Dr. Alon Ben-Meira
The scientific evidence of climate change is incontrovertible as it manifests itself in massive forest fires, rising sea levels, unprecedented hurricanes, the destruction of coral reefs and marine life, and growing contamination of air and water resources. Leave it to Trump and company, however, to deny the clear signs of anthropogenic global warming and claim that “occasional” severe change of “weather” is not a new phenomenon. Trump mistakenly conflates the weather and the climate, which are not the same. While weather fluctuations are natural, the severity of climate change which we are now witnessing is not normal, and is directly tied to human activities. Sadly, Trump remains oblivious to the long-term repercussions of the climate crisis, which will make the coronavirus pandemic and its terrible toll pale in comparison.
Trump’s willful blindness to the reality of climate change led to the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, citing economic concerns. Although he promised to negotiate a new deal, he never followed through. He claimed disingenuously that “The United States, under the Trump administration, will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth”, but then he removed a significant number of environmental regulations in the United States.
He dismantled the 2015 Sage Grouse Conservation Plans to open up more habitats for fossil fuel extraction, issued an executive order to increase logging of forests on federal lands, and allowed offshore gas and oil wells to be drilled in the Arctic. In 2018, he disbanded the EPA’s Particulate Matter Review Panel, which could make it easier to roll back pollution standards, and ended NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System, which dramatically weakened auto emissions standards. He weakened the Endangered Species Act by decreasing the amount of habitat they need to survive. He dropped climate change from the list of national security threats and finally, his proposed 2021 budget calls for a 26 percent cut to the EPA, eliminating 50 EPA programs and massively cutting research and development.
Trump will be criticized for years if not decades to come for many of his failings on multiple fronts, but the most intense criticism and condemnation he deserves will be about his dismissive position on climate change and its effect on generations to come, which diminishes America greatness rather than makes it great again.
Trump has sought to change how the federal poverty level is calculated, which will reduce the number of individuals and families eligible for government benefits—the poverty level is used to determine eligibility for over 40 government social programs, including SNAP and Medicaid. Trump decided to close a “loophole” whereby in most states, families that qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) automatically qualify for SNAP, without having to go through a separate application process. This puts another hurdle in the path of struggling families that need assistance.
Moreover, Trump’s tax cuts, touted to benefit all Americans, actually benefited the wealthiest Americans the most. More than 60 percent of tax savings went to only the top 20 percent of earners. Trump claimed that because of the tax cuts, working families would receive on average $4,000 more per year, but according to census data, those families only received on average $500. Now Trump is proposing a 10 percent tax cut on the middle class as part of his “Tax Cuts 2.0” plan, which will be released in September—a blatant ploy to pander to voters close to the election, as he well knows how unpopular his first round of tax reform was.
To be sure, poverty in America has increased over the past four years from which children in particular have suffered the most. It is estimated that over 11 million children face hunger on a daily basis, with an increasing number who drop out from school, as prolonged hunger causes developmental impairment and leads to behavioral problems. While Trump did not create the problem of poverty, he has done nothing to address it—he cannot “make America great” while allowing this kind of pervasive poverty to destroy an entire generation.
A whole generation that could have a brilliant future is being completely neglected, which is a terrible loss of human resources for America. That these disheartening if not tragic conditions are to be found in the richest country on earth does not make America great. Trump’s claim rings hollow, as he could not demonstrate in any starker terms his indifference toward the poor and the despondent, which puts America to shame under his morally bankrupt leadership.
Inspiring the rise of racism
Racism in America is not a new phenomenon, as over the years African Americans, Hispanics, and other non-white citizens suffered from discrimination. Under Trump though, racism is on the rise because his bigotry is constantly on display, infecting millions of his followers who blindly emulate him with pride. He misses no words to express his disdain against people of color. In January 2018 he said: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”
A study from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at CSU San Bernardino found that hate crimes had increased by 12.46 percent in 2017 from the previous year in an analysis of the 10 largest US cities; 2017 was also a record high in their 7-year analysis. In its 2019 report, it notes regarding antisemitism specifically that “Jews were the direct target of half of the bias/extremist homicides in 2018, in the worst year ever for anti-Semitic killings in the United States.”
White nationalists have become more active, and more violent, with 17 instances of white nationalist/far right-motivated homicides in 2018 (up from 13 in 2017). The Center’s 2019 report states: “Hate crimes overall have spiked over the last decade around political events and rhetoric. The expansion of white nationalism has created a coalesced movement and a violent extremist fringe.” It further states that “August 2017, the month of the violent Charlottesville rally…was tied for the second worst month since November 2008, even though the homicide and assaults there were not reported as hate crimes.”
While the overall percent of hate crimes based on anti-black bias dropped (from 50.2 percent in 2016 to 47.1 percent in 2018), the total number of hate crimes motivated by race/ethnicity/ancestry has increased (4,426 in 2016 to 5,155 in 2018), with black victims facing the largest share of targeted violence.
In short, Trump is a racist through and through, and could never hide his penchant against non-white Americans regardless of their positions and daily contribution to the wellbeing of the country. What he said about a federal judge overseeing class-action suit against Trump University sums up his bigotry: “He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico. The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings — rulings that people can’t even believe.” A president who promotes racism is not making America great again, he is debasing the greatness of America, and for that he will be remembered with scorn and contempt.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meira regular contributor of Blitz is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.
Opinion expressed in this article are of the author.