Analysis 4

A big budget leads to big spending, and a big government’s to blame.

That’s essentially what President Trump has decreed with this week’s unveiling of the 2018 budget blueprint.

What’s that got to do with climate policy under Trump? Unfortunately, there’s a whole host of programs slated for the shredder, including an astonishing (at least to me) number of environmentally oriented services — services I didn’t even know were up for grabs until I saw the writing on the (Internet) wall.

  • Thinking about cleaning up wastewater in your community? Better luck via the private sector. [Water and Wastewater loan and grant program ($498 million)]
  • Interested in researching ‘alternative’ energy options? Again, look to the private sector. [Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy ($382 million)]
  • What about abandoned mine land grants for clean-up purposes? Look to the so-called ‘permanent fund’ instead. [Abandoned Mine Land grants ($160 million)]
  • Don’t care for state-federal partnerships to “preserve natural, historic, scenic, and cultural resources”? Again, don’t worry anymore about those. [National Heritage Areas ($20 million)]
  • How do you feel about global climate change and the United States’ responsibility? Forget about it! [Global Climate Change Initiative ($1.3 billion)]
  • Would you like to keep the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay clean? Harken back to the States with your concerns, instead. [Geographic watershed programs ($427 million) including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative ($40 million) and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Initiative ($14 million)]
  • Those Appalachian voters swearing by Trump’s promises of economic prosperity? Swear no more. [Appalachian Regional Commission ($119 million)]
  • Chemical accidents? What chemical accidents? [Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board ($11 million)]

I’m writing all this in tongue-and-cheek, but there’s a real (potentially irreversible) environmental protection crisis on our hands with all the million-dollar slashings riddled in this ‘stream-lined’ (but not stream-protecting) budget.

So, Trump: You’re telling me that acid mine drainage, global climate change, and pursuing alternative (ahem, not fossil fuel) energies is a waste of my time, and the country’s economic resources? What about the (real!) notion economic prosperity and curbing climate change? Didn’t you know it’s risky business to bet on a future without mitigation or adaptation to impending climate changes?

Perhaps I’m just a naive undergraduate college student, worried about all those eroding sands and coastal seashores while you and your cabinet crew’s got your heads stuck under the sand. How I wish, sometimes, I could solve my crunched class-time woes as easily as you’re starting to ignore the call to curb global warming!

But I digress.

This week, I’m going to make a case for big government — actually, I’m going to read Jeff Madrick’s ‘The Case for Big Government’ instead.

Because what you’re telling me, Trump, is that a smaller government, a downsized (read bare-bones) budget, and less bureaucrats on the federal dime are going to keep my waters clean, new renewable technologies booming, and our natural resources respected. Forgive me if I’m skeptical, I’m still new to all of this ‘making it all great’ and everything for everybody. (What about Flint, MI and environmental justice?)

So like I said: I’m going to read Madrick(a “noted economist”) to see his point of view, now that I clearly know yours. Published in 2009, Madrick’s book argues that a big government of “high taxes and wise regulations” is not recommended but actually necessary “for the social and economic answers that Americans desperately need” today.

Big government’s been avoided like the plague on both popular party accounts. It’s become “a matter of belief” (p. 2) to minimize taxes and increased government spending, partly to earn electorals but also because it’s been the norm since President Reagan in the 1980s.

But Madrick’s quick to forgo sweeping statements.

“I am not arguing here that there is evidence that big government and high taxes are always and everywhere good. If government is managed poorly, it can have damaging effects. … What I am arguing is that judging by the careful assessment of economic achievements by nations with high taxes and large governments, and judging by American history itself, active and sizable government has been essential to growth and prosperity among the world’s rich nations, including America [emphasis added]” (p. 7).

For the remainder of the 100 days (we’re currently on Day 59, over halfway!!), I’ll be following Madrick’s arguments for big government, since the issue of small government for Trump is affecting his climate policy initiatives big time.

Until then, enjoy your National Parks and public lands now. Who knows how long they’re going to last around here.

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