Editorial: Failing the people and the planet

Friday, October 13, 2017

The sadistic Roman emperor Nero supposedly fiddled while Rome burned. While California burns, Trump tweets.

He threatened to pull the license of a television network, attacked a sports anchor who criticized him, insulted the Republican senator who heads the Foreign Relations Committee and undercut his secretary of state by threatening North Korea yet again. And that’s just a sample of his daily outbursts that help justify the description of the White House as “an adult daycare center.”

If there’s something wrong or stupid that could be done, this president and his administration will find it and do it.

With the nation reeling from one natural disaster to another, all almost certainly worsened by climate change, Trump and his team stepped up their attack on Obama-era rules designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming.

Earlier this week, Trump told Scott Pruitt, the climate-change denier he picked to head the Environmental Protection Agency, to begin the repeal of Clean Power Plan regulations created to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants.

He told his interior secretary to scrap limits on drilling for gas and oil in the Arctic. His administration’s budget calls for opening the Arctic, including Alaska’s pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – one of the last unspoiled places in the nation – to drilling.

His energy secretary, former Texas governor Rick Perry, is fighting to prop up a coal industry whose days are numbered.

Though the death toll in California is still rising and its fires raging, Trump’s proposed budget calls for cutting federal funding for volunteer fire departments. It cuts the budget of the interior department, which includes the forest service, by more than one-fifth.

More than three-quarters of Puerto Rico is still without power, and people in remote areas still without food or water. The administration’s response was slow, and it’s still inadequate.

Meanwhile, without a massive infusion of federal funds the island’s government, which serves 3.4 million American citizens, will run out of money by the end of this month. Trump went to Puerto Rico and threw rolls of paper towels to citizens. On his inevitable trip to California, what will he toss to disaster victims, squirt guns?

Trump’s team has yet to nominate candidates for more than 150 jobs that require Senate confirmation, making it the slowest administration to fill key positions in modern history. They are not “make-work” jobs. Most are crucial to the conduct of a good government.

On Wednesday the president flew to Harrisburg, Pa., to plug his plan for tax cuts that most experts say will increase the national debt and primarily benefit the rich. Meanwhile, the estimated bill for disaster relief and the rebuilding of Puerto Rico, portions of Texas and Florida damaged by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and soon to mitigate the devastation in California and other Western states swept by wildfire continues to grow. The bill for Puerto Rico alone could top $90 billion.

The hotter the oceans, which absorb more than 90 percent of the heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases, the more furious the hurricanes spawned by that heat. The warmer the water, the more it expands, the faster glaciers melt and the more sea levels rise.

The oceans are warming at an alarming rate, especially the waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The actions of Trump and his team will speed that warming, which will do more damage and claim more lives.

The Trump administration is failing. Let’s hope that it doesn’t do so with a bang, somewhere in North Korea.