Feeling Betrayed America’s Small Farmers Are Suing Trump

Over the course of the past few months there have been an increasing number of complaints from Trump supporters that they are feeling betrayed by both Trump and Republicans. But Trump, in particular, is the target of what has been up until now slowly simmering outrage.

Even before the dirty crook was installed in the White House, people with cognitive abilities higher than fungi knew that Trump’s supporters would be the first to feel the effects of “making America great” for corporations and the filthy rich.  Although they are a fairly small demographic, American farmers have been the primary recipients of Trump’s trade, immigration, and deregulatory policies that are threatening their livelihoods and in many cases their family farms existence.

This past week, a small “farmers think tank” in Nebraska actually did what other Trump supporters have been unable to do and filed a lawsuit against Trump’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its leader Sonny Perdue.

Like much of the despair among Trump supporters, the farmers are livid that two “Obama-era” rules specifically designed to protect the nation’s small farmers from giant corporations were eliminated to benefit four or five giant companies. It is no surprise that the farmers are now complaining that without the two “Obama-era” rules in place “we are [again] being exploited by giant corporate agriculture processing companies.”

The lawsuit was filed by the legal watchdog  Democracy Forward on behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) charging the USDA Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue “with arbitrary and capricious behavior” in rolling back the two rules. One of the rules would have made it easier for individual farmers to sue corporate giants for anti-competitive behavior. That particular rule was implemented after an eight-year “exhaustive investigation and negotiation” process by the Obama Administration specifically to aid tens-of-thousands of small family farms that were being systematically “ripped off” by big corporate agriculture.

The rules’ enactment took an eight year effort because of  “fierce resistance from big agriculture and its congressional allies that reject any kind of reform” that doesn’t enrich corporations. The main rule the corporations wanted eliminated simply made it easier for small farmers to sue for anti-competitive behavior that controlled prices and punished small farmers that dared complain they were being cheated.

In a move that shouldn’t surprise anyone, on same the day of Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration the White House announced it postponed the effective date of the new ag-rules by 60 days. Then it issued several other delays until October when USDA chief Perdue said there would be no more postponements because he just “arbitrarily” eliminated the rules. The USDA issued a statement saying “the agency’s action was consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order to reduce regulations.”

Instead of rules protecting about 200,000 small family farms, any legal disputes between the farmers and corporate agriculture will be adjudicated by an agency that works for large corporate agricultural processors to negotiate with brokers, fast-food and grocery chains. As noted by one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, what Trump’s USDA is doing is allowing corporations to police themselves; what poultry farmer Mike Weaver called “having the fox guard the henhouse.”

Another rule that defined which corporate actions are considered unfair, discriminatory or deceptive was also eliminated. Under the Trump USDA those disputes will be settled by the agency that works for the corporate agricultural processing operations. Obviously, the corporate-friendly agency will not find anything the corporate giants do to be “unfair, discriminatory or deceptive.”

Abolishing the rules to benefit 4 giant agricultural companies will have an adverse impact on “40,000 contract poultry farmers, 900,000 cattle ranchers, and 70,000 hog farmers in America’s heartland.” The group bringing the lawsuit said the current litigation “represents the tip of an iceberg of financial and emotional despair” being felt by America’s farmers. It is noteworthy that these are all “small, family-owned” farms who were fierce Trump supporters that are now so disillusioned that they had to file a lawsuit against their champion saying:

Where’s the support that you promised us? We voted for you because you were going to make things right, and it’s not happening.”

The despair among yet another segment of the agricultural community is a common refrain in Trump’s America. The ag community not only have not seen any support from their hero, they’ve seen only the negative consequences of electing a know-nothing imbecile who pandered to racists and nativists. Farmers across the nation  were already in dire straits due to Trump’s immigration policies that left many of their crops rotting in the fields because experienced field workers were too terrified of Trump’s immigration police to show up and harvest their crops.

