programs including the Clean Energy Fund, $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative, $1 billion NY Green Bank, $40 million NY-Prize competition for community microgrids, and others, ensure that progress toward reducing emissions will be accelerated.

New York has devised a host of programs to incentivize local projects aimed at developing clean, renewable energy and sustainability. Most recently, NYSERDA has developed a Solar PILOT Toolkit to assist municipalities in negotiating payment-in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) agreements for solar projects larger than 1 MW, including community solar projects.

How ironic is the climate catastrophe in Texas, the leading proponent of fossil fuels and opponent of programs incentivizing the transition to clean, renewable energy (and the localized independence that wind, solar and geothermal bring), that Harvey has damaged its oil refining infrastructure, which is already resulting in higher gas prices, not to mention taxpayer money that will be channeled to rebuild the devastation. None of those private, profit-making companies which have gouged and inflicted public health horrors should get funding from taxpayers.

Now Texas will be coming to Congress for billions in aid.

Congress should pass a law: no federal help for states that deny climate change (Florida and North Carolina actually have legislation banning the use of the term) and therefore do nothing to mitigate the consequences, and which deny altogether the concept of a federal, “one nation” government to collect taxes and provide services on behalf of all. Texas, which has cheered the notion of secession, continually supports policies intended to shrink the federal government to a size it can be flushed down a toilet, including dismantling the Environmental Protection Administration and ending environmental regulations. So let them see what that actually means. Let’s also be reminded the Texas’ Republican delegation obstructed federal aid to New York and New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.

Destruction at Breezy Point, New York after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Texas Congressmen voted against giving aid, now will seek tens of billions to rebuild after Harvey. But the Trump Administration and Congress fail to learn the lessons, reflected in policy and budgeting, that would mitigate such costly climate catastrophes © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Too harsh? The climate deniers are dooming the entire nation and the planet to such tragic, devastating and costly climate catastrophes. Hundreds of thousands of Texans will emerge from Harvey with their homes, retirement, college funds decimated, very possibly their jobs flushed away along with the floodwaters. Tens of thousands will become climate refugees – just a small fraction of the estimated 200 million worldwide who will be forced to flee flooded coasts as sea levels continue to rise, and storms continue to ravage.

But, since Trump is so keen to dish out taxpayer billions to those he considers his base (one wonders what would happen if and when California is hit with an earthquake), Congress should impose conditions on the billions that will be sent to Texas to rebuild its infrastructure and housing: Texas should do what every other community has done that underwent such devastation: rebuild and transition to clean, renewable energy sources and sustainable, climate-friendly, low-carbon emitting structures.

Congress, which Trump just dared to defy on his tax “reform” (that is, giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and corporations while starving federal government of funding), should make sure that EPA has the people and resources it needs, that climate action is a priority, that the Interior Department does not give away Americans’ legacy (and property) for environment-destroying development, that FEMA and Housing & Human Services (now in the command of a man who dismisses poverty and bad things that happen to some dereliction of personal responsibility) are properly funded and staffed.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Budget is Criminal; Ryan & Republicans are Accomplices

Donald Trump delivers his joint address to Congress, as Mike Pence and Paul Ryan cheer him on. Trump’s 2018 budget may be unbelievably cruel and callous, but it mimics the principles that Ryan and the Republicans have been crusading for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It doesn’t matter that Trump’s preposterously named “A New Foundation for American Greatness” budget is “dead on arrival” according to even staunch Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn. Much of it is the long-time wet dream of Paul Ryan and Republicans whose singular ambition has been to destroy the New Deal, Square Deal, Great Society. They would eliminate the minimum wage, child labor laws, food and product safety, Clean Air & Water protections, Social Security and Medicare and most notably Medicaid, sell off national parks and monuments to mining and oil and gas industrialists. And this is before taking into account tax “reform” that would take $2 trillion out of the national budget to put into the pockets of the wealthiest and corporations, so they have even more extra pocket change to spend on political campaigns.

Indeed, the Trump budget is everything that the Republicans have been dying to do, but didn’t dare. But Trump doesn’t care. He has shown that it really isn’t hard atall to cut the budget when you really don’t care what the numbers represent,when you have no clue and no interest.

The Trump Budget is built on “Trumponomics, as Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Mulvaney proudly exclaimed, “It’s a taxpayer-first budget, going line by line through the budget, trying to put yourself in the shoes of the people who are paying for those lines….What Trumponomics is and what this budget is a part of is an effort to get to sustained 3 percent economic growth in this country again..And by the way, we do not believe that that is something fanciful.”

Indeed, this is a “tough love” approach to force malingerers off things like food stamps – it’s not non-living wages paid by companies pocketing record profits that keep workers below the poverty line that’s the problem.

“Getting people back to work. Create an environment where people more comfortable staying at …We no longer measure compassion by the number of programs or number of people on programs. We measure success by how many get off programs and have success in lives.”

But the figures don’t actually add up.

Economists from across the spectrum say that the math that underlies the main selling point for Trump’s budget, that it will “balance the budget” in 10 years, is a crock. It doesn’t take into account the $1 trillion or so in tax cuts that will go entirely to the wealthiest and to corporations that Trump sketched out; it assumes a 3% rate of annual economic growth, which would mean 50% more economic activity, which everyone says is beyond pie-in-the-sky; and it actually double-counts $2 trillion, prompting headlines like this one from Slate, “Donald Trump’s budget is based on a hilarious accounting fraud” and “The dumb accounting error at the heart of Trump’s budget “ from Vox.

