Joining the hundreds of thousands of marchers in Washington DC to highlight the need for global action on climate change, I could not escape noticing that it was the same day as President Trump’s 100th day in office. With news media (and many clever signs in the March) bombarding us with “first 100 days” report cards, I began thinking about what the next 100 days might look like and soon realized that Americans - - especially Trump supporters - - are about to become the big losers.
Let’s start with the coal miners, many of whom voted for Trump, but who have largely been used as propaganda props by this administration. Shortly after the election (and again a week ago), Republican leaders of the House and Senate blocked a permanent solution to funding health and pension benefits for coal miners and widows. Has Trump intervened or provided any leadership on this issue? No, but in his first week in office he did sign legislation that will poison the drinking water sources of those same miners, while handing a multi-million dollar benefit to the coal mine owners by allowing them to dump waste into rivers and streams.
Trump’s EPA then moved to allow toxic waste from coal-fired power plants to be dumped in drinking water sources too. Will this hurt people in states like California that voted overwhelmingly against Trump? No, because that state gets almost no energy from coal, but people in states that did vote for Trump and burn a lot of coal (like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky) will bear the brunt. And remember the crocodile tears Trump shed during the election for the people of Flint, Michigan over their lead-laden water supplies? He plans to repay that state, and other Midwestern states that put him in the White House, by cutting funding for the protection and clean-up of their water supplies.
Moreover, if people drinking from these newly polluted water sources need to see a doctor, that may soon be priced out of reach for many. The mess that Trump and congressional Republicans are making of “fixing” Obamacare would hurt people in districts that voted for Trump especially hard. For example, in Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Bakersfield) California district, a health plan for a typical low income person costs about $4300/year today. Under the plan supported by Trump and McCarthy, that would be replaced with a $3000 tax credit, which may be meaningless to a low-income worker who doesn’t pay that much in taxes in the first place, but in any case, who will now pay $1300/year more for the same coverage.
Nor does the future get any better. By the time many of these workers retire, Trump will have helped to reduce or wipe out their savings and retirement options. President Obama led efforts to make it easier for states to offer “Secure Choice” retirement plans (which benefit the lowest income workers), but Trump has just made it harder. And for workers who may have money saved already, he threatens their futures by allowing traders and bankers to hide fees and conflicts of interest that are likely to cost small investors, as Trump likes to say, “bigly” - - as much as $17b/year.
But marching with other conservation-minded advocates gave me an idea that could solve all of this. Trump voters should be placed on the endangered species list, because then the federal government would be required by law to develop a “habitat management plan” that provides enough safe, healthy environment for them to thrive. Oh, but wait a minute, Congress is planning to gut the Endangered Species Act and Trump has made it clear he would sign that legislation into law. Well, if all else fails, maybe Trump voters can move to Canada and beg for refugee status, coming as they will be from a very dangerous, hostile land.