An entirely different group of agricultural producers were sent into a panic when Trump pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that gave American farmers an advantage over every country’s agricultural producers on the planet. Now those farmers are left out of other “agreements” between America’s former trading partners and will be at a distinct global disadvantage because of Trump.

American farmers are also left out of trade deals with NAFTA-affiliated nations; especially Mexico. Just Trump’s talk of “renegotiating NAFTA” sent Mexico to implement its  “Plan B” and rapidly negotiate much better trade agreements with several other nations. American farmers were not included in any of the trade agreements and like pulling out of the TPP, many farmers who were anticipating growth are now in distress and wonder if they can even survive in Trump’s America.

Joe Maxwell is the executive director of OCM and he says this revocation of the rules has “threatened America’s family farmer’s livelihood.” And a representative of the National Farmers’ Union concurred saying, “The fear in the countryside on this is palpable.”

The poultry farmer who serves as president of the Contract Poultry Growers of the Virginias, Mike Weaver, says he is one of the “very lucky few” who came to poultry farming after a career as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; he is not dependent on his farm income to survive. However, Weaver pointed out that less than a quarter of his fellow small farmers enjoy the luxury of not depending on their farm income to survive.

Mr. Weaver said:

71 percent of small poultry farmers live beneath the poverty level. I’ve had guys in tears on the phone, telling me, ‘My farm has been in the family for five generations, and I’m about to lose it.’”

Look, it is a struggle to feel much empathy for the small farmers because they supported Trump despite his campaign pledge to erase regulations to set corporations free, change immigration policy to keep Mexicans out, and abandon the trade agreements that benefitted American farmers. Farmers knew that implementing any one of those policies would be devastating to their livelihoods and yet they voted for him enthusiastically. Now they are attempting to sue Trump’s USDA with a brand new crop of Trump judges ready to repay their lifetime appointments with dismissals of any lawsuit against Trump with prejudice.

It seems like every week there is a new group of Trump supporters complaining that they were betrayed and lied to by their hero in spite of being warned that Trump was lying and would betray them. Now they are getting exactly what they deserve. The rest of the population knew Trump was a corporate-friendly Republican and he did tell the gullible exactly how he was going to rape and pillage them while he lied that he was looking out for their best interests. It is a travesty that all Americans have to suffer the stupidity that drove Trump’s ascendancy to the White House and it is impossible to have any compassion whatsoever for his supporters’ woes. Maybe if it is painful enough they will wise up, but no American should hold their breath; the stupid is just too powerful in America.

Betsy DeVos Punishes Students Defrauded By For-Profit Schools

In another signal that corporations and businesses in Trump’s America are going to be allowed to rape and pillage without restrictions, and in many cases with government assistance, a report by an Education Department inspector general reveals that committing fraud is an accepted and worthwhile endeavor in the for-profit education business.

On Monday past, an inspector general reported that with a for-profit education crusader, Betsy DeVos, and a for-profit “fraudulent college” operator, Donald Trump running the government,  the process of “canceling student loan debt of the people who have been systematically defrauded by for-profit schools” has come to a screeching halt.

DeVos will not implement rules that aided defrauded students by speeding up the debt cancellation process to stop interest from accruing and destroying students and their family’s credit. DeVos claims she can’t help students because she is still looking for a means of “redoing” the debt cancellation  process that still lets failed and cheating for-profit schools off the hook. Under DeVos, none of the defrauded students have had their debt canceled despite tens-of –thousands of legitimate claims for relief.

Spending 10 months “seeking a means of redoing” the debt-cancelation process is code for DeVos intent to do nothing to help Americans cheated by the people she champions as education’s salvation; for profit schools. DeVos said canceling the debts creates a cost to taxpayers she claims shouldn’t be responsible for helping students cheated by for profit schools. The concept of holding the for-profit schools responsible for “breaking the law” and defrauding “hundreds-of-thousands” of students is simply out of the question. This is Trump’s America now and the people who were defrauded by for-profit schools have to be penalized and pay the price for being defrauded; the for-profit schools get to keep their very substantial profits.