Health care a right, not a privilege? Trump’s budget projects a 28.3% DROP in spending for health services, $2 trillion less spending, over a 10-year period – despite the aging and increase in population. This includes a 27% decrease in spending for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (imagine another Ebola, Zika or Swine Flu outbreak); 25% drop in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (even as Trumpcare will no longer include mental health or addiction), 25% less spending for research and training, including 25% cut for the National Institutes of Health (no interest in finding therapies or cures for Zika,  Alzheimers or “orphan” diseases that wouldn’t be profitable enough for Big Pharma); 40% cut for the Food & Drug Administration (let Big Pharma do what they will); 15% drop in food safety and inspection; 17% cut to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 16% cut in already strapped Occupation and Mine Safety and Health spending even as he overturned regulations.

$1.4 trillion gap in infrastructure spending to repair decaying roads, bridges airports? Trump would cut Transportation spending by 25% cut (65% cut to National Infrastructure Investments; 50% cut to air transportation which is already woefully in need of upgrades); 28% cut to Education, Training, Employment and Social Services.

His cuts to environmental protection – on top of slashing regulations that give communities a fighting chance to protect their air, water and public health – amount to Hague Tribunal level of war criminality for what he will do to the planet, let alone our communities. The allocation is cut 27.1% – $132 billion worth – including a 34% cut in Pollution control and abatement, 42% cut in Regulatory, enforcement and research programs, 37% cut in Hazardous substance superfund ($330 million less in 2018).

Trump would end funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts—“saving” over $100 million in 2018. He cuts out $129 million in funding for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement. He cuts out $233 million in 2018 for the EPA’s Research & Development (ie. climate change science). It eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, $347 million worth in 2018; and ends funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay, amounting to $427 million in 2018.

Trump would cut General Science, Space & Technology spending by 14.7%, including 18.9% cut to General Science and basic research.

International Affairs would be cut nearly in half, including 26% cut in spending for Global Health programs; 74% cut in Refugee programs; 66% percent cut in International Disaster Assistance, 83% cut in “other” development and humanitarian assistance.”

(See the New York Times, “How Trump’s Budget Would Affect Every Part of Government”).

Setting aside for a moment that Trump and his billionaire friends don’t actually pay their fare share of taxes, nor do many profitable American companies which have stashed $2 trillion in offshore accounts, the Republicans’ approach is what Hillary Clinton correctly observed, “trickle down economics on steroids.” It didn’t work with Reagan or George W. Bush. And this is even worse.

No matter: the extremity of Trump’s proposed budget, the callousness of it, will give cover to Ryan and the House Republicans and make anything they do seem “moderate”, even “compassionate.” So they cut Medicaid by $600 billion instead of $866 billion and call it a “win” for the little people; they cut the State Department by 20% instead of 30% and pat themselves on the head; they cut the EPA by 25% instead of 31%.

 

Here’s what Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) wrote: “Speaker of the House Paul Ryan says that Donald Trump’s new budget is ‘right on the target.’ That’s all you need to know about just how devastating Trump’s budget will be for working families in Massachusetts and across this country.

“It’s obscene:

  • $5 billion in cuts to public education
  • $73 billion in cuts to Social Security
  • $191 billion in cuts to food stamps
  • $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid (and that’s in addition to the $880 billion the House Republicans are slashing in their so-called “health care” bill)

“Those are just a few of the highlights. What else gets cut? Money for children’s health care, money to combat the opioid epidemic, money for medical research, money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and so much more.

“This budget is ‘right on the target’ only if the target is to sucker-punch kids, seniors, the poor and the sick. If the Republicans make good on this budget, they could deliver the final blow to America’s working families.

We don’t build a future by ripping health care away from tens of millions of people. We don’t build a future by starving education, by letting our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, and by shutting down the big pipeline of medical and scientific research in this country.

“We build a future by making the investments in ourselves and all of our people – so the next kid can get ahead, and the kid after that, and the kid after that. We’ve done this before in our country, and we can do it again.

”Budgets aren’t just about dollars and cents. Budgets are about our values, and this budget is morally bankrupt,” Warren wrote.

Trump and the Republicans would cut out all the things that have “made America great,” and a world leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, not to mention the main tools for spreading democracy and human rights across the globe (through capitalist investment, which is what China and Russia are now doing).

This is the midst of an actually strong economy, near “full employment” and as we keep hearing, a record stock market.

The Trump budget is the essence of everything that Trump is doing to weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.

As we marked Memorial Day this past weekend, a New York Times book review of “The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost,” by Cathal J. Nolan, pointed out that “Generally, one side, usually the one with a smaller economy and population, becomes exhausted, and gives up. Talk about élan and audacity all you like, he counsels, but what wins wars is demography and economic strength.” That is to say, winning a war is more a matter of “hearts and minds” vs. “bombs and brigades” as we have been seeing in America’s longest wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Everything that Trump has done so far (putting aside the fact that he is an illegitimate occupier of the Oval Office by selling out to an adversary government), will weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.

Indeed, Trump, who cozied up to the Saudis while hectoring NATO allies and the G7, on his “epic” overseas trip, came back declaring “a home run”, while Germany’s Angela Merkel told Europe,  “We can no longer depend on the US or UK. We are on our own.”

New York State, along with other “blue” states like California, already send way more income tax money to Washington than we get back while the “red” states, which so pride themselves in low state taxes and low wages get far more than they send. Like tenants with a legal fight against their landlord, I would propose that New Yorkers collect their federal income tax money in an escrow account, to pay for services that should be paid by the federal government, such as police and security protection (which Trump is threatening to cut to New York and other states that don’t cooperate in his roundup of undocumented individuals), environmental restoration, health care for those whose subsidies have been eliminated, public schools, infrastructure repair, food stamps and school lunch program.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

OMB Mulvaney: Budget Deal Averting Govt Shutdown Proves Trump’s Leadership (While Trump Heaps Praise on Dictators, Calls for End to Filibuster)

200,000 in the Peoples Climate March encircled the White House on April 29 calling for a transition from fossil fuel to clean energy. OMB Director Mike Mulvaney is proud that the budget deal denies Democrats a “win” of tax credits for renewable energy © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It was very important to the Trump Administration to dampen any victory dance the Democrats might be doing in terms of the budget deal that forestalled a government shutdown. Demonstrating so clearly that it the aim is to insure widening partisanship and hostility, this morning, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said during a briefing call to clarify what is in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017.

