July 6, 2018
Reflections for the Fourth of July
We are fortunate to live in a country whose Founders believed it was self-evident that all persons were created equal and all endowed with unalienable rights. They also believed governments were instituted to protect those rights and that just power came, only, from the consent of the governed. This would be a good time to re-read the Declaration of Independence.
One of the Founders’ criticisms of George III was that he obstructed “the Laws for the Naturalization of Foreigners” and refused to encourage migration to the colonies. It’s also worth recalling a speech Abraham Lincoln gave on July 10, 1858 as part of a July 4th celebration.
Lincoln spoke of the pride Americans felt in descending from the men who wrote the Declaration and then he noted there were many people in 1858 who could not claim the Founders as their ancestors. Lincoln pointed out that when people read the words of the Founders, and recognize freedom and equality as the core of their own moral principles, then they are “blood of the blood and flesh of the flesh” of the Founders, no less than we are ourselves. The crowd, it is recorded, responded with “loud and long-continued applause.” Our greatest Presidents always understood our country is united by shared history and belief, more than by race, ethnicity, religion or any other factor.
Stigma Stops Here
With my friend, former Somerville Alderman Jack Connolly, I visited Column Health, an out-patient clinic in Davis Square for persons struggling with opioids. Their commitment to humane and respectful supportive treatment, “Stigma Stops Here,” is set forth on the outer wall. The clinic is one of a network with locations in Arlington, Brighton, Lawrence, and Somerville. Their staff includes doctors, psychotherapists, clinical social workers and nurse practitioners.
The clinics provide individual and group therapy, Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) and also offer non-pharmacological approaches, tailored to the individual needs and medical history of each patient. Our nation has endured many tragic crises of drug addiction, as well as the persistent tragedy of alcoholism. Individuals and families need help and encouragement and I came away certain that the care-givers with whom I had just met were part of the solution.
Clean Cars Campaign
I joined transportation and environmental leaders, including the Sierra Club, to oppose the Trump Administration’s plan to roll back clean car standards and prevent states from taking action on their own. Massachusetts is a leader when it comes to establishing clean car standards which protect residents from harmful tailpipe pollution. Rolling back these standards is bad enough. It will cause environmental damage and impact the public health. Standing in the way of states who are making this a priority is an outrageous overreach. States can’t rely on Trump’s EPA to actually protect the environment so they are compelled to act on their own when possible. This rollback makes it harder for states to do that.
Millers River Apartments
I was welcomed by residents of the Millers River apartments in Cambridge this week, for a question and answer session as well as a review of scheduled work to renovate the building. I updated them on the difficult battles we are waging in Washington on their behalf. Attendees were interested in talking about the high cost of prescription drugs, health care and Social Security. It’s pretty clear that the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress will seek changes in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security next year that won’t benefit those who rely on these important programs. After our discussion I learned more about the work planned on the building, which is being rehabilitated with federal money. The apartments are not green or energy efficient and the work planned will help them meet these important environmental goals.
Frank Manning Apartments
I also spent time this week with residents at the Frank Manning apartments in Cambridge. We had a wide ranging discussion about immigration policy, affordable housing and the impact of gentrification on neighborhoods. After our conversation I toured a rehabilitated apartment, which gave me a better sense of how Millers River will look after its scheduled renovation. Federal funding made this project possible. I appreciated the hospitality of the apartments’ residents and the willingness of the Cambridge Housing Authority to update me on their renovation efforts.
Behind the Curtain — More House and Trump Administration Actions You Don’t Want to Miss
Here are this week’s additions. If you need to catch up or share with friends, you can find the full list here.
- According to a ProPublica review highlighted in a June 2018 Axios report, Trump’s properties (and, as a result, his wallet) are benefitting mightily from spending by government agencies and Republican campaigns. Since Trump first announced his run, over $16 million has been spent on golf, food, hotel rooms and other items at Trump facilities. This creates the impression that the spending is intended to curry favor with the President. That’s why the lawsuit I am part of, asserting that Trump is in violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, is so important. All of this raises serious conflict of interest questions.
- In July 2018 the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice revoked seven affirmative action policy directives that the Department of Education’s civil rights division was following. The administration will now recommend that colleges set aside race as an admissions consideration and that elementary and secondary school districts do the same when assigning students to schools. This is a reversal of long-standing policy that encouraged educational institutions to take race into account as a factor in admissions decisions to promote diversity and inclusion. This is a troubling attack on affirmative action.
- As we were finalizing this week’s e-update, news broke that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt finally resigned. It’s easy to lose count but there are at least 15 federal investigations into his questionable ethical behavior. We’ve reported in Behind the Curtain on many of them, including his travel habits and renting a room for a mere $50 a night from the wife of an energy lobbyist. Pruitt recently came under fire after reports surfaced that he kept secret calendars to obscure meetings and phone calls he thought would generate controversy such as appointments with energy industry representatives. According to reports, staff would meet to review Pruitt’s official calendar and then start removing entries that might raise questions. There is no doubt that this latest news would have generated yet another investigation. Of course, the next EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, will still work to implement the same anti-environmental policies that Pruitt pushed.
- In July of 2018 the cruelty of the Trump Administration is still on full display as they face a court order requiring them to reunite children separated from their parents by a date certain. The administration is reportedly telling parents to leave the country – with or without their children. This does not give families an opportunity to stay together while they await a decision on asylum. The President recently tweeted that people should be deported “without Judges or court cases” hearing their asylum claims. Many families are fleeing violence in Central America and seeking refuge here. The United States is party to two important agreements, the International Convention on Refugees and the Convention on Torture, and we have freely agreed, with other rule of law countries, that we would not return persons to countries where they face persecution or torture. But we know the importance Trump attaches to treaties.
What’s Up Next
The next House votes are scheduled to take place on Tuesday July 10th. At this writing, a legislative schedule is not available.