DeVos has gone beyond just foregoing an Obama-era rule to aid a specific group of students cheated by “Corinthian Colleges,” a for-profit outfit that finally collapsed in 2015 after several federal and state investigations into the widespread fraud that touched an untold number of students. There are other “failed schools” guilty of defrauding students that, combined with the Corinthian organization, cheated “hundreds-of-thousands of students” who are left with rapidly accruing interest and loan fees damaging their credit, according to the Education Department inspector general.

In fact, because of DeVos’ inaction,  the defrauded students and their families will “ultimately owe more on a denied discharge than if they had not asked for cancellation and simply continued making payments” for a worthless education, the inspector said. The big problem for the defrauded students is that because their “education” is for all intents and purposes worthless, their job prospects are non-existent making outrageous loan payments  nearly impossible. It is why the “cancelation process” was put in place to begin with and it is also why many states have been pushing the DeVos-Trump education syndicate to cancel the loans.

Attorneys general from several states are attempting to pressure DeVos to help the defrauded students they rightly say “cannot afford to repay often-large amounts because the ‘for-profit’ schools DeVos champions either didn’t  provide adequate training much less an education or a diploma.” The inspector general also reported finding nothing in the DeVos Education Department resembling an “information system” and complained that he was forced to “manually retrieve claims data.” That is a change from the previous administration’s efforts to help students cheated by for-profit schools.

During the Obama Administration the Education Department received 46,274 claims for “discharging defrauded students’ loans” and had approved 27,986 in a six month period. Since Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration, out of 25,991 applications, DeVos made sure none were discharged. The Inspector General reported that the entire debt cancellation process, no matter over death, fraud or disability, was brought to a halt.

The senior Democrat on the senate education committee, Senator Patty Murray (WA) said:

Hundreds of thousands of students were defrauded and cheated by predatory colleges that broke the law, but today’s report confirms Secretary DeVos tried to shirk her responsibility to these students and shut down the borrower-defense program, leaving them with nowhere to turn.”

This atrocity, and it is an atrocity, is a trend in the current administration that is not completely down to Trump or DeVos, although they are ultimately responsible for this particular abomination. Republicans as a party have demonstrated that they will go to great lengths to give special treatment to big, small and corporate businesses at the expense of the people whether it is eliminating regulations or failing to enforce rules that protect the people, or fund corporate tax cuts with tax hikes on the poor.

There is an easy solution to this particular issue but Republicans, Trump, or DeVos will never even consider putting the burden students are facing on the “predatory, for-profit colleges that broke the law by defrauding and cheating students.” And it is not necessarily that DeVos is “shirking her responsibility to cheated students;” she doesn’t consider the students her responsibility. She is responsible to the church, misogynists, bigots and corporations and if they defraud students the students have to be penalized again.

DeVos has shown throughout her time as the most unqualified member of team Trump that her responsibility is to anti-women men’s groups, anti-LGBTQ religious fanatics, for-profit evangelical madrassas and church-chartered schools; and of course predatory for-profit colleges. If that wasn’t the case she would at the least allow the existing process to cancel the defrauded students’ debts as it was intended; but that would not punish the students.

DeVos’ lack of action does send a powerful message to for-profit schools, corporations, and businesses in general that in Trump’s America they are free to defraud, damage and cheat Americans with impunity; punishment is reserved for the victims as is the typical Republican way.  In DeVos’ case, punishing defrauded students appears to be an integral part of her intent of using the Education Department to “advance the kingdom of god.”

Pruitt To Scrap EPA Safety Rules Preventing Oil and Chemical Tank Disasters

 

By now it should be apparent that with Republicans running the government the oil and chemical industry have taken a leadership role in slashing regulations meant to protect the environment and the people. Whether it is the rush to approve and build dangerous oil pipelines over sensitive ecosystems, agriculturally-rich land or precious drinking water sources, Republicans are Hell-bent on giving big oil and chemical manufacturers anything they want without regard for the environment or the people’s health. Of course what they want is complete abolition of all safety and environmental regulations.

