The past few weeks have brought massive devastation to our country through powerful, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. Hurricane Maria, the latest storm in an unbelievably violent hurricane season, left behind trails of devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Puerto Rico alone, the power grid was completely wiped out, leaving 3.4 million American citizens in darkness with shockingly limited access to clean water and food supplies. CNN reports that as of today – thirteen days after Maria’s landfall – a mere 6.89% of Puerto Rican residents have electricity, 40% have cell service, and only 45% of the country’s water/sewer service is running.
These tragedies are only made worse by the lack of a quick, adequate response from the Commander-In-Chief. President Trump “has repeatedly said that stories highlighting the slow response to the crisis are fake news,” but public pleas for help emanating from the devastated island say otherwise. Rather than pushing Congress to approve a disaster relief package for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—and delaying revoking the Jones Act and sending necessary people to the islands—Trump has stayed active on Twitter, attacking the Mayor of San Juan. This isn’t leadership—it’s a distraction. The last thing these American territories need are more tweets; they need a relief package from Congress and the most robust response from the federal government that is possible.
Today, Trump continued to sound utterly tone-deaf as he toured Puerto Rico, saying that the devastation has “thrown our budget a little out of whack.” He also boasted that there had been less deaths in Puerto Rico than in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He told the governor: “Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud. Everybody around this table and everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s taken place in Puerto Rico.” Unfortunately, pride doesn’t provide clean water or fix the electric system.
ACTION OF THE DAY
Aid for Vegas. Wondering how you can support Las Vegas in the wake of the Sunday’s massacre? Three simple ways to help are to donate blood, call your representative, and attend a vigil. The second action is crucial to preventing further tragedies. There are currently two pending bills in Congress that would make it more difficult to prevent gun-related crimes. The SHARE Act seeks to lift restrictions on the purchase of silencers, while the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would undermine state laws regarding who can carry loaded hidden guns in the community. Call your Representatives and tell them to oppose these bills, which would endanger community safety. Then, head to ResistanceNearMe.org for vigils near you.
Russia. In the ongoing saga concerning the investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia, it has been reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is preparing for the possibility of preemptive pardons of White House advisers by President Trump. Mueller’s secret weapon in this fight comes in the form of Michael Dreeben, a government lawyer with more than 100 Supreme Court appearances, who joined the Special Counsel’s team in June of this year. While it seems as though Mueller’s team is well-prepared for this possibility, it does not take away from the sad truth that we expect the President of the United States to preemptively pardon his advisers for cooperating with Russia to meddle in our elections.
Estate Tax. As Trump has promoted his new tax proposal, there has been much talk about his plan to eliminate the tax on estates worth more than $5.5 million, or $11 million for married couples. Trump and many of his supporters are painting the estate tax as a burden on small businesses, especially family farmers. But the reality is much different. A study conducted last year by the Economic Research Service at the Department of Agriculture found that only 0.42 percent of operating farms would actually owe an estate tax. But the estate tax does have big implications for Trump and his cabinet members. Find out how much they stand to gain if the tax is repealed here. And to fight back against Trump’s tax sham, head to TrumpTaxToolkit.org.
$20 billion. As communities across the country are still recovering from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, President Trump and his administration still refuse to acknowledge the role of climate change in these devastating storms and according to a new report, are handing out billions of dollars to their friends in the fossil fuel industry. In fact, U.S. taxpayers are paying more than $20 billion in fossil fuel subsidies every year, fueling an industry that is contributing to climate change and climate denial across the country.
Relief for Dreamers. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on DACA since its elimination by the Trump administration last month. Unfortunately, the Senate is focusing on legislation that would fail Dreamers in numerous ways. The SUCCEED Act, introduced by Senators Thom Tillis, James Lankford, and Orrin Hatch, would require Dreamers to spend 15 years gaining citizenship; forces them to “sign [their] own deportation order[s]; separate families; and, impose restrictions on legal immigration.” To learn more, check out the Center for American Progress’s article on this bill.
Just Plane Wrong. The Department of the Interior’s inspector general has opened an investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s travel habits – specifically, his use of taxpayer-funded chartered planes for both official and unofficial trips. Among these flights is a $12,375 trip from Las Vegas to Montana. While this comes just days after Tom Price resigned as Secretary of Health and Human Services over the exact same controversy, Secretary Zinke has publicly stood by his misuse of taxpayer dollars. This is a man who is estimated to be worth more than $2.5 million. While Trump’s wealthy cabinet members continue to spend government money on lavish amenities like these, Puerto Ricans continue to suffer in a disaster zone with limited aid coming their way.
UNDER THE RADAR
No Warm Welcome. President Trump has a tumultuous history with White House visits by championship sports teams. In true Trump fashion, he repeatedly attacked specific players and rescinded team invitations on Twitter in response to the understandable hesitance of players and coaches to be associated with his bigotry, racist rhetoric, and divisive behavior. Now, breaking tradition with nearly all of his predecessors, Trump has failed to extend an invitation to the NCAA women’s basketball champs, the South Carolina Gamecocks. An oversight? Sexism? Is he focused on providing aid to a devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands? Or is the President simply too busy fighting a “Twitter flame war with NFL stars who had the audacity to protest the kind of institutionalized racism that Donald Trump has embraced?”