As questions about the legitimacy of the Trump presidency continue to emerge, the president-elect and his team are plowing forward with some astonishing choices to lead our federal agencies.
From Departments of Energy and State to Housing, Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), almost every cabinet nominee is on the record in direct opposition to the core purpose of the agency they've been tapped to lead. These choices from Team Trump border on the absurd. They are also deeply irresponsible — and dangerous.
Case in point: Scott Pruitt
The nomination for EPA head is a clear example of this disturbing trend. As attorney general for Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt led several lawsuits against the agency's Clean Power Plan on behalf of the oil and gas industry, including submitting letters — on state letterhead — that had been penned by industry executives.
He has also actively worked to roll back EPA rules protecting clean air and water, and to undercut legal efforts of public interest groups (including PAN) to press EPA to fully implement its mission to protect public health and the environment.
Pruitt refers to climate change as a "tremendous dispute" among scientists, despite the clear consensus among the vast majority of climate researchers that our fossil fuel-based economy is driving us toward climate chaos. On his LinkedIn page, he calls himself "a leading advocate" against the agency he has now been called to serve.
Former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman, who served under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, said this about Trump's pick:
I don't recall ever having seen an appointment of someone that is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does."
Mr. Pruitt is clearly unfit to lead EPA, an agency which was established by President Nixon and has historically had strong bi-partisan support. The Senate must step up and block this wildly inappropriate nomination.
Billionaires in charge
A nominee for USDA has yet to be announced, and current Ag Secretary Vilsack is said to be wondering if Trump forgot that the agency exists. Given the track record of transition picks so far (Exxon's CEO to lead the State Dept? Really?), we might expect top brass from Monsanto or DuPont to be tapped to lead the agency charged with supporting farmers and rural communities.
That would neatly fit the profile of the other cabinet picks from Team Trump so far: Vigorously oppose rules geared to protect the public good? Check. Benefit from continued investment in the fossil fuel industry (and thus, deny the reality of — or oppose action on — climate change)? Check. Firmly ensconced in the 1% billionaire class? Check.
In fact, the proposed Trump cabinet boasts more billionaires than any in history — and this from a candidate who ran as an economic populist, promising to "drain the swamp" in Washington, DC. If these cabinet picks are confirmed, our government agencies — established to protect the public interest — will be firmly controlled by the corporate class, whose top interest is maximizing short term profits.
The rest of us are barely even on the radar.
No more pretense
We know corporations already have more power in Washington, DC than they should; Monsanto's influence over EPA's review of their flagship herbicide glyphosate is just the latest example. But the emerging Trump cabinet is different.
The incoming administration is looking to simply hand control of federal agencies to the corporations our government is supposed to rein in on behalf of the rest of us (and the planet). Here's 350.org leader Bill McKibben in a recent interview:
There's a certain clarity about this moment that we haven't had before . . . Now all pretense is gone. It's entirely clear what and who is in the driver's seat."
Urge your Senators to block Pruitt's EPA nomination, and push back against the corporate takeover of our public agencies. For President Roosevelt, it was "a chicken in every pot." For Team Trump? Looks like it'll be a fox in every henhouse instead.