The budget deal averting a government shutdown proves Trump’s leadership, Mulvaney said. Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Trump said a government shutdown in September would be a good thing to “end the mess” that is Congress, unless the Republicans end the filibuster that gives the minority party any say whatsoever.

This comes as Trump heaps praise and admiration on autocrats, dictators and plutocrats, like cheering Erdogan’s sweeping powers won in a tainted referendum in Turkey; North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, who, Trump said, he admired for consolidating his power at the young age of 26 or 27 (by assassinating his relatives), Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who is responsible for some 10,000 extrajudicial killings, and of course Vlad Putin, who he admires as a strong leader (who has assassinated opponents and journalists).

Trump’s answer?

Meanwhile, it was very important to Trump that Democrats not be shown as winning anything in the budget deal that averted a shutdown.

“Democrats are trying to take a win,” Mulvaney said in the briefing call. “The American people won and the president negotiated that victory for them. They know the truth of what’s in the bill. They know the deal the president cut. Some are scared to death knowing what’s in the bill.”

The briefing lasted but a few minutes because the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight couldn’t manage shutting off patriotic music – starting with Stars & Stripes Forever and moving to “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” like the soundtrack to a July 4 fireworks show, that grew in volume and overwhelmed the call.

Mulvaney didn’t want to take many questions anyway, but during the 10 minute ramble, made sure everyone knew that the budget deal was a big win for the President, and a defeat for Democrats who wanted a government shutdown in order to show Trump couldn’t lead. The deal denied the Dems that.

Most importantly, he noted, the deal broke the parity deal that Obama had brokered when Republicans threatened to shut down government over the budget: that every dollar increase or cut in defense had to be matched with a dollar increase for domestic programs.

This deal allocates $4 to $5 for defense versus every $1 increase for domestic programs – in all, $21 billion more for defense. Mulvaney is very proud of that.

Also, $1.522 billion more for the Department of Homeland Security, for border security, on top of $18.5 billion, “the largest overall increase in DHS in last 10 years.”

As for the wall – because Democrats are hailing the fact that not a dollar in the budget is allocated to build the wall that Mexico was going to pay for.

What can/cannot be done, Mulvaney said, would be shown during a 1:30 press briefing, but suggested that the money the administration has gotten out of the budget, will go toward the border, whether a real or virtual wall, “in terms of the boundary between the US and Mexico.

“We’re looking at tremendous increases in technology along the border, maintenance, replacing gates and bridges – part of reason Obama administration had difficulty, the infrastructure not there – will move immediately.”

And what was spent on domestic programs – like preserving health care for miners – were on Trump’s list anyway.

And school choice – the budget provides for three years authorization.

“More money for defense, border security, education – the same things as we introduced in March – those were priorities of incoming administration,” he boasted.

Mulvaney is very proud of what the Democrats didn’t get, like not getting renewed tax credits for renewable energy – wind and solar. He’s very proud.

He deflected Democrats’ victory dance over saving funding for Planned Parenthood, noting that Trump “already signed an Executive Order allowing states not to fund clinics that deal with abortion, and defunded Planned Parenthood as part of the health care bill. Make no mistake, this administration is committed to pro-life – at every turn we fight the pro-life battle. This budget agreement stays true to that.”

He’s proud that there is no Obamacare bailout in the budget agreement.

“Democrats are claiming they got that. It’s not in the bill. Nothing in this bill obligates us to make any Obamacare payments. We’ve had several talks with folks on the hill [about defunding Obamacare] – there are no commitments in this bill.”

He’s also very proud that there is no new money for Puerto Rico. Democrats, he said, “wanted a bunch to bail out Puerto Rico.” The only money for Puerto Rico are the unexpended funds from the previous bill.  “There is no new money for Puerto Rico, no bailout, no additions to the deficit.

And Democrats “failed miserably to turn back Second Amendment protections,” he crowed.

“What Democrats didn’t get – what many of them, many of their base – they wanted a shutdown, to make this president look like he couldn’t govern, didn’t know what he is doing, and he beat them at the highest level,” he said with a spiteful tone. “They wanted to make him seem not reasonable. Government is functioning. He is proving he can bring this town together – lead in a sound fashion. That scares many. It’s why they are overreacting and claiming victory.

“Democrats can take credit, but they didn’t get a penny for any one of their pet projects.”

Despite what Mulvaney said about how avoiding a government shutdown demonstrated Trump’s leadership, Trump earlier that morning had opined that a government shutdown in September would be a good thing, to fix what he called a “mess” in Congress, and also called for the Senate to end the filibuster so that the Republicans could sweep their agenda through.

In two successive tweets, Trump stated, “The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We…. either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

As Trump Signs EOs Overturning Obama Climate Actions, Thousands Mobilize for People’s Climate March, April 29

A taste of what is to come during People’s Climate March, April 29: Long Island activists protest to protect the planet © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Here’s the backdrop for the People’s Climate March, which took place April 29, on the 100th day of Trump’s occupation of the Oval Office: the administration withdrew its challenge in the court paving the way for Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, regulating coal-powered plants and the essence for how the US would meet its commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement, to be overturned by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma AG, was one of the states challenging the plan in court.

And, two days before the climate march, Trump signed an Executive Order, effectively opening up all the protected marine sanctuaries through to the Continental shelf to new oil and gas drilling and exploitation. What is more, Trump’s goal is not just under the banner of American First Energy Independence, he sees the US as the major new supplier of fossil fuel energy to “allies”, which would necessitate building and converting infrastructure designed for import to export.

Most of the so-called “accomplishments” Trump has touted for his first 100 days have been reflexively overturning and reversing President Obama’s climate actions and environmental protections (with anti-women’s health and reproductive rights thrown in). It’s now okay for mining companies to throw their toxic waste into streams.

