In my lifetime, there have been 14 presidents. I remember listening, with my parents, to the confidence and hope embodied in Franklin Roosevelt’s radio “Fireside Chats.” He signed many important pieces of legislation, e.g., the Social Security Act. Roosevelt proposed four freedoms that people everywhere should have: freedom of speech, freedom of worship (including choice of none), freedom from want (an adequate standard of living), and freedom from fear. These freedoms are being eroded in the United States. They have never arrived in most of the world.
Numerous achievements important to our country’s progress are now under attack by an administration bent on rewriting history. A few of the previous landmarks include President Truman’s role in the creation of the United Nations, President Johnson’s signing the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Wilderness Act; President Nixon’s signing the National Environmental Policy Act; President Carter’s signing the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Presidents Clinton and Obama used the Antiquities Act (signed and used by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906) for the valid purpose of preserving fragile ecosystems (now under assault) and historical sites.
President Reagan’s comment “government is not the solution; government is the problem” bolstered the anti-government agenda that now dominates the Republican Party. There are few moderate Republicans remaining. Now we are enveloped in chaos, with a president whose narcissism and other personality disorders determine the few and vacillating policies he actually has. President Trump is proudly revoking government regulations; most were enacted to protect people and the environment.
With the enactment of their tax bill, the Republican Party has achieved several ideological goals. They have given large tax reductions to corporations, the wealthy, members of Congress, and land “developers” (destroyers) like the Trump family. The Republicans’ attention to the middle class and the poor is consistently nothing but rhetoric. As a middle-class taxpayer, I do not want a tax reduction. I am happy to pay taxes that are spent on needed federal programs such as the social safety net, health care, resource conservation, public lands, global warming, education, legitimate foreign aid, and most United Nations programs. If there are not sufficient funds to properly support these programs, the wealthy can afford higher taxes. We should stop wasting money on nation-building disasters like Iraq. We need to terminate corporate tax breaks that benefit only the super rich.
The Republican tax bill includes yet another attempt to destroy the Affordable Care Act and it tacks on a shameful provision to diminish the quality of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Is no landscape or seascape sacred to Republicans? The tax plan’s deficit increase is purposeful, giving the Republicans an excuse to starve Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Federal agencies such as the National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Environmental Protection Agency, will be further dismantled, using the deficit as a rationale. Crippling of federal agencies already is underway by unqualified cabinet heads who do not believe in “their” agency’s missions.
In my lifetime, there have been 21 secretaries of the interior. Some have outstanding records guiding the management of natural resources, e.g., Stewart Udall, Bruce Babbitt, and Sally Jewell. Others, like Douglas McKay, tried to move policies backward, away from scientific resource management. Before Ryan Zinke, I thought that no secretary could have an agenda more destructive to public lands than did James Watt. It appears that I was wrong. Ryan Zinke has embraced policies that are an embarrassment to those who comprehend the conservation principles for which Theodore Roosevelt stood. While charged with the protection of national wildlife refuges, Zinke supports oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge and other fragile sites. He rescinded the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service ban on lead bullets and fishing tackle, disregarding published research that has, for decades, clearly documented lead ingestion as a significant cause of death of eagles, condors, and many other species.
Zinke continues to claim that he supports public ownership of public lands. However, his deeds are the antitheses of his talk. According to the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, his plan for the national monuments in Utah (what is left of them) is for management by a “council,” with seven members — one member from the Department of Interior, five members from local counties in Utah, and one member appointed by the president. The council would be required to allow hunting, fishing, trapping, and grazing in perpetuity. Lands managed by counties are no longer PUBLIC land. Zinke’s approach is ill-conceived and exposes his duplicity.
We are being led into an era of greed for which future generations will shame us. However, there is hope. Many of Trump’s executive orders will be ruled invalid as they work through the judicial system. In the 2018 and 2020 elections, we can remove the perpetrators of the policies that are damaging all life and spaceship Earth.
Riley McClelland is a resident of West Glacier.