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Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 17

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

Amid all the controversy, scandal, and potential corruption surrounding Trump's administration, it's important not to forget his official actions and policies as president, and all the damage that's causing.


Climate Change

As I've written many times before, climate change is the biggest issue facing the nation and the world right now. It's important enough to make me a single issue voter, at least for offices that can have any effect on climate change. That's what makes Trump's recent decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement so infuriating. Granted, he was already doing a lot to damage U.S. efforts to combat climate change, but this was still a very big deal. Trump's actions on climate change are inexcusable.


Bad Astronomy - We'll never have Paris: Trump pulls the US out of international climate accord

And so, this is why I'm very unhappy with Trump pulling us out of the Paris Accord. It signals that we don't care about global warming, that we don't care about helping other countries with it, and together with Trump's other policies (like putting full-blown climate change denier Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA, for example), it's a huge flag showing that we're willing to cede energy leadership in the 21st century to other countries.

This is more than just foolish. It's contrary to everything the United States strives for as a nation. It shows that we stand against essentially the entire world when it comes to climate change. It also makes it clear that, once again, the U.S. as a nation will delay taking any real action to slow or stop global warming, action that we should've taken a decade or more ago.

This is a complete failure of leadership, across the board. It's also a threat to our national security.


Vox - The 5 biggest deceptions in Trump's Paris climate speech: It wasn't easy narrowing these down.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump gave a speech announcing that the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

It is a remarkable address, in its own way, in that virtually every passage contains something false or misleading. The sheer density of bullshit is almost admirable, from a performance art perspective. Trump even managed to get in some howlers that had nothing to do with climate change. He started by citing an act of terrorism in Manila that wasn't terrorism. He said, "our tax bill is moving along in Congress," but there's no tax bill. And so forth.

A proper fact-check would run longer than the speech itself. To keep this quick, I've selected the top five deceptions.

A note: I'm not calling these "lies," because that implies Trump knows they are false. It is far from clear that Trump understands anything about any of the issues at stake, or is even capable of forming stable beliefs as such (as I wrote here and here).

1) No, an agreement cannot be both nonbinding and draconian (Spoiler: Paris is the former)
2) No, Paris cannot be "renegotiated"
3) No, abiding by the agreement will not cost the US a bazillion dollars
4) No, China and India are not getting away with anything
5) No, other nations are not laughing at us behind our backs -- or they weren't, anyway

Related:


International Trip

The Nation - Our Embarrassment in Chief's Internation Trip Is No Laughing Matter

But let's not grade a guy holding the nuclear codes on a curve. Three days into the trip, and Trump's already shown the world that the United States is being governed by a brittle man-child. And if he manages to get through it without causing a major international incident, it will only be because foreign leaders have done a competent job dumbing down any complex diplomatic issues that may arise and feeding the insatiable ego of our embarrassment in chief.
...Peter Baker reported for The New York Times that "foreign officials and their Washington consultants say certain rules [for dealing with Trump] have emerged: Keep it short--no 30-minute monologue for a 30-second attention span. Do not assume he knows the history of the country or its major points of contention. Compliment him on his Electoral College victory. Contrast him favorably with President Barack Obama. Do not get hung up on whatever was said during the campaign. Stay in regular touch." The rest of the world appears to have concluded that our president is an idiot.
Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's national-security adviser, is tasked with babysitting this erratic character through a difficult trip, according to CNN's Jake Tapper. But a source told Tapper that "it can be difficult to advise the President effectively given his seemingly short attention span and propensity to be easily distracted. You can't say what not to say," the source said, "because that will then be one of the first things he'll say." Trump seemed to confirm that on Monday, when he told Israeli reporters, "just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel" to the Russians when he shared highly sensitive intelligence with them in the Oval Office two days after firing his FBI director.


Vox - Trump's ally-angering trip abroad, explained in 7 images

President Donald Trump's first foreign trip is nearly over. Some events were near disasters; some went surprisingly well. But nearly all of them were deeply revealing about Trump, saying something important about his administration's policies and his own diplomatic style.
Now, Trump does actually have a point here. Technically, all NATO states are supposed to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on their defense budget -- but only five of NATO's 28 members hit the target. This is an issue that past US presidents, including Barack Obama, have raised at NATO summits before.