At the signing “ceremony” for the “Executive Order on an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” Trump declared,This is a great day for American workers and families, and today we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs.  Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves.  But the federal government has kept 94 percent of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production.  And when they say closed, they mean closed.

“This deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth.  I pledged to take action, and today I am keeping that promise.

“This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration.  It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban.  So hear that:  It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban, and directs Secretary Zinke to allow responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our Treasury and jobs to our workers.  (Applause.)  In addition, Secretary Zinke will be reconsidering burdensome regulations that slow job creation.

“Finally, this order will enable better scientific study of our offshore resources and research that has blocked everything from happening for far too long.  You notice it doesn’t get blocked for other nations.  It only gets blocked for our nation.

“Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless good jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent.  This action is another historic step toward future development and future — with a future — a real future.  And I have to say that’s a real future with greater prosperity and security for all Americans, which is what we want,” Trump said during the signing ceremony.”

The day before, at a press availability, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said, “94% of outer continental shelf is off limits for possible development – as of Mar 1 2007, only 16 million acres on the outer continental shelf out of 1.7 billion acres were under lease for oil & gas development; more than 97% of current leases are in Gulf of Mexico.”

In 2008, revenues of $18 billion came from offshore; in 2016, that amount dropped $15 billion to $2.8 billion, he noted.

Zinke added, “We like export to other countries – energy security is not only to provide for ourselves but supply allies – oil and gas exports to Asian basin is all part of it. A lot requires infrastructure – this country set up for importing energy, looking at ways to reverse that – a lot is infrastructure, we are behind. We want to supply our allies with affordable energy.”

Asked whether melting ice caps in the Arctic Circle has made for new opportunities (and have any companies specifically asked for leases), he said he had not thought about climate change shifting geographical requirements.

EarthJustice greeted the EO with promises of a lawsuit: “We won’t let this administration destroy these essential protections at a time when they’re so critically needed. In response, we’re preparing to file a lawsuit immediately to challenge this order,” writes Trip Van Noppen, President.

“Tomorrow, people from Washington, D.C., to Oakland, CA, will march in the streets to show this new administration that if the next four years are anything like the first 100 days, we’ll be here, fighting back every step of the way.”

The Peoples Climate March on Saturday, April 29 will begin near the Capitol, travel up Pennsylvania Avenue, and then surround the entire White House Grounds from 15th Street in the East to 17th Street in the West, and Pennsylvania Avenue in the North to Constitution Avenue in the South. The march will close with a post march rally, concert and gathering at the Washington Monument.

Events also are being held in hundreds of communities around the country.

For more information on the April 29th Peoples Climate Mobilization, visit peoplesclimate.org
Follow us on Twitter @Peoples_Climate and
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/peoplesclimate

Here is the White House Fact Sheet touting their America First Energy Independence Plan:

President Donald J. Trump to Open Up America’s Energy Potential

“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.” – Donald J. Trump

AMERICA’S ENERGY RESOURCES ARE LOCKED AWAY: Under the previous administrations, America’s offshore resources were blocked from responsible development.

  • Ninety-four percent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf’s (OCS’s) 1.7 billion acres are either off-limits to or not considered for oil and gas exploration and development under the current (2017-2022) leasing program.

o   Days before leaving office on January 17, 2017, the Obama Administration approved the latest schedule for oil and gas lease sales that would last for five years until 2022.

o   There are hundreds of millions of acres of federal waters in the Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico.

  • The OCS is expected to contain 90 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas.
  • In FY 2016, Federal revenues from the OCS were $2.8 billion; the actual sales value of the oil and gas resources was $26 billion and generated $55 billion in total spending in the economy.  These expenditures supported approximately 315,000 American jobs.
  • Alaska has seen a number of nearby OCS areas closed off to development and now has the second highest unemployment in the country, as its resource sectors, particularly oil and gas, have lost thousands of jobs.

o   At least one energy company has announced it would withdraw from all but one of its OCS leases in Alaska because of uncertain federal regulations.

  • Revenue to the Federal Government from leasing the OCS has fallen by over 80 percent, from $18 billion in 2008 to $2.8 billion in 2016. On average, OCS energy development generates $10-12 billion annually.

FREEING AMERICA’S ENERGY POTENTIAL: President Donald J. Trump is removing restrictions on the OCS that locked away America’s energy potential.

  • President Trump signed an Executive Order today to direct the Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Commerce to take action on OCS restrictions.
  • The Secretary of the Interior will review areas closed off by the current five-year plan for sale of oil and gas leases in the OCS, without disrupting scheduled lease sales. These planning areas include:

o   Western and Central Gulf of Mexico

o   Chukchi Sea

o   Beaufort Sea

o   Cook Inlet

o   Mid and South Atlantic

  • The Secretary of the Interior will review four rules and regulations put in place last year that could reduce exploration and development in the OCS. These include:

o   Notice to Lessees and Operators of Federal Oil and Gas, and Sulfur Leases, and Holders of Pipeline Right-of-Way and Right-of-Use and Easement Grants in the Outer Continental Shelf

o   Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations in the Outer Continental Shelf-Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control

o   Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance

o   Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf—Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf

  • The Secretary of Commerce is directed to refrain from designating or expanding National Marine Sanctuaries unless the proposal includes “a timely, full accounting from the Department of the Interior of any energy or mineral resource potential”—including offshore energy from wind, oil, natural gas, and other sources—within the designated area and the potential impact the proposed designation or expansion will have on the development of those resources.
  • The Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior will work together to develop a streamlined permitting approach for privately funded seismic data research and collection to expeditiously determine the offshore resource potential of the United States.

FOLLOWING THROUGH ON HIS PROMISE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE: President Trump is following through on the energy development policies he promised to the American people.