This week an environmental activist, Earth Justice, reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has spent valuable time and effort to developmodest but important” updates to safety regulations affecting industrial sites such as oil refineries and chemical manufacturers’ storage tanks.  The “updates” were approved by Congress less than a year ago and announced by the EPA at the end of 2016 during the waning days of the Obama Administration.

Those storage tanks require more robust rules than currently existed because like crude oil refinery fires in California, or a chemical leak in West Virginia two years ago, any kind of accident can affect the health and well-being of tens-of-thousands of nearby residents, facility employees, or first responders.

Despite the alarming frequency of these dangerous industrial accidents, with an oil and chemical industry shill running the EPA, the one-time “protection agency” proposes putting a halt to the improved rules for a year-and-a-half. During that 18 month “hold” on the EPA’s safety proposals, Earth Justice reports there will likely be about 300 toxic chemical releases that could have been prevented with what can only be considered very modest rule changes.

While the chemical and oil industry claim the new safety rules are overly burdensome, they are very minor, not costly, and protect workers and “fence-line communities” in and around the facilities. They basically call for “strengthening emergency preparedness and coordination with local first responders; requiring more thorough, prevention-focused investigations; and forcing plants with the worst accident records to consider implementing available safety precautions.”

Those protections are necessary and might have averted some catastrophic health and economic disasters that occurred prior to the EPA’s safety rule implementation. For example, during 10 years leading up to these rules, there were 1,500 chemical fires, releases or explosions at chemical facilities around the country caused over $2 billion in damage to property, and necessitated emergency evacuation or “shelter in place” orders for half a million people. And those preventable accidents led to 17,099 injuries and 58 Americans’ lost their lives.

Without the safety measures in place, there is certainly going to be more Americans affected by ruptures, leaks and explosions.  The bad news is that “at least one in three schoolchildren attends a school within the vulnerability zone” of a hazardous facility like a refinery or oil and chemical storage tanks. And what is a very telling statistic about who, among the millions of people who live under the threat of a toxic plume or chemical disaster, will be most impacted by a manmade and preventable disaster; “the communities most in harm’s way are Black, Latino and low-income people.

Those statistics represent an unacceptable amount of death and destruction in an advanced society. Particularly when a couple of preventative safety measures could have halted or reduced the level of destruction. What cannot possibly be known yet is how many Americans will succumb to cancer and other ailments that take years to manifest and could have been easily, and cheaply, prevented with simple safety measures.

Those mainly preventative and preparedness rules are too much for the chemical and oil industry to accept which is why Pruitt’s EPA put them on hold for a year-and-a-half. Apparently, it is going to take 18 months for the EPA under oil and chemical industry activist Pruitt to “look for ways to roll back these vital protections.” Pruitt is well-practiced in the art of fighting EPA rules and campaigning to deregulate the chemical and oil industry because it has been one of his claims to fame since long before being put in charge of neutering the E.P.A.

Earth Justice rightly noted that the Pruitt-led EPA’s proposed action “defies logic and good sense,” but only if one believes that protecting the lives of Americans and the environment is a logical function of the government. Obviously, as an oil and chemical industry shill, Pruitt doesn’t believe that protecting Americans is reasonable, or logical, because the industries he’s protecting opposes them; Pruitt’s plan to put the rules on hold is a gift to his campaign donors.

Although it is doubtful that any amount of citizen action will change Pruitt’s position on halting the safety rules, the Environmental Protection Agency is still accepting comments from the public on the wisdom, or insanity, of delaying implementation of safety measures for a year-and-a-half; until Pruitt and the oil and chemical industry can eliminate them completely which was the plan the minute Republicans gained control of the entire government.

