Trump Unleashes Cultural Shift Among America's Business Leaders
One of the biggest impacts of President Trump's election is not the direct damage he may do—but the cultural shift he has unleashed among American business leaders. Assaults on decency and health that would have been unthinkable a few months ago are now the expected response by corporate executives pressured by short-term market pressures and right-wing political allies.
Let's be clear. American business is at risk of plunging into a race to the bottom—not only must Americans resist Trump directly, they must resist the culture of law-breaking and recklessness he is trying to trigger.
One of the most spectacular examples is only a few hundred miles from the White House, in Charleston, West Virginia. The state led the nation in mining deaths in 2016 and has already seen two deaths in 2017; but in spite of this grim history the coal industry has proposed the complete elimination of state health and safety regulations and inspections in the West Virginia coal mines. This in a state where, only a few months ago, a federal appellate court upheld a prison sentence for Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for his role in a mining catastrophe that killed 29 miners in Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine, the direct result of poor enforcement of safety standards.
The West Virginia Gazette summed up the bill: "The heart of the legislation is a section that simply eliminates the ability of state mine safety office inspectors to issue notices of violation or levy fines for mine operators or coal companies for any safety hazards unless they can prove there is an 'imminent danger' of death or serious physical harm." If the coal industry has its way the much overblown Obama "War on Coal" will be replaced by a stealthy, Trump inspired "War on Coal Miners."
The coal industry has long enjoyed a reputation for callousness. But the new mood exemplified by President Trump has spread to companies that invest a lot of resources in portraying themselves as responsible, sustainable corporate citizens. Take Monsanto.
The company has been engaged in a high stakes effort to maintain its ability to market its Roundup brand of herbicide in spite of mounting evidence that it's safety is uncertain at best. When Roundup's active ingredient was listed as a probably human carcinogen under California's Proposition 65 (disclosure: I co-authored it 30 years ago), Monsanto sued, claiming that it was a violation of the constitution to require the company to inform users and others exposed of the view of international science bodies of its risks.
A California court shot the lawsuit down, commenting that there was no plausible basis for the company's claim that making the company inform the public it was selling them a potentially dangerous chemical was unconstitutional. Then, when Monsanto argued that the documents on the basis of which the judge had ruled against it be kept secret, the judge threatened the company with sanctions and required the documents to be released.
It became clear why Monsanto wanted the documents sealed. The revealed a sordid history of the company's efforts to keep Roundup's real risks a secret, including apparent collusion with regulatory staff inside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to head off further research into its dangers.
Monsanto's response? Embarrassment? Hardly. The company proclaimed that it would continue to appeal the case. It insists that Roundups users and other exposed were not entitled to know that international agencies had found that the herbicide was a probable human carcinogen.
Companies are clearly being enticed by the Trump administration in particular the cabinet, with the promise that a new culture of impunity and indifference is being let loose. One of the first of President Obama's regulatory initiatives to be rolled back was a simple one that discouraged federal contracts from being awarded to companies that had violated federal labor laws.
As I've pointed out, even America's auto industry, rescued in 2009 by a combination of public funding and innovation supporting efficiency regulations, now wants permission to fall behind again as the global auto market moves towards efficiency and electrification. Detroit eagerly grabbed when Trump offered to weaken fuel economy and emission fuels for 2018-2022. Leader's like General Motor's Mary Barra who only months ago were pinning their corporate brand and future on the company's pioneering BOLT electric car, have now joined in rejecting the regulatory certainty that functioned as the market guarantor of the BOLT's future.
Detroit begged for this roll-back in spite of warning from investor voices like Ceres that weakened standards puts the industry's key stakeholders at risk. Suspending the rules "would harm auto parts suppliers, who employ two and a half times more Americans than auto companies and who, relying on current standards, have invested heavily in fuel savings technologies," said Carol Lee Rawn, transportation director at Ceres. "When consumers save money on gas, they spend more on local goods and services, which benefits businesses, jobs and the U.S. economy."
Business cannot be permitted to hide behind the excuse that Trump somehow made them change their values and behavior or that in supporting regulatory roll-backs they won't actually do anything bad, even though they are now allowed to. When an allegedly responsible company urges government to open the door to bad actors, it is guilty for the harm which results, even if other companies do the direct damage.
Trump talked a lot about "law and order." It ought to apply to business as well.
By Stacy Malkan
Neil deGrasse Tyson has inspired millions of people to care about science and imagine themselves as participants in the scientific process. What a hopeful sign it is to see young girls wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the words, "Forget princess, I want to be an astrophysicist."
As Trevor Noah noted during The Daily Show episode last night (starts at 2:25), the real reason Trump has these rallies is to "get back in front of his loyal crowds and feed of their energy." Noah believes that "Trump supporters are so on board with their dude he can say anything and they'll come along for the ride."
By Katie O'Reilly
Two years ago—long before coal became one of the most dominant and controversial symbols of the 2016 presidential election—Bloomberg Philanthropies approached production company RadicalMedia with the idea of creating a documentary exploring the U.S. coal mining industry. Last spring, they brought on Emmy-nominated director Michael Bonfiglio, tasked with forging a compelling story out of the multitudes of facts, statistics and narratives underlying the declining industry.
The Sierra Club released a new analysis Friday that found that transitioning all 1,400+ U.S. Conference of Mayors member-cities to 100 percent clean and renewable electricity will significantly reduce electric sector carbon pollution nationwide and help the U.S. towards meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
Watch above as Newsy explains that the decision comes despite serious concerns from the environmental and scientific community, and Tribal Nations about a declining, isolated grizzly bear population with diminishing food resources and record-high mortalities.
By Francine Kershaw
Seismic airguns exploding in the ocean in search for oil and gas have devastating impacts on zooplankton, which are critical food sources for marine mammals, according to a new study in Nature. The blasting decimates one of the ocean's most vital groups of organisms over huge areas and may disrupt entire ecosystems.
And this devastating news comes on the heels of the National Marine Fisheries Service's proposal to authorize more than 90,000 miles of active seismic blasting. Based on the results of this study, the affected area would be approximately 135,000 square miles.
By Jill Richardson
Is coconut oil:
- good for you
- bad for you
- neither good nor bad
- scientists don't know
The subject of this question is the source of a disagreement. Initially, the question was thought to be settled decades ago, when scientist Ancel Keys declared all saturated fats unhealthy. Coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, is a saturated fat.