  • Then-Candidate Trump:

o   “We need an America-First energy plan. This means opening Federal lands for oil and gas production; opening offshore areas; and revoking policies that are imposing unnecessary restrictions on innovative new exploration technologies.”

______________________

© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Ahead of April 29 Peoples Climate March, Groups Condemn Trump’s Executive Order Stripping Protections for Public Lands

Is nothing sacred? Apparently everything is transactional in Trump World. Combined with the tax “reform” which would strip the federal government of trillions of revenue, Trump policies would bankrupt the nation, giving Trumpers an excuse to sell off federal lands for private exploitation. Trump and Republicans want to overturn the Antiquities Act, pushed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to protect Yosemite © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Washington, DC — Ahead of the Peoples Climate March in Washington DC and in hundreds of cities around the country on Saturday, April 29 (Trump’s 100th day occupying the Oval Office), the Trump administration issued an executive order directing the Department of the Interior, led by Ryan Zinke, to review previous monument designations allowed under the 1906 Antiquities Act. According to White House officials, the review could bring “changes or modifications” that could open more public lands to fossil fuel extraction.

Indigenous leaders and climate activists have fought to gain monument designations for lands across the country to protect them from the fossil fuel industry. Areas like the Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35-million acre area in Utah including sacred Native American lands, could be at risk for losing their protected status. National parks like the Grand Canyon exist because of the Antiquities Act, and any move by the Trump administration to revoke protections of designated monuments will likely face challenges in court.

The public overwhelmingly supports protecting our national parks and monuments and on Saturday, April 29, thousands of people across the country and in Washington, D.C. are expected to join the Peoples Climate March to Trump administration policies like this one and stand up for climate, jobs and justice.

Rhea Suh, President, Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “This is another unjust assault on our climate, environment and national heritage, a hallmark of the president’s first 100 days. These precious lands belong to all Americans.  Our country holds them in trust for the benefit of all Americans, now and in the future.  These monuments—and the resources and wildlife they protect—are worthy of ironclad protection because they are unique, and vulnerable to encroachment and destruction. President Trump should not try to strip away their protection. The tens of thousands gathering Saturday to march for climate action will fight his attempted sellout, and to preserve these iconic public places and the American values they represent.”

Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, said, “We should not be asking which parts of our history and heritage we can eliminate, but instead how we can make our outdoors reflect the full American story. There is no need for a review to demonstrate what families across the country already know first-hand — national monuments provide tangible health, climate, and economic benefits. Indigenous leaders and climate activists have fought to gain monument designations for lands across the country to preserve sacred sites and protect wild places from the fossil fuel industry. Areas like the Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35-million acre area in Utah including sacred Native American lands, could be at risk for losing their protected status. National parks like the Grand Canyon exist because of the Antiquities Act, and any move by the Trump administration to revoke protections of designated monuments will likely face challenges in court.”

“Donald Trump’s executive action paves the way for the elimination of protections for America’s majestic national parks and places that tell the story of all people in this country at an unprecedented scale,” Gene Karpinski, President, League of Conservation Voters, said. “We will fight back. America’s parks and natural and cultural heritage should be protected and celebrated, not sold off to special interests. From the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon, our monuments and parks honor our nation’s deep history, recognize our dedication to human and civil rights, and protect our precious lands and waters that fuel America’s thriving outdoor recreation industry. Our nation will hold Trump accountable for putting corporate polluter interests ahead of people.”

Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director, UPROSE, said, “The federal administration’s move to undermine the Antiquities Act is a direct attack on everything that the environmental justice movement stands for. From the Grand Canyon to Stonewall Inn, this act preserves those monuments that symbolize our collective natural heritage and houses of culture and struggle. Justice rests at the intersection of these legacies. This move demonstrates yet again that nothing in this administration’s eyes is beyond the reach of fossil fuel interests and destructive market forces. However, this order will do nothing to undermine our commitment to defending the sacredness of our land, protecting the dignity of our people, and fighting for environmental and social justice.”

“The Antiquities Act serves a dual purpose: to preserve our beautiful land for current and future generations to enjoy, but most importantly, to protect land from pollution-creating activities–and ultimately protect vulnerable communities and their health,” stated Adrienne L. Hollis, PhD, JD, Director of Federal Policy, WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We cannot fully measure the importance this act has on protecting the planet and its inhabitants.  To alter this powerful act is another form of desecration and a continuation of efforts to ignore the plight of frontline communities and the environments in which they live, work, play, learn, and pray.”

May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org, said, “So much for being Teddy Roosevelt. Zinke and the Trump administration want to gut the power of the Antiquities Act to shore up the fossil fuel industry. On top of all the attacks on our climate, now we’ll have to defend our parks and monuments from Big Oil as well. On Saturday, thousands of people across the country will be joining the Peoples Climate March to push back on this and other Trump climate assaults. We won’t let this presidency stop us from building toward a renewable energy future that works for all.”

Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, said “Leave it to Trump to take aim at an American tradition and principle that is beloved across political affiliations — our public lands, waters, and monuments.  Trump wants to carve up this country into as many giveaways to the oil and gas industry as possible. But people who cannot afford the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago still want water they can drink, air they can breathe, and beautiful places to go for refuge. Trump is on the verge of jeopardizing true national treasures. We who cherish and rely on public lands and waters will ensure that he will not succeed.”

“Nothing, nothing at all is sacred for this administration except policies that destroy life and wellbeing for people and the planet in order to enrich the wealthy. This Executive Order is intended to promote desecration of some of the most unique and significant places in our country,” said Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith.