Corporate Giants Reject Trump – Recommit To President Obama’s Climate Policies

 

 

There is reason some of the largest corporations in the world are the largest corporations in the world and a good reason why they are highly successful and profitable. Because they are so successful, they tend to base business decisions on reality, and where applicable, sound science whether it is the science of economics or the climate. They certainly don’t make business decisions on what they imagine to be true or false, but that is what General Electric’s CEO Jeff Immelt stated Donald Trump is basing his war on the climate and environment on.

GE CEO Immelt said that Trump’s “imagination is at work” if he doesn’t believe in climate change science or the Paris agreement that President Barack Obama signed onto before he left office. Mr. Immelt said that GE  is going forward with the corporate giant’s plan to fight climate change and wants to lead the corporate world to in the war to slow global climate change. And, Mr. Immelt called on other corporate giants to “step up to fill the void that the [Trump] administration is leaving behind.”

Companies must be resilient and learn to adjust to political volatility all over the world. Companies must have their own ‘foreign policy’ and create technology and solutions that address local needs for our customers and society.”

Mr. Immelt’s comments were aimed at the Trump’s executive orderrolling back Obama-era energy regulations.” Mr. Immelt said that the General Electric’s incorporation of green technology was made in response to “well accepted” climate change science. He also said the corporate giant’s implementation of green technologies  has already had a “demonstrable effect both on environmental protection and on improving company profits.”

We believe climate change should be addressed on a global basis through multi-national agreements, such as the Paris Agreement. We hope that the United States continues to play a constructive role in furthering solutions to these challenges, and at GE, we will continue to lead with our technology and actions.”

According to a report in Bloomberg Politics, Mr. Immelt’s intent for GE to lead with technology and actions is going to be a monumentally concerted effort with “some of America’s biggest corporations already vowing to stick to the environmental pledges they made to President Obama.

For example, Walmart, has already vowed to get half of its power from renewable energy sources by 2025 and it is as more of a profit-oriented decision than it is an effort to combat climate change and protect the environment; although that is part of the goal. A Walmart spokesman, Kevin Gardner said:

This work is embedded in our business. [It’s] good for the business, our shareholders, and customers; if ultimately we are able to positively impact the environment in the process, that’s a win too.”

Walmart is joined by the largest beer company in the world, Anheuser-Busch InBev, that pledged the day after Trump’s executive order dismantling environmental protections “to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.”

Mars Inc, went even farther and pledged to “eliminate its emissions altogether by 2040;” a lofty goal indeed but one that can be achieved. The vice president of Mars Inc.’s corporate affairs, Andy Pharoah, said the candy giant is “disappointed the [Trump] administration has decided to roll back climate regulations.”

Some of the other corporate giants who pledged to stick to “the climate change promises they made to the Obama Administration;” Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Ikea, Levi Strauss & Co., and Best Buy are completely rejecting the Trump plan tp abandon environmental protections. Those corporate behemoths were joined by some seriously powerful corporate leaders who took the time to issue a joint statement in response to the Trump’s executive order wiping out President Obama’s efforts to combat climate change.

The world’s leading technology corporations Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, wrote jointly that:

We believe that strong clean energy and climate policies, like the Clean Power Plan, can make renewable energy supplies more robust and address the serious threat of climate change while also supporting American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth.”

As Columbia Business School Professor Geoffrey M. Heal explained to Bloomberg Politics, “Most big companies in the U.S. recognize that climate change is real. They need to move ahead on the climate change front no matter what Trump’s government does.”

Trump claimed that dismantling climate change policies of the Obama Administration is what corporations and the people wanted and that “My action today is the latest in steps to grow American jobs.” However, that doesn’t square with what some of the largest corporations in America, and the world, are saying and likely why they are rejecting, as GE CEO Immelt said “Trump’s imagination at work.”

America’s largest corporations do believe in climate change science and that President Obama’s environmental policies not only “demonstrably effect environmental protection, [they] go a long way towards improving corporate profits.”