Yesterday afternoon, another one of Trump’s cabinet members was fired; this time, it was Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. Trump announced via Twitter that his new nomination for the position is Dr. Ronny Jackson, the doctor who completed Trump’s annual physical earlier this year. Shulkin had faced criticism for a luxurious trip to Europe with his finance that was financed by taxpayer money. But, according to Shulkin and others, that’s not why he was fired.
Shulkin published a scathing op-ed in this morning’s New York Times, writing, “As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country.” So, what, according to him, made the job so difficult? Shulkin writes that the Trump administration is seeking to privatize the Veterans Affairs Administration (VA), which Shulkin opposes. When he refused to acquiesce to the Administration’s viewpoint, he was pushed out.
And on this policy, Shulkin is right. Privatizing the VA would be devastating for the veterans that rely on the agency for health care and other critical support. Veterans’ groups strongly oppose privatization: listen to one veteran explain why here. Moving veterans’ care to the private sector puts it at risk of fraud that would mean veterans become part of a company’s bottom line. Proponents of privatization laud the benefits of “choice” for veterans—but for veterans who have experienced the implementation of such choice, the results have been awful. The VA would benefit from increased funding and some much-needed changes. But privatization is not the answer.
ACTION OF THE DAY
#OurGlobalWarming. Are you a young person living with the impacts of climate change? Do you want to be a part of finding solutions to save the planet? Generation Progress wants to help you tell your personal story. Join the #OurGlobalWarming campaign and share how climate change is impacting your life today!
ICE’s New Attack on Immigrants. Today, it was reported that there is a new policy change being implemented at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): to “end the practice of auto-releasing pregnant women from detention.” This is yet another cruel example of how ICE is out of control as an agency and more evidence that its goal is to expand detention for anyone here without status, regardless of any other equities. However, it’s important to note that ICE was ignoring even its own guidance before this new policy change. In 2017 alone, ICE detained hundreds of pregnant women as it ramped up enforcement, detention, and deportations. Another article notes that 525 pregnant women were in ICE custody between October 2016 and September 2017.
Zinke’s Not So Fond of Diversity. Last week, several employees at the Interior Department alleged that Secretary Ryan Zinke made numerous comments regarding the importance of diversity in his department. The sentiment: Diversity is not at all important to him. Now, some top Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into Zinke’s reassignment last summer of 33 senior staffers, 15 of whom were minorities, to determine if he violated federal anti-discrimination laws. It remains to be seen if he did discriminate in his hiring and reassignment practices at the Interior Department. But even if he didn’t, he should know that diversity in the workforce generally has tremendous benefits, including increased economic growth, lower turnover rates, and more creativity.
Danny Ray Thomas. Last week, a Sherriff’s Deputy in Houston fatally shot 34-year old Danny Ray Thomas. Thomas, who was unarmed and whose pants were wrapped around his ankles was shot after he ignored the Sheriff’s commands to stop walking towards him. Despite being equipped with a taser, the officer chose deadly force. Less than one week ago, the Progress Report highlighted the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark and the importance of addressing the intersection of race and policing. Young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot by a law enforcement officer than their white counterparts. Now, Thomas’ death marks the eighth police shooting of an unarmed man in 2018 alone. Improved training and accountability are essential if officials wish to reduce police shootings and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
#DefendDiplomacy. There’s a new group of folks speaking out against Trump’s handling of the State Department and American diplomacy—and they’ve got experience on their side. More than 200 former diplomats have sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressing their concerns and voicing “the urgent need to restore the power and influence of American diplomacy.” The letter also urges the rejection of the White House’s proposal to cut the State Department budget by $20 billion. Join these diplomats today by signing the petition to #DefendDiplomacy here.
CULTURE OF CORRUPTION.
UNDER THE RADAR
Rising Tides. A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warns of the alarmingly increasing frequency of high-tide flooding, “which can wash water over roads and inundate homes and businesses.” The report says that “By 2100, high tide flooding will occur ‘every other day’ (182 days/year) or more often…within the Northeast and Southeast Atlantic, the Eastern and Western Gulf, and the Pacific Islands.” Under the more serious “intermediate” scenario, high-tide flooding will become a daily occurrence. The high-tide flooding is linked directly with sea-level rise – caused by global warming, though Trump’s cabinet of climate skeptics would disagree – and will only continue to worsen in the coming decades, bringing devastating impacts with it.