Weekly News Wrap-Up 5/26 “Power Shift”
Weekly News Wrap-Up Week of 5/26 “Power Shift”
Thursday the United States became one of only three UN nations to pull out of the Paris Accord. Of the other two, one is in a civil war (Syria) and the other felt it didn’t go far enough (Nicaragua.) Trump made his announcement to a crowd full of suspiciously cheering listeners as he explained his reasons for leaving. None of his reasons were new, nor were any of them very good. He decried the paltry $3 billion the US would put up to help developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, claimed it would shut down factories, and complained it wasn’t fair. The entire world is abiding by the agreement, and the restrictions on the U.S. were all self-imposed, so it is hard to say it would disadvantage the United States.
None of this is a surprise. Trump campaigned on this and he killed Obama’s Clean Power Plant initiative which was the U.S.’s main way of complying with the accord. The news isn’t so much that we are out, it is what it means for America. That, I do not think Trump has thought very much about. Just before Trump was elected, China met with U.E. leaders on climate change. The meeting signaled that China was ready to replace the U.S. when it came to leadership on climate change. Just as Russia increased cooperation with other nations after Bush failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, China stands to increase its position in the world through Paris.
Additionally, Trump is failing to consider economic blowback from his move. For the second time in two decades, the U.S. has failed to support a global climate change agreement. And for the second time in his administration, Trump has failed to follow through on an international agreement (the other being the TPP.) Who is to trust that the U.S. will follow through with any agreement if it won’t follow through with an agreement that 197 countries agree to? The United States will likely see repercussions on trade, security, and immigration as a result of this move. Instead of putting America first, his move very well could move us well back.
There is good news, however. Many states, counties, and cities have pledged to continue to work towards the lower emissions standards set by the Paris agreement. More than 300 major companies signed a letter to Trump encouraging him to stay in the accord. Every day, people are doing more to reduce their impacts in the U.S. We would accomplish more with a supportive administration, but I’m hopeful that we will reduce our carbon footprint with or without Trump.
- Many in the Trump Administration and around the world, from Ivanka Trump to Angela Merkel, tried to get Trump to stay in the Paris Accord. Even Rex Tillerson argued that America would have more political leverage if it stayed in. But Trump, in the end, did not change his mind. (1)
- Even though the U.S. federal government is out of the Paris Accord, 30 states have adopted mandates to increase use of renewables, and many powerful companies have similar pledges in place. Three of those states, California, New York and Washington all signaled that they intend to stick by Paris without Trump, these states make up 20% of the U.S.’s total economy. More states are expected to join their coalition. (2)
- (Option): Backing out of the Paris Accord will hurt the U.S. economy. We risk missing out on the massive emerging green energy market by sitting on the sidelines. (4)
- Trump made a lot of less-than-true comments during his speech where he announced he would leave the accord. Everything from overstating job growth to understating the Paris Agreement’s impacts on global climate. The fact is, the Paris Agreement was voluntary and non-binding, and the restrictions were pledged by America, not put on it by Europe. (10)
- On their way back from Europe, Trump’s top economic aide said some things to reporters that sounded very different from his Rose Garden speech on Thursday. He spoke of the bright future of green energy, why America should be promoting it, and how supporting coal ‘doesn’t make a lot of sense.’ Trump, unfortunately, didn’t seem to listen to this expert or any of the other experts who agree with his very mainstream opinions. (13)
- Kushner, and a Russian state-owned bank have conflicting accounts as to why they had a meeting back in December. Kushner claims it was one of many diplomatic encounters while Vnesheconombank officials said it was to discuss business surrounding Kushner’s private real estate business. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for Kushner as collusion investigations continue. (3)
- While at the G7 meeting, it was clear that Trump was an outsider. In images and interactions, he was witnessed literally pushing his way into the action, trying to demand the respect usually given to the President of the United States. His position at the G7 is symbolic of what is happening to America as a whole under his policies. With The United States out of both the Paris Accord and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), China’s influence is going unchecked. You may remember that Obama did an “Asia pivot” to try and counter China’s influence. So much for that. (5) Additionally, Angela Merkel offered a scathing assessment of America’s role saying that Europe could no longer rely on the U.S. (6)
- Trump is moving to reverse the Obamacare mandate that required employers to provide insurance that covered birth control. (9) The increased access to birth control has been credited for at least part of the sharp reduction in the abortion rate in America. (21)
- The Trump Administration has asked the Supreme Court to review its travel ban from majority Muslim nations. Two separate bans have both been blocked by lower courts which used Trump’s campaign rhetoric to determine the bans were based on religion and not risk. (12)
