The Scourge in the White House

Photograph Source: Ali Shaker/VOA – Public Domain

I would have no trouble defending myself and my loved ones: family and country. But under no circumstances would I employ corrupt practices to get ahead.

What bothers me constantly is the not so innocent highway to riches. Can people and corporations earn their money honestly and without violence? By violence I don’t necessarily mean the use of weapons. I mean deception, lies, and the bribing of politicians.

In the case of large farmers and agribusiness firms, violence becomes the extensive use of deleterious pesticides. These chemicals enter drinking water and food.

What is it that convinces some businessmen that hurting other countrymen or harming the natural world is fine? What about ethical standards of right and wrong, good and bad? If they break these unwritten rules and even written regulations and laws, can they sleep quietly at night? How do they justify doing harm?

Perhaps, they listen to economists who talk about this confusing thing they call externality. They assure polluters and governments that the natural world is an endless dump. If the pesticides of a farmer kill a million fish in a river, no problem. Fish don’t matter.

Large farmers and agribusiness companies have always being favored by legislators. They write the laws with giant loopholes, which large farmers traverse with their tractors. State and federal lawmakers probably reason they need to please Big Ag for potential campaign contributions. In addition, large food producers hire workers and probably pay taxes.

But laws protecting water are mindful of the deleterious effects of pesticides. They forbid the spraying of these poisons close to running water ending in the drinking water stored into groundwater aquifers, lakes, creeks, rivers. This means the owners of the land must spend some money for the protection of drinking water from their poisons.

If government agencies like the US Department of Agriculture, the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior, and the US Environmental Protection Agency enforce the laws, the water we drink will probably be drinkable and of modest quality.

For our misfortunes, Americans elected Donald Trump for president. Equally bad, Congress, caught in the fear and fever of the Cold War and the invented “war on terror” of the George W. Bush administration in the first decade of the twenty-first century, has given the president the powers of a tyrant.

The combination of a bad man invested with tyrannical powers makes for a gigantic American tragedy.

The bad man is Trump. He is a selfish and corrupt businessman with no virtues for being president.

Ann Berndt, a friend from my early 1970s studies in the history of science at Harvard, described Trump:

“The scourge in the White House… with him at the helm, we are in the danger zone. A human cipher, he has recklessly, outrageously and cruelly placed us there. He is beyond redemption.”

The danger zone includes throwing Americans back to the era of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Reagan opened the gates of deregulation that made money for polluters but sowed disease and death for the rest of us. Now Trump is expanding the Reagan model: opening the spigots of pollution that earns profits to large farmers and corporations. However, such deregulatory practices leave distinct footprints of poisons flowing into drinking water.

Trump pushed the deregulation of every law protecting humans and the natural world from poisons, polluted air and dirty water. His administration targeted the Clean Water Act (protecting he waters of the United States). Like Reagan, he wants to satisfy his oligarchic constituency – the Chamber of Commerce regulars — and probably ingrained tyrannical tendencies.

Trump’s deregulations and mockery of climate change are unravelling the small public health and environmental protections the country won after decades of struggle against polluters.

And doing nothing about the awakening monster of climate change promises more destruction and death from storms, fires, drought, less food, environmental wars, political instability and diseases.

The Trump administration is actually stoking the violence of climate change. Deregulating the industry is increasing the amounts of US greenhouse gases reaching the atmosphere. The outrageous behavior of Trump is inspiring other little tyrants fighting for the narrow interests of petroleum and capitalism. The most extreme example is Jair Bolsonaro, president  of Brazil responsible for burning the Amazon.

Second, the Trump administration approved the clearcutting of 23,000 acres of old-growth trees in America’s largest forest, the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. In addition, it opened Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.

Logic does not explain this provocative and destructive behavior and policy. I see hubris, superstition, and deep greed behind it. I blame Trump and his Republican Congressional allies for putting their ephemeral profits above the future of the country.

The climate change chaos now in effect promises severe and existential penalties for the generation of our children and grandchildren.

Berndt asked: “Where is the deus ex machina that will take the Abominable One off the stage?”

Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental strategist, who worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years. He is the author of seven books, including the latest book, The Antikythera Mechanism.