The president’s latest executive order can spell bad news for the LGBT+ community, people of color, disabled people, women, etc.
Before diving into this, I’d like to acknowledge that proposed budgets will not only impact the LGBT+ community - I am also not forgetting that certain budget cuts would devastate even more marginalized groups within our community (those groups including trans women and men, people of color and people with disabilities). This is written on behalf of all of the community though - because even though we all have different experiences and different priorities, we all want to be treated like decent human beings. It’s within all of our best interests to prevent some potentially harmful budget proposals from becoming a reality.
That link above is the full executive order. I highly recommend reading it. I will offer you a brief synopsis.
The President is giving the heads of executive federal agencies 6 months to propose plans on how to improve their agency's “efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.” Those plans will be given to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Mick Mulvaney). Once all of this has been completed, Mulvaney will craft a budget that will reorganize or eliminate agencies based on the information provided. Budgets must be approved by Congress, as it’s a part of checks and balances part of our government. For this reason, it’s imperative that concerned citizens reach out to their Congressional representatives so they can express any concerns they may have over Trump’s recent budget proposal. Nothing is official until it’s approved by Congress - and it’s in Congress’ best interest to do what their constituents want (generally speaking) especially if they are coming up for re-election in 2018.
"But Kriston, isn’t making the government more efficient better for American citizens?" Why yes, of course it would, if done properly. The problem, however, is that conservatives generally prefer to have a small government that does not “interfere” with business interests. The other, more significant, problem is that at least a few of people selected seem to have opposing views of what those agencies stand for. Some examples.
Scott Pruitt - Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt has a long history of suing the EPA when it has gotten in the way of his fossil fuel interests. He has also recently stated that he does not believe human-created CO2 is a major contributor to global warming (science proves he’s wrong).
Rick Perry - Head of the Dept Of Energy. Perry said during the 2011 election cycle that he would abolish the Dept of Energy. (though, to his credit, he has since stated that he regrets calling for its abolishment). He seems to have had a change of heart, but that doesn’t mean he won’t follow the party line if someone wants budgets trimmed.
Betsy DeVos - Head of Dept of Education. Supports using vouchers. (Trump’s proposed budget lifts private schools, hurts public). She also supports charter schools, though there is still significant debate as to their efficacy. She has never worked as a teacher or within the school system. During her confirmation hearing, she did not appear to have a firm grasp of her responsibilities.
What other agency falls under the executive branch? The Department of Justice (DOJ).
One branch in particular that falls under the DOJ is pretty important to many of us. It’s the Civil Rights Division (which includes Voting Rights Act, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Americans With Disabilities Act - to name just a few). The man currently heading up the DOJ is Jeff Sessions. We’re familiar with his politics, but here’s a quick rundown.
-Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr’s wife, wrote a lengthy letter in 1986 criticizing Sessions’ civil rights history when he was nominated for a federal judge seat in Alabama.
-Here is a list of Sessions’ voting history as a Senator. Below is a brief synopsis
-Voted anti-abortion multiple times. Has also voted against providing funding to teach sex and contraceptive education to teenagers
-Voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Specifically, the provisions that specifically called out LGBT+ women, Native American women and immigrants
-Voted against making assault based on sexual orientation a hate crime
-Voted in favor of constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage
-Voted in favor of barring the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases
The current acting Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ Civil Rights Division is Thomas E Wheeler II. An AAG has not officially been selected yet, so he is heading that division in the meantime. We don’t have too much public information that I was able to dig up, but this is what I’ve found so far.
-He supports stricter voter ID laws. (Empirical evidence has proven time and time again that strict voting laws disproportionately impact people of color).
-That Texas voter law that was recently deemed unconstitutional? Wheeler gave advice to lawmakers on how to write it to get by the Supreme Court.
-He co-drafted and signed the paperwork rescinding President Obama’s executive action protecting transgender students’ right to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity (Though DeVos fought to keep language in there to protect them from bullying)
-Close ties with Mike Pence. Served as counsel to Pence while Pence was governor of Indiana.
-He is known for defending schools and municipalities against discrimination lawsuits.
Alright, let’s pause. It’s obviously very unlikely that the Civil Rights Division would be dissolved. That’s a little alarmist. So what damage could be done? Well, as we’ve seen, previous executive orders can be rolled back or nullified by a new executive order. The DOJ can choose not to pursue cases. The budget can be cut so maybe there are less people around to work on cases. There are plenty of things that can be done to castrate a department without completely killing it.
It’s not just the Civil Rights Division that we should be concerned with. Issues regarding social services, the so-called “war on drugs,” the threat on the environment, public education, science. All of these things can, and do fall under the executive branch. As another example of the damage that can be done, a different executive order requires that agencies eliminate two regulations for every new regulation they create. This is another way for the administration to restrict the effectiveness of these agencies under the guise of lowering federal government regulation.
This is getting long, so I will wrap it all up with one last thought.
The point of the federal government is to protect its citizens. Sometimes that requires regulations that businesses or other special interest groups might not like. Sometimes it requires them to stand up for those who are in the minority, and not the majority. Our government officials should not be imposing their personal moral (or religious) beliefs on us - but to objectively protect the right for us to exercise our own beliefs. It should not be allowing private for profit prisons, it should not be eliminating funding to public programs or education or the sciences, and it should absolutely be listening to subject matter experts because they are EXPERTS.
Eliminating or cutting funding for some of these agencies will not only negatively impact American citizens, but they will likely harm the economic health of our nation in the long run.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner and Blog are exclusively of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization.