Home Authors Posts by Dawn Allen
One of the problems with news and newslike coverage in the media these days is one-sidedness. Slant has been with us for a long time, but in an era of Fake News and Alternative Facts, it's taken on a more important role in the way people perceive and interact with the world. People easily fall into echo chambers, populated entirely by peers and media outlets who share their worldview. A lack of dissent, coupled with reinforcement of existing beliefs, surely comforts, but comes at a cost. Not challenging yourself to consider new or opposing ideas means possibly missing out on important truths. Truths which, in a changing world, become ever more crucial for good decision-making and creation of policy. To step out of the echo chamber and think more critically, we should adopt the accounting concept of the balance sheet.
As drillers (and veterans) reconverge at Standing Rock to build (and protest) the Dakota Access pipeline, toxic spills (and their costs) once again inspire public outcry. Native people rightfully worry about the integrity of their land and water. After all, on January 30th, another Enbridge pipeline burst in Texas (for the second time since it opened in 2016). This one spewed 600,000 gallons of crude; what will a similar spill do to the Missouri river? Pipelines fail, and it's not a matter of if but when. Leaky pipelines, train derailments, and other accidents endanger all of our water on a regular basis.
On January 20th, Donald Trump stood up in front of the entire country (or at least those who showed up) and stated that “from this day forward, it's going to be only America First. America First!” He'll pull the United States out of free trade deals in order to promote the employment of American workers. He'll enact restrictions that seal our borders, directly or indirectly, keeping out the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. He'll build a bigger, better border wall between the United States and Mexico. Then, he'll heavily tax companies that locate overseas to take advantage of wage arbitrage, such as the Trump Organization, the Ivanka Trump Collection and Melania Trump's QVC jewelry. But can we put America First while simultaneously Making America Great Again? I'm not so sure.
Why do small government advocates love the REINS act, which forces Congress to micromanage? Perhaps because it allows business to externalize more costs. The “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny” Act of 2017 would require Congress to individually approve any new regulations with “an annual effect on the economy of $100,000,000 or more.” Remember, Congress can't regularly agree on much of anything, including passing a budget. Assigning them the task of micromanaging every agency's regulatory interpretation is ridiculous. It seems set up to fail, but there's a reason for that. Both chambers would have only 70 days to pass the rules in question, or the rules expire. Rather than a Congress that micromanages them, “freedom” advocates are hoping for a government that doesn't govern at all.
Think back to 1999. That year, we saw the Senate open impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. Unemployment was 4.2%. And in Seattle, a motley collection of unions, consumer protection groups, labor rights advocates, environmentalists gathered in protest of the WTO. The World Trade Organization, remember, advocated for free trade and globalization. Protesters worried about unemployment, unsafe imports, pollution, and other traditionally liberal fears clashed with cops in riot gear. The police, so beloved by authoritarians, busily defended corporate interests. Corporations that, for their part, gutted the American heartland and sent the jobs overseas. Liberals tried to tell us. Middle America rolled their eyes. Did we listen? Not a chance. Free Trade would make goods cheaper at Wal*Mart. Those protesters were dirty hippies that needed a shower.
It was one of the rallying cries of the recent election season, and so many others. Government, folks say, should act like a business. Businesses are inherently better and more efficient, and gosh darn it, people like them. That's one reason Americans hired a “successful” businessman to turn government around. All of this sounds really reasonable, too, if you don't think too much about the details. Unfortunately, those details are where the proverbial devil resides.
If you view the U.S. as blessed by God, yet falling into decline due to liberals, Pence is your guy. Leviticans support the GOP because the GOP throws them legislative bones often enough to secure their allegiance. Promises to repeal Roe v. Wade alone have bound the evangelical base to the Republican party long enough to push through legislation congenial to corporate interests. Is the Muslim ban another prize meant to keep the coalition together despite the decidedly unChristian behavior of President Trump? Or was it an invention of Steve Bannon, to further polarize the electorate? Either way, strange times are afoot. One can only hope that enough of the Leviticans remember Leviticus 19:33-34.
Last week, Trump's executive order banning Muslims from selected countries from entering the U.S. captured headlines around the world. The Muslim ban provoked outrage from protesters, despair among refugees, general indignity, and sanctuary offers from Canada's Justin Trudeau. Along with other xenophobic promises such as the Mexican border wall, the Muslim ban surely energizes his political base. However, is there more to these plans than meets the eye?
A week ago today, thousands of women and their allies were preparing to protest. Some were putting the finishing touches on their signs. Some were already on board buses headed across the country. The next day, from Washington D.C. to Antarctica, women marched peacefully, to show their solidarity with each other. They marched to show their disdain for misogyny. They marched to be counted and heard. But will their efforts amount to real change? It depends upon what happens after the march. While many people perceive protest marches as an exercise in democracy, that may be the wrong way to think about them. Protests are about consuming democracy. What matters more is the production of democracy.
Well, the inauguration is over, Trump is in power, and we're all waiting to see what comes next. His supporters are cheering, but will they get what they wanted? By many accounts, what Trump supporters want are jobs. Tax savings for the middle/working class. Health care they can afford. Dignity. Returning to what they see as the glory days of America, when even a man without a college degree could make a family wage. At his rallies and in his inauguration speech, Trump echoed Middle America's hopes and fears right back at them. He made them feel heard and gave them hope: the hope and change that they craved. Will Trump's supporters be disappointed? It's hard to tell so early into an administration, especially one as radically different as the current President's. However, it may be worthwhile to examine his first acts as President for clues about his goals.