As part of a coalition of public interest organizations working toward a responsible federal budget that protects people and the planet, I released the following statement on President Trump’s reckless budget proposal that guts the EPA, eliminates federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, and more.
“The president’s ‘skinny budget’ is a particularly apt description for a proposal that would leave crucial protector agencies too emaciated to safeguard our health, safety and environment. Whether it’s pipeline inspectors to protect our land and water from oil spills, or workplace safety inspectors to ensure our family members return home safely from their jobs, or environmental inspectors to prevent air pollution and toxic chemical disasters, many agencies simply don’t have sufficient resources to conduct the level of enforcement needed to safeguard all Americans. Slashing their budgets even further would be the height of irresponsibility, and Congress should reject Trump’s proposal and give agencies the resources they need to police corporate special interests that cannot be trusted to police themselves.”
As for the rest of us, it’s more important than ever that we remain vigilant about the Distracter-in-Chief’s strategy here. Extremists in Congress have been proposing drastic budget cuts for years, but their proposals were positioned alongside a president’s budget that reflected the real costs of faithfully executing and enforcing our nation’s laws. No longer. President Trump’s first budget is an obvious and simplistic ploy designed to shift the frame of the debate. By proposing cuts so far outside the realm of what’s reasonable, he is hoping to breathe life into the extremist budget proposals that were DOA just this time last year.
Even as the frame shifts, there may be room for hope if we can focus on what these numbers really mean. Drastic cuts to enforcement budgets will erode the rule of law, leaving individual members of the public, workers, public interest groups, and unions to try to enforce the law using the tools at their disposal. By the way, legislation has been introduced that would dull those tools. And starving the top-notch research programs at EPA, the Department of Energy, or other agencies will not stop climate change or create new coal seams – it will just make us less prepared for the future and eliminate good jobs for skilled scientists and the teams with whom they work. These agencies provide critical pieces of the framework upon which our society is built and safety nets for people who struggle along the way. They are already suffering from years of resource attrition. The frame-shifting strategy that the Trump administration’s budget sets into motion could result in a major restructuring of that social framework and safety net, one that future Congresses and presidents will have to work hard to repair.