Trump unleashes triple whammy on Montana

Missoulian Guest Editorial – June 26, 2017

If you were one of 73,000 Montanans now covered by the health insurance policies of the Affordable Care Act, a grizzly bear, or a resident of Anaconda’s Mill Creek area, you got whacked pretty hard last week by the troglodytes of the Trump administration.

The big news was the release of the Senate version of the health care bill that was drafted in total secrecy and is going to a vote next week to beat the July 4th Congressional recess. It’ll be a miracle if any of the senators will have read it by then, let alone given their constituents a chance to do so and provide any feedback or input. But given the total disdain these days for the Constitution’s promise of a government “of, by and for the people,” it’s no surprise to see an arbitrary date rather than considered analysis and debate driving the rushed vote.

If early feedback from health care professionals is any indication, the measure is going to be a disaster for those now relying on the current Obamacare provisions regarding pre-existing conditions and/or income levels to qualify for financial assistance in obtaining health insurance. While Montana’s Republican congressmen are offering no opinion on the measure, Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, says it will “rip away Medicaid from thousands of Montanans…while cutting taxes for corporations and the extremely wealthy.” The Montana Budget and Policy Center’s Heather O’Loughlin put it more bluntly, stating: “This bill could be life or death for many Montanans, as lower-income, rural, older and sicker Montanans risk losing affordable coverage.”

Speaking of life and death issues, despite an on-going debate about what effects global warming will have on the future survival of grizzly bears, the Trump administration announced that it’s removing Yellowstone area grizzlies from the endangered species list. Trump’s loyal mouthpiece, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, crowed: “As a kid who grew up in Montana, I can tell you that this is a long time coming and very good news for many communities and advocates in the Yellowstone region.”

I guess we’ll be left to figure out for ourselves exactly what “advocates” Zinke’s talking about, but it sure isn’t those advocating for restoring viable, genetically sustainable populations of grizzlies who are concerned that global warming is wiping out whitebark pines – and the nutritious seeds the bears rely on – which will lead to grizzlies changing to a more meat-based diet. That, in turn, will likely lead to more human and livestock conflicts that will result in more dead grizzly bears.

Mortality and sickness do not, however, appear to be high on the Trump administration’s list of important things to worry about. Take the latest move by the Environmental Protection Agency to abandon state water quality standards for heavy metals in upper Willow Creek and upper Mill Creek near Anaconda. Instead of going with the state’s levels for cadmium, copper, lead and zinc – all of which are toxic to humans and fish – the agency wants to go with the higher concentrations allowed by federal standards.

This ignores the Montana Constitution’s guarantee that “all lands disturbed by the taking of natural resources shall be reclaimed” as well as the mandate that “the state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.” Anaconda, once again, gets a less-than-full cleanup of their toxic wastes from the EPA.

If killing grizzlies, poisoning streams and gutting people’s health coverage is making America great again, we might wonder just how much more of Trump’s “greatness” we can take.

George Ochenski’s column appears each Monday on the Missoulian’s Opinion page.

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