A recent effort to eliminate federal funding for the Special Olympics that helps special needs children reflects the cynicism behind policies proposed or implemented during Donald Trump’s presidency. Billionaire education secretary Betsy Devos wanted to eliminate the $17.6 million allocation.
Congress, when controlled by Republicans, voted more than 60 times to repeal Obamacare and take health insurance away from 20 million people. A federal judge declared the measure unconstitutional in a lawsuit filed by 20 states with Republican governors, including then Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Trump has backed away from wanting the law repealed, saying he will wait until after the 2020 presidential election. Then he put Rick Scott in charge.
Scott, currently a U.S. senator, resigned as CEO of Columbia/HCA in the 1990s after a federal investigation into the company became public. Columbia/HCA was eventually fined $1.7 billion in the largest case then of Medicare fraud. Also, as governor, Scottblocked 800,000 Floridians from obtaining health insurance under Obamacare. Now he is in charge of Trump’s health insurance plan.
The immigration crackdown was launched by a president whose parents and wife came as immigrants. His Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has adopted Gestapo-type tactics which, until recently, saw babies being taken from their mothers. The Department of Justice says it will take at least two years to reunite children with their parents.
The rate of parole approval for refugees seeking asylum in five field offices dropped from 92 percent between 2013 and 2016 to four percent in 2017, Mother Jones reported. Ansly Damus, a schoolteacher who fled Haiti in 2014 in fear for his life and showed up at the border post in Calexico, Calif., was locked up in a windowless Ohio prison cell for two years – for seeking asylum. He was released due to pressure from national organizations and a couple, Melody Hart and Gary Benjamin of Cleveland, who gave him a place in their home.
Trump says he may release asylum-seekers into “sanctuary cities” – places which do not cooperate with arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants. They would no doubt welcome the chance to stay in the country but Trump would do it not for them but to punish Democrats by selecting cities where they are a majority. He also said he will pardon his acting Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan if he breaks the law while implementing his immigration policies.
Also, scientists predict humankind has 12 years to halt and start reversing global warming or face extinction. Trump mocks this warning — as did Scott when he was governor and forbade state employees from even mentioning the subject in official reports. (Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah said the answer to climate change is not urgent action but having “more babies” who can take care of the problem when they become adults.)
And 157 Republican House members voted against reauthorizing the 25-year-old Violence Against Women Act under National Rifle Association pressure. It passed because of the new Democratic House majority.
In Puerto Rico, hurricanes Irma and Maria killed more than 3,000 people and caused $91.6 billion in property damage. Rather than pushing for recovery, Trump quibbled over how much aid was provided, insisting it was $91 billion. PolitiFact said only $41 billion was allocated and Buzzfeed reported that the U.S. territory got only $11 billion.
Trump’s refusal to act against Saudi Arabia over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is another case of crass cynicism. He said he does not want to jeopardize a $100 billion arms deal but he must know that American weapons are playing a decisive role in the Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen which has killed 80,000 people in three years.
Democratic leaders are not entirely blameless. Some joined in a loud chorus of criticism against Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar for her comments on Jews but were slow and subdued in denouncing a photo Trump tweeted that juxtaposed her and the Twin Towers burning. Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not even mention Omar’s name in her initial mild rebuke of Trump. Omar reported “an increase in direct threats on my life” since then. The White House said the president meant her “no ill will” but the combination of Omar’s being a Muslim and the memory of 911 sure made for good campaigning.
As for the private sector, the Koch brothers Charles and David spent hundreds of millions of dollars over more than half a century to divide Americans and entrench a hard right regimen in U.S. politics, especially through Americans for Prosperity. Now they are changing their approach and renaming their organization Stand Together.
But there are Americans willing to speak out forcefully. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, in an address at the University of Virginia law school, focused on attacks on the judiciary by a president who must know that weakening the country’s legal foundation is detrimental to democracy. “It is not enough for judges, seeing race-based attacks on their brethren, to say they are merely ‘disheartened’ or to simply affirm their non-partisan status,” Reeves said. “We must do more to defend our bench.”
There must surely be more such Americans and the nation needs to hear from them also.