But Trump has repeatedly questioned the value of NATO in the past two years, once threatening to not defend allies that didn't pay enough money -- something past US presidents never did, as it calls into question the foundation of the alliance itself.

Most worryingly, Trump pointedly did not mention Article 5 -- the provision of the NATO treaty that declares an attack on one to be an attack on all -- in his speech. This strongly suggested to the allies that he cared more about allies ponying up than actually defending them.

The US government never officially confirmed the country whose asset Trump compromised. But then, when fielding press questions with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Trump somewhat backhandedly acknowledged it.


Slate - Making Enemies Out of Friends: Trump's special antagonism toward Germany is stupid and dangerous.

The fallout from President Trump's disastrous trip to Europe continues to poison the trans-Atlantic climate. His comments about Germany have been particularly toxic--and, beyond that, stupid, reflecting no understanding of the country's strategic importance or its dreadful history.

Chancellor Angela Merkel stated the matter plainly in a speech on Sunday in Bavaria. Europeans "must take our fate into our own hands," she said, because the "times in which we could rely fully on others ... are somewhat over." This, she added, "is what I experienced in the last few days"--a reference to Trump's behavior in Brussels and Rome, where, among other bits of rudeness, he declined to pay even lip service to the pledge, enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, that the United States would defend any member of NATO that comes under attack.

While overseas, Trump had reportedly told Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union, "The Germans are bad, very bad. Look at the millions of cars that they're selling in the USA. Horrible. We're gonna stop that." Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the report, which appeared in Der Spiegel, but Trump's Tuesday tweet undercut the denial and underscored his complaint. It wasn't some loose remark, he seemed to be saying; he meant it.


The Budget

Nature - Trump budget would slash science programmes across government: Proposed cuts include 11% at the National Science Foundation, 18% at the National Institutes of Health and 30% at the Environmental Protection Agency.

US President Donald Trump released a revised budget plan on 23 May that would cut science programmes across the federal government in 2018. Biomedical, public-health and environmental research would all be pared back. / Those cuts, along with deep reductions in programmes for the poor, are balanced by a proposed 10% increase in military spending.
"This budget is terrible, and we're confident that Congress will ignore it," says Jennifer Zeitzer, director of legislative relations at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would face a cut of 18% in the Trump plan, from US$31.8 billion in 2017 to $26 billion in 2018... The White House wants to slash more than $1.2 billion from the CDC's budget, with the largest cuts coming from public-health preparedness programmes... The Trump plan would cut government funding for the US Food and Drug Administration by 31% from the 2017 level, to $1.9 billion... The budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would be cut by about 11% from the 2016 level, to $6.7 billion. That would allow the agency to give out 8,000 new grants in fiscal year 2018, about 800 fewer than it awarded in 2016... The agency's Ocean Observatories Initiative, a collection of instrumented seafloor arrays, would be cut by almost 44%, to $31 million. The programme began full operations in June 2016, when real-time data began flowing in after nearly a decade of construction and development... Trump requested $19.1 billion for NASA, a 2.8% decrease from the 2017 level. The agency's science directorate would receive $5.7 billion, a drop of nearly 1%... Within that directorate, funding for Earth science would drop by 8.7%, from $1.92 billion to $1.75 billion. The budget would eliminate five Earth-observing missions... The US Department of Energy would receive $28 billion under the president's plan, a 5.3% reduction from 2016... The Office of Science would see its budget cut by 16%, from $5.3 billion in 2017 to just under $4.5 billion in 2018... The White House proposal would make good on promises to shrink and reorganize the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which would see its budget cut by more than 30% to $5.7 billion. Trump would slash spending on pollution-control programmes and research and development, eliminating about 23% of the agency's roughly 15,000 staff members along the way... The US Geological Survey would be cut by 13% from the 2017 level, to $922 million. That would include eliminating the entire $8.2-million federal contribution to the fledgling earthquake early-warning system on the US west coast... The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive nearly $4.8 billion, a decrease of about 17%, or $987 million, compared to 2017. The majority of the cuts would come from the agency's research activities and satellites.