- One of Trump’s erroneous claims during his Rose Garden address was that his administration has put into place strict ethics rules. In reality, his administration is brazenly ignoring ethics rules and are trying to argue that they do not apply to the administration. For lobbyists to work in the administration, they must file an ethics waiver. Several in the administration has filled out such forms, and the administration has blocked their release. The administration backed down from that position this week and will be making these waivers public. (18)
- Education Secretary Betsy Devos was grilled by Congress last week regarding Trump’s proposed budget and its deep cuts for a number of education programs. Questions focused on school vouchers. Devos was unable to adequately answer many of these questions. (19)
- The Trump Administration wanted to lift sanctions on Russia immediately after assuming office. In a rare show of political understanding, they pulled the plan after being convinced that it would lead to severe backlash. (22) The administration is working to return two Russian compounds in America to Russia after they were seized by the Obama administration as part of sanctions. (29)
- After originally declining to cooperate with a Senate subpoena, Michael Flynn will now turn over some documents. The subpoena was narrowed and now only deals with Flynn’s business, which we cannot use the 5th amendment on. (24) In another revelation this week, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen is refusing to cooperate with investigations. (25)
- Either Donald Trump does not know what his own agenda is, or is purposely lying in order to appease people. In any case, he continues to spread misinformation about what his administration is doing. Including, tweeting that he’s going to spend a lot more on Medicaid when his budget calls for a cut of up to $1.4 trillion to the program that helps the poor receive health care. (27)
- Trump and his family’s jetsetting, plus historically low employment at the Secret Service due to budget constraints, are putting a significant strain on the Service. Congress is making a few moves to try and relieve some of that pressure. (14)
- Senator Flake is asking Arizonans to share their positive NAFTA stories. Flake, and most of Arizona’s elected officials (Biggs not included,) agree that NAFTA is good for Arizona. Mexico is our biggest trading partner. Flake is now leading the effort to ensure that NAFTA stays, or is renegotiated in a way that is good for Arizonans. (15)
- The Senate continues to signal that they have no appetite to take up health care. Only 8% of Americans think the AHCA should be passed as is, and the Senate has apparently received the message. Last week I reported that McConnell signaled that they may not take up healthcare until after 2018 or even 2020. (23)
- The Senate Russian Investigation has officially asked the Trump campaign for all its Russia-related documents, including emails and phone records, from the start of the campaign onward. In response, a campaign staffer said that the Senate was “giving them too much credit” and that they “didn’t think about document retention.” If they destroyed these documents, staffers could face prison time. (26)
- Wealthy Americans and businesses are holding off on paying their taxes, hoping that they will pay less under a tax plan if they wait. Their actions are literally draining the Treasury and puts the United States at risk of not being able to pay its bills. (7)
- One of the main arguments against Planned Parenthood is that people can get care at community health clinics. However, as Planned Parenthood closes a third of their locations in Iowa because of legislation similar to what was just passed in Arizona, those community health clinics are left scrambling — with questions unanswered, services unfunded, and being asked to provide care that they used to refer patients to Planned Parenthood for, like long-acting contraception. (9)
- The owner of Johnson Utilities (a small utility company with only 20,000 customers), an ex-Corporation Commissioner (the governmental body that regulates utilities), a lobbyist, and an employee of Andy Biggs have all been indicted on bribery. The Arizona conservatives are accused of being bribed or helping to launder bribes, by the owner of Johnson Utility to allow him to raise rates. Some of those indicted helped get Doug Ducey and Andy Biggs elected. Sherry Pierce, one of those indicted, is now on administrative leave from Andy Biggs office, although the move was only made after it was reported that she was still working for him. (20)
- The unemployment rate is now at a 16 year low, down to 4.3%, but job creation is weak. This suggests that people are still exiting the workforce because they cannot find a job that matches their abilities. Trump’s budget includes a lot of draconian measures designed to make life so hard for people on assistance that they go get jobs. The problems facing America are wage stagnation, under employment, and a lack of properly trained candidates. Trump’s budget does nothing to address these problems. (11)
- Senate candidate, and Muslim woman, Deedra Abboud, was protested by alt-right members this week. The group proclaimed that they were against non-white and non-Christians in Government and also proclaimed that they were pro-masculinity and anti-woman… if you see the neckbeards on these guys you get the impression that they don’t know a whole lot of women. However, this is a startling reminder of the fringe beliefs in our nation and we must fight to protect our American values: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and equality for all. (16)
- In a really bizarre series of events, a Texas lawmaker first called ICE on protesters in the gallery of the state house, then threatened to shoot fellow lawmakers when they opposed him. The skirmish happened on the last day of the legislative session in Texas while they were debating a ban on sanctuary cities (which passed but immediately was challenged by a lawsuit.) Protesters in the gallery started to get loud, and police were called in to escort them out. Republican Representative Mike Rinaldi claimed had signs claiming they were illegal immigrants, but other lawmakers disagreed. (28)