While much attention has been paid to Confederate statues and preserving other monuments to traitors, slavery, and revisionist history, there has been real work afoot in Washington. And it isn’t pretty, as the gremlins of opaqueness and cronyism have been burning the midnight oil while the public’s attention has been focused on a president’s petulant feuds with just about everyone except Lassie.
Over at the dubiously named Environmental Protection Agency, the leader is Scott Pruitt, who is to environmental protection what Vesuvius was to urban renewal.
Irony abounds. Before moving to Washington, Pruitt served as Oklahoma’s attorney general and sued the EPA more than a dozen times. The climate change denier proudly bragged he was the leading advocate against the EPA’s “activist agenda,” which presumably was preoccupied with protecting the environment.
At the EPA, Pruitt has reduced staff, closed offices, and exiled scientists who believe in climate change to backwater bean-counting jobs. He has steadily transformed an agency once widely regarded for its transparency into a coven of locked doors and secrecy that makes SPECTRE look like the Welcome Wagon.
The New York Times reported that Pruitt has retreated behind closed doors and is accompanied by armed guards even inside the EPA headquarters. Employees are required to be escorted by security on the rare occasions they meet with Pruitt, when they must surrender their cellphones and are not permitted to take notes.
Last May, while ostensibly in Chicago to visit a hazardous waste site, Pruitt never bothered to notify the regional EPA office that he was in town.
Pruitt’s EPA also has moved to roll back clean-water regulations and has eliminated some 1,900 pages from the agency’s website on a variety of environmental topics, including climate change data. It rejected the advice of staff scientists to keep banning the pesticide Chlorpyrifos, which had been used in agriculture for apples, oranges, and other fruits. The pesticide has been banned since 2000, after scientific studies concluded Chlorpyrifos contributed to lower IQs and other developmental problems among agricultural workers and their children.
Pruitt told farm industry executives that blowing off the expertise of the scientific community marked “a new day, a new future.” Does that new day and new future also include generations of farmworkers with a third ear growing out of their foreheads?
Meanwhile, over at the Federal Communications Commission, the new chairman, Ajit Pai, has been in bed in bed with the industry he is supposed to regulate. Pai has stymied a program for broadband subsidies for low-income families and is rolling back net neutrality rules that assured equal access to Internet traffic to all consumers.
Pai’s cozy relationship to Sinclair Broadcasting Group, one of the nation’s biggest owners of television stations, is equally troubling. Before he was even sworn in as FCC chairman, Pai had several meetings with top Sinclair executives. Within days after assuming leadership of the FCC, Pai relaxed FCC rules governing the sharing of revenues and other resources, a policy change championed by Sinclair.
More important, Pai’s FCC is expected to approve a massive $3.9 billion merger by Sinclair with Tribune Media. The deal would allow Sinclair, with its ultraconservative political philosophy, to grow from an already robust 173 television stations to 215 stations. The merger would expand Sinclair’s reach into seven out of every 10 American homes. That may not be a monopoly, but it comes pretty close. And it is a reach Sinclair is not shy about exploiting with a history of pushing its stations to air canned pro-Republican conservative content.
While the nation might have been riveted to a White House that is more dysfunctional than the Willy Loman household, agencies like the EPA and the FCC have been systematically dismantling rules and regulations to protect the public from pollution and corporate media abuses.
Where’s the outrage? Could it be there’s too much to choose from?
© 2017 Tampa Bay Times