January 15, 2021:
Today, our new president gets sworn in. This country has changed greatly over the last four years. The economy has changed. The environment has changed. Immigration has changed. Let’s take a look at what our new president has to contend with.
The border wall was built. In early 2019, President Trump did not sign the appropriations bills put before him without funding for his border wall. In a desperate attempt to end the partial government shutdown, Congress caved and gave him $1.6 billion for his wall. But that was not enough. It only built a part of the wall. Eventually, Congress appropriated another $13.4 billion to complete it.
And the wall did reduce the flow of immigrants across the border . . . by 7%. Because most illegal immigrants did not cross the border but overstayed their visas, the wall did little good. Immigrants found other ways to sneak into this country, through tunnels and new ways to conceal themselves when crossing checkpoints. But tourists visit the wall and giddily take pictures of “Trump’s Folly.”
Not only did the wall prevent few immigrants from illegally entering our country, its construction destroyed the nation’s richest butterfly refuge in the lower Rio Grande Valley. So the wall pushed the Monarch butterflies, who were teetering on the brink of extinction, over the edge.
If the wall had not destroyed them, the environment would have. The seven warmest years on record have occurred since 2010. Hurricanes, extreme rainfalls, and wildfires continued to ravage different areas of the country.
Refusing to believe in climate change, the Trump administration pursued a pro-fossil-fuels agenda. It permitted oil and gas drilling in western states, killing sage grouse to the point of extinction. Seismic airgun blasts allowed by the Trump administration to search for lucrative oil and gas deposits have destroyed some marine life; and an oil spill permanently stained the Arctic after an oil corporation was permitted to drill oil and gas production wells there for the first time. The Trump administration also rolled back federal regulations on vehicle fuel efficiency and the capture of methane in natural gas production, filling the air with toxins. Coincidentally, the Trump administration cancelled a study of air pollution levels in 2018 and refused to permit any to be done since then.
President Trump also tried to revive coal mining, an industry dominant in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In West Virginia, coal mining pollutes its waterways; and a coal-burning plant in Houston releases dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide in the air.
The economy, too, will prove challenging. The stock market has been on a roller coaster ride since late 2018, with the continuing trade war and tweets from President Trump sending stocks up or down. Corporate farms have taken over family farms closed by Trump tariffs, interest rates rose, and the deficit is now at $1.5 trillion. The Tax Cuts Act of 2018 resulted in more damage, causing companies to move manufacturing jobs overseas.
The bright side is that more people became interested in politics. Citizens are telling their congressional representatives what they want and expect from them. People are marching in every city across the country to protest policies repugnant to them. Voter turnout is at an all-time high. In fact, more people voted for this new president than any other in history.
But that won’t make the job any easier. Yes, our new president has a lot of work ahead.