Vox - The trillions in shocking cuts in Donald Trump's budget, explained

The budget broadly resembles plans put forward by now-House Speaker Paul Ryan, who as the House Budget Committee chair released a series of extremely aggressive budgets including trillions in cuts to programs for the poor. While Trump largely leaves Medicare and old-age insurance from Social Security unscathed, and boosts funding for border security, veterans, and defense, he cuts just about everything else.

What's more, his budget assumes an extremely unrealistic economic growth rate -- 3 percent, above the currently projected 1.9 percent -- due to the administration's tax plan. It appears the administration is counting on that growth both to pay for its spending in this budget and to pay for its tax cuts, meaning the budget doesn't really add up at all.

It's a startling, ambitious, and at times sloppy document that, for all its faults, clearly defines what the Trump administration wants to do with the federal government. And what the administration wants to do is dramatic, to say the least.

The cuts include:
  • All $880 billion in Medicaid cuts included in the Republican health plan that has passed the House, plus $610 billion in additional cuts due to adopting an even stingier formula for increasing Medicaid funding year over year. This amounts to a total cut to Medicaid of over 47 percent.
  • $191 billion in cuts from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, over 10 years. That's about a 25 percent cut. The administration claims it will achieve this by adding new work requirements, but it would effectively require kicking many people off the program or dramatically cutting benefit amounts.
  • $40.4 billion in cuts to the earned income tax credit and child tax credit over 10 years, programs that, along with SNAP, make up much of the US's safety net for poor people. Trump would require parents receiving benefits to submit a Social Security number to weed out unauthorized immigrants -- even those whose children are US citizens.
  • $21.6 billion in cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or welfare, over 10 years. That's a nearly 13 percent cut to the program, which has already been cut dramatically since the 1990s.
  • Huge cuts to most federal agencies: a 31.4 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency budget, 29.1 percent cut to the State Department, 20.5 percent to Agriculture, 19.8 percent to Labor, 16.2 percent to Health and Human Services, 15.8 percent to Commerce, 13.2 percent to Housing and Urban Development, 12.7 percent to Transportation, and 10.9 percent to Interior.


Vox - 45 million Americans rely on food stamps. Trump wants to gut the program.: The administration's budget proposal would cut SNAP spending by a quarter.

If Trump had his way, though, the number of SNAP recipients would soon be drastically cut. The administration's first comprehensive budget proposal would trim SNAP spending by $191 billion over the next decade -- which is about a quarter of the program's funding.
In fact, researchers who study poverty and food policy say throwing people off SNAP is a silly idea because it's one of the government programs that really works. As the Trump Administration's own Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said earlier this week of SNAP, "You don't try to fix things that aren't broken."
SNAP is an effective recession buffer:

Again and again, researchers have found upticks in SNAP enrollment coinciding with recessions, which is why food stamps are referred to "automatic stabilizers." When the economy gets worse, more people enroll, helping them afford food; when the economy improves, they drop off the SNAP rolls.

One oft-repeated Republican party line is that benefits like SNAP discourage people from working. But according to the researchers who study SNAP, there's no good evidence that it acts as a work disincentive. In fact, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, the majority of non-disabled, working-age households that start to get SNAP don't actually stop working.
There's also little waste and fraud in the program. Some 95 percent of federal dollars spent on SNAP go directly to benefits. The USDA also takes SNAP abuse very seriously, which is why the rate of SNAP fraud has declined dramatically over the years.


National Air Transportation Association - Statement on Trump Administration FY2018 Budget Proposal

Today, the Trump Administration released its full budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018, including recommendations for funding the Federal Aviation Administration. The proposal reduces FAA funding by almost $300 million below current levels for the fiscal year beginning October 1st.
Investment in our nation's aeronautical infrastructure is just as important to our long-term economic prosperity as tax cuts and increased defense spending. We cannot make the justification for ATC privatization a self-fulfilling prophecy by making cuts to important programs that need immediate funding. The proposed FAA budget would reduce spending on the modernization of our air traffic control system and continue what has been a six-year downward spiral in airport funding.

NATA continues to have significant concerns over proposals to corporatize air traffic control with its potentially detrimental impact on general aviation and rural investment. Targeted budget changes, including clear and unambiguous exemptions from the impacts of sequestration and government shutdowns, would be more effective than potentially destabilizing the world's safest, most complex air traffic control system. We urge Congress to continue to appropriately fund a modernization program that is delivering real benefits and to increase the investment in our airport infrastructure.


