It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the Trump administration’s daily assaults on truth and science, not to mention the president’s compulsive divisiveness that threatens the safety of tens of millions of Americans.
Forgive me if I sound despairing. But I returned from a week off to find my loyalty questioned because of my religion and voting patterns. Then, we learned federal health officials had been barred from commenting on the president’s tweets that erroneously blamed mass shootings on mental illness.
And that was just during the first two days of my first week back.
I won’t dwell long on President Donald Trump’s inane comments about Jewish voters. I don’t think he’s an anti-Semite. After all, his daughter is Jewish. What matters is that anti-Semites think he’s an anti-Semite and are encouraged by his ill-chosen words. Far too many of them, like the mass murderer who took 11 lives at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, are armed with military assault weapons that the president refuses to do anything about.
With that off my chest, let’s turn to a more significant threat to our democracy: the administration’s almost daily assault on science. Silencing healthcare experts in government who question his tweets is only the latest such action.
Since his first day in office, the president has promoted fossil fuels, ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus that their emissions cause climate change and erode human health. Most recently, his administration froze the motor vehicle emissions standards at 2020 levels, 30% below the 54.5 miles-per-gallon average set for 2025.
Though some car companies and states back the tougher rules, this rollback all but guarantees that the U.S. will remain a laggard on lowering emissions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ill effects of climate change include “increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.”
Communities throughout the U.S. already suffer from high rates of asthma, heart attacks and cancers due to excessive air pollution. It’s estimated that particulate matter is responsible for 30,000 premature deaths a year.
You’d think an administration worried about illegal immigration would be on the forefront of fighting climate change. Yet Trump appointees at the State Department recently prohibited one of the agency’s scientific experts from submitting written testimony to Congress about the global disruptions from climate change that will accelerate in the years ahead unless steps are taken quickly.
“We should expect disruptions to global water and food security, reduced economic security and weakened livelihoods, (and) worsened human and animal health,” Rod Schoonover, a former senior analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, wrote in the New York Times shortly after resigning in protest. “Migration will probably increase both within and between nations, with sociopolitical and resource implications already becoming clear.”
The administration is also adopting anti-science policies on reproductive health. In an effort to put Planned Parenthood out of business, the administration this month cut off Title X funding to any provider that refers patients to an abortion service. The 1970 law provides birth control and other reproductive health services to about 4 million mostly poor women across the U.S.
Planned Parenthood withdrew from the program, an understandable move since it represented a gag order on its doctors. Providers with ties to conservative groups that don’t offer contraception, much less abortion, are lining up to get the grants. This will result in more unintended pregnancies and more abortions—not fewer.
Healthcare is a science-based business and must remain so. Healthcare officials must rise to the occasion and defend that core principle. The Trump administration’s attacks on science represent an existential threat to every provider.