For more information on the April 29th Peoples Climate Mobilization, visit peoplesclimate.org
Follow on Twitter @Peoples_Climate and
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/peoplesclimate

See also:

Trump Races to Chalk Up 100-Day ‘Successes’ by Weakening Antiquities Act, Overturning Education Reform, and Unveiling Tax Plan to Benefit Wealthy, Corporations

Trump Races to Chalk Up 100-Day ‘Successes’ by Weakening Antiquities Act, Overturning Education Reform, and Unveiling Tax Plan to Benefit Wealthy, Corporations

After his visit to Yosemite in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt pushed through the Antiquities Act of 1906 to prevent the destruction of historic or prehistoric ruins on government land © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump is racing to the 100-day mark to do as much as he can to undo progress won over the past century, particularly eradicating every part of Barack Obama’s legacy.

On Wednesday, he signed Executive Orders weakening the Antiquities Act that has been used since Theodore Roosevelt to protect federal land for the American people.

He signed another Executive Order aimed at rolling back national education standards put into place, originally, by George W. Bush under the No Child Left Behind Act, amended with Barack Obama’s Race to the Top (which used federal financial incentives instead of threats of losing federal aid), and reformed under ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act).

Also, his Treasury Secretary introduced the outline for tax “reform” which cuts taxes for the wealthiest and corporations and promises to blow a hold trillions of dollars wide in the national debt, just as previous “voodoo” “trickle-down” tax “reform” by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have done.

According to the pool report by Dave Boyer, White House correspondent for The Washington Times:

The president signed an executive order at the Interior Dept. with Vice President Pence, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and several lawmakers and governors. The order directs Interior to review larger national monuments created since 1996.

Trump said the Antiquities Act “does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up” millions of acres of land and water. He especially criticized the Obama administration for an “egregious use of power” and an “abuse of the monuments designation,” and said that it’s time “to end another egregious abuse of federal power.”

“It’s gotten worse and worse and worse. This should never have happened,” he said. “Now we’re going to free it up.”

“We’re returning power back to the people,” Mr. Trump said. “Today we’re putting the states back in charge.”

Pence called the use of the monuments designation “one of the great federal overreaches in recent decades.”

Mr. Zinke said “somewhere along the line, the act has become a tool of political advocacy.” He said the order “does not remove any monuments” or weaken any environmental protections.

[However, it is clear that the powers that Trump is taking upon himself is aimed at reversing Obama’s designation of Bears Ears in Utah.)

Here’s more of what Trump said:

“In the first 100 days, we have taken historic action to eliminate wasteful regulations.  They’re being eliminated like nobody has ever seen before.  There has never been anything like it.  Sometimes I look at some of the things I’m signing I say maybe people won’t like it, but I’m doing the right thing.  And no regular politician is going do it.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know if you folks would do — I will tell you literally some politicians have said, you’re doing the right thing.  I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do some of these things.  But we’re doing them because it’s the right thing to do.  And it’s for the good of the nation.

“We’re returning power back to the people.  We’ve eliminated job-destroying regulations on farmers, ranchers, and coal miners, on autoworkers, and so many other American workers and businesses.

“Today, I am signing a new executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power, and to give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.

“The previous administration used a 100-year-old law known as the Antiquities Act to unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control — have you heard about that? — eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land.

“Today, we are putting the states back in charge.  It’s a big thing.

“I am pleased to be joined by so many members of Congress and governors who have been waiting for this moment, including Governor Herbert of Utah.  Thank you, thank you, Governor.  Governor LePage of Maine, who, by the way, has lost a lot of weight.  (Laughter.)  I knew him when he was heavy, and now I know him when he’s thin, and I like him both ways, okay?  (Laughter.)  Done a great job.  Governor Calvo of Guam.  Thank you.  Governor Torres from the Northern Mariana Islands.  Thank you, thank you, Governor.

“I also want to recognize Senator Orrin Hatch, who — believe me, he’s tough.  He would call me and call me and say, you got to do this.  Is that right, Orrin?”

SENATOR HATCH:  That’s right.

THE PRESIDENT:  You didn’t stop.  He doesn’t give up.  And he’s shocked that I’m doing it, but I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.  But I really have to point you out, you didn’t stop.

“And, Mike, the same thing.  So many people feel — Mike Lee — so many people feel so strongly about this, and so I appreciate your support and your prodding, and your never-ending prodding, I should say, because we’re now getting something done that many people thought would never ever get done, and I’m very proud to be doing it in honor of you guys, okay?  Thank you.  (Applause.)

“Altogether, the previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres — that’s a lot of land, million acres.  Think of it — 265 million acres of land and water under federal control through the abuse of the monuments designation.  That’s larger than the entire state of Texas.

“In December of last year alone, the federal government asserted this power over 1.35 million acres of land in Utah, known as Bears Ears — I’ve heard a lot about Bears Ears, and I hear it’s beautiful — over the profound objections of the citizens of Utah.  The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice.

“I’ve spoken with many state and local leaders — a number of them here today — who care very much about preserving our land, and who are gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab.  And it’s gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we’re going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place.  This should never have happened.

“That’s why today I am signing this order and directing Secretary Zinke to end these abuses and return control to the people — the people of Utah, the people of all of the states, the people of the United States.

“Every day, we are going to continue pushing ahead with our reform agenda to put the American people back in charge of their government and their lives.

“And again, I want to congratulate the Secretary.  I want to congratulate Orrin and Mike and all of the people that worked so hard on bringing it to this point.  And tremendously positive things are going to happen on that incredible land, the likes of which there is nothing more beautiful anywhere in the world.  But now tremendously positive things will happen.”

The signing took place in a room at Interior with a framed portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, a bust of TR and mounted heads of a buffalo and deer on the wall. Among those in attendance were Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Also Govs. Herbert of Utah and LePage of Maine.

Reversing Education Reform

Trump walked into the Roosevelt Room at 2:44 p.m., having been introduced by Vice President Pence. He was greeted by a group of about 25 people, including teachers, lawmakers and governors, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, according to Boyer’s pool report:

A bit of banter:

Mr. Trump joked with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, incoming head of the National Governors Association, about the length of Sandoval’s prepared remarks, with Trump saying he decided to stay in the room after his own comments because “I know it’s going to be a short speech” from Sandoval.

