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While Exploding Military Spending, Trump Budget Eviscerates Funding for EPA, Healthcare and More
By Julia Conley
Nearly two dozen federal programs and agencies are in danger of losing funding under President Donald Trump's 2019 budget proposal, released Monday. The proposed cuts will potentially result in drastic changes to social welfare programs and other government efforts to improve the lives of working people across the country as well as those in impoverished nations.
While programs heralded by progressives may be in peril, the budget calls for a 13 percent increase in spending by the military, up from the Pentagon's 2017 level of spending. The president is asking for $686 billion in defense spending—$80 billion more than the Pentagon currently receives for its bloated and unaccountable budget.
"When our nation can't manage to turn the lights on for the people of Puerto Rico, when we can't help those suffering from opioid addiction get treatment, and when we can't ensure education and healthcare to all of our citizens, how is it possible we can justify spending billions more on weapons that don't work to fight enemies that don't exist?" said Stephen Miles, head of the peace group Win Without War in a statement last week, ahead of the budget release.
Below are some of the initiatives that the president is asking Americans to sacrifice while ramping up military spending.
International Reproductive Health Aid
As part of the anti-choice global gag order the president reinstated to bar health organizations that rely on federal funding from providing abortion care and counseling, the administration is requesting new investments in family planning efforts, "with an emphasis on evidence-based methods, including fertility awareness"—suggesting funding for contraceptives in impoverished countries will be slashed.
"This budget confirms that Trump and his cronies in his White House of ill-repute are hell-bent on substituting religious dogma for evidence and that the gratuitous cruelty of their first year can be expected in the second as well," said Brian Dixon of the Population Connection Action Fund.
Department of Education (DOE)
The president is requesting a 10.5 percent decrease in funding for the DOE. The budget would eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and reduce the number of income-based loan repayment plans offered. Meanwhile, more than $1 billion would be spent on private school vouchers, charter schools and other initiatives that shift funding away from public schools.
The president is proposing eliminating federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the non-profit which helps finance PBS and NPR, over a two-year period.
The budget cut would likely be rebuked by much of the U.S. population. On Monday PBS released the results of a survey that found that Americans ranked the organization as the number-one most trusted public institution in the country.
"PBS, our 350 member stations and our legions of local supporters will continue to remind leaders in Washington of the significant benefits the public receives in return for federal funding, a modest investment of about $1.35 per citizen per year," PBS President Paula Kerger said in a statement.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The president's budget proposal would bring funding for the EPA to its lowest level since 1990, with a 34 percent reduction in spending from 2017. Funding cuts for climate change research, the Environmental Education Program, and programs that protect American waters from pollution are among those that will be made.
"President Trump's budget is nothing short of devastating for all Americans who value clean air, safe drinking water and protected public lands," said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. "Congress must reject it, and instead invest in a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous future for everyone."
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Under the proposed budget, the Trump administration would cut the budget for SNAP benefits by about 27 percent and would dictate the food that low-income households are able to purchase using the benefits, also known as food stamps. About half of a family's monthly benefits would come in the form of a box of pre-selected food, including "shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables," according to the budget.
"They have managed to propose nearly the impossible, taking over $200 billion worth of food from low-income Americans while increasing bureaucracy and reducing choices," Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, told NPR.
Medicare and Medicaid
Hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid are also included in the budget. On social media, critics summed up the president's plan as consistent with the tax law he signed in December—with sacrifices coming from working families as the wealthy benefit.
"Donald Trump has proposed a federal budget that steals from working families to pay for his massive $1.5 trillion tax cut that largely benefits the wealthy and big corporations," said Frank Clemente, executive director for Americans for Tax Fairness, in a statement. "He's taking away health care from seniors, food from families, college loans for the next generation, and support for people with disabilities to benefit the fortunate few."
To the extent the proposals reach Congress, Clemente added, lawmakers "should reject the Trump budget and create a tax system that makes the rich and corporations pay their fair share so we can invest in all Americans, not take from them."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Natural Resources Defense Council.
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By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.