Health Care

NPR - CBO: Republicans' AHCA Would Leave 23 Million More Uninsured

The revised Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will leave 23 million more people uninsured in 2026 than if that act, also known as Obamacare, were to remain in place.
The CBO's assessment shows that premiums could fall for some Americans, but it raises potential concerns about the bill. The agency reports that the bill could destabilize individual insurance markets in some states, leaving unhealthy Americans unable to buy insurance.
The act could make obtaining healthcare coverage prohibitively expensive for some sicker Americans, the CBO found.

That's because under the AHCA, states could get waivers exempting them from some Obamacare provisions, including what are called "essential health benefits" -- a list of basics like mental health and prescription drugs that the Affordable Care Act required plans to cover. States could also get waivers that allow insurers to charge more for people with preexisting conditions.

"Over time, it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly," the CBO wrote.

Waiving essential health benefits could also make medical care much more expensive for people who are pregnant, addicted, or have mental health issues, and who live in those states that waive those benefits.

"In particular, out-of-pocket spending on maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars in a given year for the nongroup enrollees who would use those services," the report says of people living in those states.

By far the biggest savings would come from Medicaid, which serves low-income Americans. That program would face $884 billion in cuts. Cutbacks in subsidies for individual health insurance would likewise help cut $276 billion. But those are offset in large part by bigger costs, including the repeal of many of Obamacare's taxes.

Related: Vox - CBO: Republican health care bill raises premiums for older, poor Americans by as much as 850%: The American Health Care Act would make a low-income 64-year-old in the individual market pay more than half his income for health insurance.


NPR - Trump's Restrictions For Abortion Funding Overseas Could Hinder HIV Prevention

The newly-released details of the Trump administration's version of the "Mexico City policy" are raising many questions about its impact not only on abortion but also on preventing HIV and infectious diseases like malaria.
"This is going to result in an increase in the number of unintended pregnancies, in the number of unsafe abortions, in the number of mothers dying, whether from pregnancy-related causes or HIV causes, and also in the number of infant and child deaths," says Geeta Rao Gupta, executive director for the United Nations Foundation's 3D Program for Girls & Women, which addresses the needs and rights of women.
Some research has shown that when the Mexico City policy is in force, abortion rates can rise. One study by Stanford University researchers, published by the Bulletin of the World Health Organization in 2011, found that abortions in sub-Saharan African countries held steady at about 10 per 100,000 women every year from 1994 to 2000 during the Clinton administration, which did not enforce the policy. President George W. Bush reinstated the Mexico City policy in 2001, and from 2001 to 2008, there were 14.5 abortions per 100,000 women every year.

The study authors note that it's not possible to be completely certain about the reason for the rise. But they theorize that when women lose access to modern contraceptives like birth control pills because the clinics that provided them had shut down because of a loss of funds, some of the women may turn to unsafe abortions. In 2008, 47,000 women died from complications after unsafe abortions, according the World Health Organization.


Authoritarianism

Vox - Historian Timothy Snyder: Trump's lies are creeping tyranny: A historian on the danger of Donald Trump.

The way it works is that you first just lie a lot. You fill up the public space with things that aren't true, as Trump has obviously done. Next you say, "It's not me who lies; it's the crooked journalists. They're the ones who spread the fake news." Then the third step, if this works, is that everybody shrugs their shoulders and says, "Well, we don't really know who to trust; therefor, we'll trust whoever we feel like trusting." In that situation, you can't control political action and authoritarianism wins.
Frankly, we're in uncharted waters here. A lot of people believed in Trump because of his charisma and the simplicity of his promises and because, in many cases, they were facing real problems. What they believed in, unfortunately, has zero substance. It's very hard for people to recognize that. It's much easier for people to be fooled than it is for people to be unfooled.

Getting people out of a con takes a really long time, and I'm just not sure how that's going to work.

I think part of the problem with the Democrats is that they tend to look at the overall average and assume things are going well. But if you get down to the right fractal level, then in many parts of the country they're not. I think those people were intellectually vulnerable.
If people are poorly educated, if the state keeps pulling back from its role in educating people, there are less and less people to filter and make decisions for themselves.

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