Mr. Sandoval laughed and told the president, “It just got shorter.”

A few moments later during his remarks, Mr. Sandoval said, “I’m going to skip a page.”

The president, standing to the rear of the group, called out, “Education for North Korea.”

During the event, Mr. Trump also said he was heading afterward for a “very important” briefing for senators on North Korea.

During the president’s formal remarks, he said the education executive order will help to restore local control of education. It calls for a 300-day review of Obama-era regulations and guidance for school districts and directs DeVos to modify or repeal measures deemed an overreach by Washington.

“We know that local communities do it best and know it best,” the president said. He called it “another critical step to restoring local control, which is so important.”

“Previous administrations have wrongly forced states and schools to comply with federal whims and dictates for what our kids are taught,” he said. “The time has come to empower teachers and parents to make the decisions that help their students achieve success.”

Among those in attendance were Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. Virginia Foxx and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Gov. Herbert of Utah and LePage of Maine, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, nominee for ambassador to China.

Mr. Trump told Mr. Branstad, “They’re looking forward to seeing you” in China.

From there, Trump honored the Teacher of the Year, who, surprise surprise, is the first to be from a charter school in the 65 years of the award.

Boyer reports no questions taken at this event.

Pool was ushered into the Oval Office around 4:45 p.m. to find the President seated at the Resolute desk, surrounded by 55 teachers from around the nation, plus First Lady Melania Trump (who is celebrating her birthday), Vice President Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The President congratulated Sydney Chaffee, winner of the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, from Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Mass. The ninth-grade teacher is the first charter school teacher to win the award in its 65-year history, and also the first from Massachusetts.

“That is really something special,” Mr. Trump said.

The president also thanked the group for having sung “Happy Birthday” to the First Lady before your poolers arrived.

The president greeted your poolers with, “Busy day, hasn’t it been?”

He praised the teachers as “the greatest there are. You’re all great, great teachers.”

Near the conclusion of the president’s comments, as he was saying he hopes the teachers’ trip to the White House was special, one unidentified teacher began to cry, apparently tears of happiness.

“Sorry, I’m always crying,” she told the president.

The President told her, “I’ve had some of the biggest executives in the world, who have been here many times, and I say have you been to the Oval Office? No. They walk into the Oval Office and they start crying. I say ‘I promise I won’t say to your various stockholders [that they cried].”

The president did not answer a question shouted near the end about North Korea.

Meanwhile, the outline of his tax plan was unveiled which would:

  1. Slash the corporate tax rate by 60%, from 35% to 15%. This will lose $2.4 trillion over 10 years—enough to fund Medicaid and CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) serving nearly 75 million Americans for five years.
  2. Cut the tax rate paid by Wall Street money managers and real estate tycoons like Trump down to just 15%―far less than many middle-class families pay.
  3. Continue tax breaks that encourage corporations to send jobs and profits offshore. Corporations currently have $2.6 trillion in profits stashed offshore, on which they owe $750 billion in taxes.

The theory – by Republicans since Ronald Reagan – is that the deficit in tax revenues would be made up by economic growth, except that has never been the case.

In reaction, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) stated:

“At a time when we have a rigged economy designed to benefit the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations, President Trump’s new tax plan would only make that system worse. He would slash taxes for himself and his billionaire friends and significantly increase the deficit, while doing little to help rebuild the collapsing middle class. Rather than making large profitable corporations – many of which pay nothing in federal income tax – finally contribute their fair share, Trump wants to give them a huge tax break.

“At a time when Trump wants to make major cuts in education, health care, senior programs, nutrition and affordable housing, it is especially outrageous that he would propose the elimination of the Estate Tax and provide a $353 billion dollar tax giveaway to the wealthiest 0.2 percent – including a tax break of up to $4 billion to the Trump family.”

New Yorkers Among Multitudes in Cities Around the World Marching for Science on Earth Day

Science is Golden. Marchers for Science pass in front of Trump International Hotel, NYC © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Tens of thousands of people in Washington DC and 600 cities around the world on Earth Day, April 22, joined in the first-ever global March for Science, co-organized by the Earth Day Network.

“We’ve just lived through the three hottest years on record, and yet, we continue to see policymakers politicize climate change, roll it back, and ignore it,” stated Kishore Hari, one of the March for Science organizers. “We need to show policymakers that we will not be complacent as they make cuts to life-saving scientific research. That’s why it’s important for us to show up in big numbers and prove that we will not let science be ignored.

“Scientific discovery and innovation are a critical part of our nation and our future — science extends our lives, protects our planet, puts food on our table, contributes to the economy, and allows us to communicate and collaborate with people around the world,” said Caroline Weinberg, National Co-Chair, March for Science. “Despite this fact, science and scientists, and evidence based policies are under attack. Policymakers threaten our present and future by ignoring scientific evidence when crafting policy, threatening scientific advancement through budget cuts, and limiting the public’s knowledge by silencing scientists. On April 22, scientists and science supporters will unite worldwide to protest these actions. Thousands of people in almost 500 cities around the world will march together in support of science’s role in society and policy and to ensure our future.”

March for Science, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The March for Science is an unprecedented call to action for everyone who knows that science is essential to public health, global and economic security, and the livelihood of communities around the world,” said Christine McEntee, Executive Director & CEO, American Geophysical Union. “This moment is bigger than the scientific community. It is truly an important moment for all people, not just scientists, to make a strong statement in support of policy that is informed by evidence-based science, and to promote the free and open exchange of ideas, innovation and discovery, diversity and inclusion, and to stand up for the people and programs who make it possible.”

Here in New York City, some 20,000 joined the march which extended from Central Park West down to Times Square, with the loudest cheers and jeers recorded as the marchers passed by the Trump International Hotel across from the entrance to Central Park.

“This is what intelligence looks like.” They chanted.

“Hey hey what do you say, let’s all save the EPA.”

Grab ‘em by the Data © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Signs were hand-drawn but heart-felt: “Data, Not Deceit.” “Make America Smart Again.” “Science, Saving Humanity Since 1612.” “Science, not Silence” “Science is like Magic but Real.”

“You Can’t Spell Existence Without Science.”  “A Planet is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”

“Don’t Acid Rain on My Parade.” “More Science. Less Fear.”

Indeed, at the rally that preceded the march, several speakers – including scientists and science teachers – thanked the science community for saving their life.

Some of the public school speakers at the March for Science, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Several pre-teen girls and boys from the city’s public schools extolled the value of science education, of science that has made America the great innovator in the world, responsible for the Internet, driverless cars and manned spaceflight, and lectured the government officials on the importance of funding education and innovation.

“The progress we have made would not have happened without science,” one said. “Einstein. Tesla. Anything created came from science. Our parents, our doctors use science. Medicine was created by science. Everything is Science.”

“Science is everything that happens in this world” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Lily Beshell, a young girl straining on a crate to reach the microphone, who proudly declared herself to be one of the “black girls who code,” said, “Science is everything that happens in this world – even when you drop a pencil. That may not be so exciting, but if you think how the pencil drops – by gravity. “

Ferdinand, representing the STEM Teachers of NYC and one of 150 marching today, said he is a prostate cancer survivor whose life was saved by science. “Learning how to do science is important for all kids – they gain knowledge and power over their lives. They use evidence, not opinion or heresay or authority, to decide how to think about the world.”

An 18-year old, working in stem cell research at the Centers for Excellence in Youth Education program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said he had developed a passion for mitigating the effect of global climate change, “the greatest threat, and I hope to be part of the solution.

Here, thanks to Science © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Hundreds of years ago, it was believed that evil spirits and bad air caused sickness. Today we now know disease is caused by microbes and we have developed cures.”

Debbie Lee Cohen of Cafeteria Culture – also a cancer survivor – teaches scientific principles through creating things, like the massive puppets built out of toxic, polluting Styrofoam plates that were used to convince the City Council to ban them from school lunches.

Teaching through doing: Debbie Lee Cohen of Cafeteria Culture, has kids create giant puppets out of cafeteria styrofoam to demonstrate public health hazard of environmental pollution © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We need science to show how environmental protection is linked to public health. We need the US EPA to protect our health, NOAA, NASA, we need publicly funded science for basic survival. Climate crises are affecting us, especially kids. Science is fundamental to a healthy democracy, a healthy planet for all.”

Ross Cagen, a professor at Mount Sinai working on next-gen cancer therapies, said, “We are part of the greatest scientific community the world has ever seen. We value knowledge, discovery, facts [rolling cheers through the crowd for “facts”]; use evidence to make basic decisions, we value diversity.

“In a world where standing up for scientific evidence is suddenly a political act, curing disease is losing its standing as a priority…. Let’s march.”

“These are scary times. I feel your anxiety, concerns. As scientists, we never wanted to merge science and politics. But that is happening to us.

“For parents with cancer scared for themselves and their children, science offers hope. The American population lives 30 years longer than years ago because of science…. We need courage to stand against those who would destroy our freedoms.

“In a world where standing up for scientific evidence is suddenly a political act, curing disease is losing its standing as a priority…. Let’s march.”

New York City March for Science organizers: Let the force be with you © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And to the strains of Star Wars, and an invocation, “May the force be with you,” they set off down Broadway.

The New York City march was one of several hundred around the world in a global effort to push back against a political climate that has become increasingly hostile toward sound, evidence-based science and its value to society. The flagship event took place on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Organizers have partnered with over 170 organizations to make an impact throughout the world, including Earth Day Network, American Geophysical Union, National Science Teachers Association, and Carnegie Science. (A full list of partner organizations can be found here.)

“Make America Smart Again” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We are thrilled by the outpouring of support from museums, aquaria, scientific societies, NGOs, universities, religious groups and citizen science organizations,” said Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Co-Director of Partnerships, March for Science. “This grassroots movement — with 198 partner organizations (and counting!) — represents a broad, diverse, and inclusive coalition in support of science and evidence-based policy making.”

“An ethical science is meaningful to us all and its role in our communities, our homes and policy making should be protected and celebrated,” said Kristian Aloma, Director, March for Science Chicago. “Chicago is a science city, and we look forward to joining communities throughout the world marching in support of science that can help answer the important questions that affect us all.”

Fact: We Are Made of Stars. Your Science Today. Our Jobs Tomorrow. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Defending science, innovation, and discovery is an absolute must in every community throughout the world,” said Claudio Paganini, Organizer, March for Science Berlin. “We are proud to join each of the marches on April 22 to say in one, unified, global voice that science is essential to our futures.”

More information is at www.marchforscience.com.

Trump Earth Day Message Fails to Mention Climate Change

I’m not a Zoologist but I know that’s a Cheatah © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As if to confirm the protesters’ worst fears, Trump released a statement for Earth Day which did not mention Climate Change, but did emphasize prioritizing the economy over environment.

“Our Nation is blessed with abundant natural resources and awe-inspiring beauty.  Americans are rightly grateful for these God-given gifts and have an obligation to safeguard them for future generations.  My Administration is committed to keeping our air and water clean, to preserving our forests, lakes, and open spaces, and to protecting endangered species.

“Real News. Lying President.” New Yorkers March for Science © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Economic growth enhances environmental protection.  We can and must protect our environment without harming America’s working families.  That is why my Administration is reducing unnecessary burdens on American workers and American companies, while being mindful that our actions must also protect the environment.

Dump responsibly © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Rigorous science is critical to my Administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection.  My Administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks.  As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.

“This April 22nd, as we observe Earth Day, I hope that our Nation can come together to give thanks for the land we all love and call home,” Trump’s statement read.

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