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Video Reveals Threat of “Wholesale Transfer and Privatization of America’s Public Lands” on Trump’s Agenda, Says Watchdog Group

Video Reveals Threat of “Wholesale Transfer and Privatization of America’s Public Lands” on Trump’s Agenda, Says Watchdog Group

The event in question, which took place June 2019 and was hosted by the Interior Department, featured a keynote address by climate-denier Myron Ebell.

By Andrea Germanos

Watchdog group Western Values Project said Friday that audio it obtained of a June 2019 event at Trump’s Interior Department provides more evidence that public lands are under threat of being privatized by the former reality star and his crew of “anti-public land zealots.”

The event (pdf) in question was the American Agri-Women Symposium entitled “Federal Land Policies: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” which took place at Interior’s Sidney Yates Auditorium. Myron Ebell—the climate crisis-denying former head of President Trump’s EPA transition team who serves as head of environmental and energy policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute—was keynote speaker.

HuffPost, with whom Western Values Project shared the video, described the remarks as “a 40-minute rambling assault” on the agency where the event was taking place.

As HuffPost reported, two other high level Interior officials also gave speeches at the symposium: Brenda Burman, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, and Andrea Travnicek, deputy assistant secretary of land and minerals management.

Ebell was introduced by the Interior Deparment’s Susan Combs, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget. Combs is an anti-government, Endangered Species Act foe who’s taken in as much as $2.1 million from oil and gas royalties on her property.

In his remarks, Ebell took swipes at the Land and Water Conservation Fund and National Park Service and suggested the government has “a constant incentive to fail.”

Privatization, he made clear, is the apporach he favored for federal lands. From HuffPost:

“I think the real solution to the federal lands is eventually to either transfer them to the states or,” he paused to acknowledge two lawmaker friends who don’t support the second option he was about to mention, “privatize them, put them into private ownership.”

He shared a Power Point Presentation that included his desire—since fulfilled by the Trump administration—to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

HuffPost added:

Shifting to lands already under federal control, Ebell fumbled to locate a slide about transferring and selling off lands in the West. Undeterred, he declared that the “ultimate solution” was being championed by Ken Ivory, a former Republican state representative from Utah and longtime leader of the pro-land-transfer movement, and the American Lands Council. The Utah-based nonprofit, which Ivory co-founded in 2012 and led until 2016, advocates for the “timely and orderly transfer of federal public lands to willing states for local control that will provide better public access, better environmental health, and better economic productivity.”

Ebell praised Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former fossil fuel lobbyist, and his deregularly approach. Ebell also confirmed that he’d met with Bernhardt during “chance encounters” at the deparment—a phrasing Western Values Project said could be evidence of Bernhardt’s strategy for keeping secret his meetings with ethicical question-posing figures.

“It is clear that selling off and privatizing America’s public lands has been part of the Trump administration’s agenda since day one. Now, with the completion of historic rollbacks to public land protections, all at the behest of their corporate pals, appeasing anti-public land zealots is next up on the list,” said Jayson O’Neill, deputy director of Western Values Project, in a statement.

“This is another indicator that if President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt are given enough time, the wholesale transfer and privatization of America’s public lands will happen in the blink of an eye. Once our public lands are gone,” he warned, “they’re gone for good.”

Source: Video Reveals Threat of “Wholesale Transfer and Privatization of America’s Public Lands” on Trump’s Agenda, Says Watchdog Group | Common Dreams News

Mnuchin Admits Trump’s Budget Cuts Social Security Even as President Claims He Is ‘Not Touching’ the Program 

Mnuchin Admits Trump’s Budget Cuts Social Security Even as President Claims He Is ‘Not Touching’ the Program

“When Steve Mnuchin or any other politician says that a ‘reduction in the rate of increase’ is different than a benefit cut, they are shamelessly lying.”

By Jake Johnson

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin—using euphemistic language Democratic lawmakers described as “Washington-speak“—admitted that President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal would cut Social Security days after the president insisted he is “not touching” the program.

“Any ‘reduction in the rate of increase’ would lead to benefit cuts.”
—Alex Lawson, Social Security Works

Pressed by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) on the budget’s call for tens of billions in cuts to Social Security over the next decade, Mnuchin said, “I believe it’s not a cut, it’s a reduction in the rate of increase. And it’s not to the benefits of people on Social Security.”

“If that is not a cut, then I would love to talk to you about what it is this administration values and what they see, how these groups and important individuals in our communities are being affected,” responded Cortez Masto. “My concern is this administration says one thing, but their actions are just the opposite.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, tweeted in response to the exchange that “Mnuchin admits Trump’s budget cuts your earned benefits in Social Security.”

“‘Slowing the rate of increase’ is Washington-speak for cutting benefits and breaking the Social Security and Medicare guarantee,” Wyden added.

Alex Lawson, executive director of progressive advocacy group Social Security Works, told Common Dreams that “only a true creature of Wall Street could try telling people that even though they are getting less money it isn’t ‘really’ a cut.’

“This administration’s budget is built on policies that pillage working families to pay for brand new windfalls for corporations and the wealthy.”
—Sen. Ron Wyden

“When Steve Mnuchin or any other politician says that a ‘reduction in the rate of increase’ is different than a benefit cut, they are shamelessly lying,” Lawson said. “If Social Security benefits were to stay flat every year, they would quickly begin losing value due to inflation. We need to make annual cost-of-living adjustments more generous, not less.”

“Social Security’s total spending also increases yearly due to growth in the population of beneficiaries, something that the program’s actuaries have known about and planned for decades in advance,” added Lawson. “Any ‘reduction in the rate of increase’ would lead to benefit cuts.”

Mnuchin’s comments came days after Trump said following the release of his $4.8 trillion budget on Monday that he is “not touching Medicare” and “not touching Social Security.”

But the president’s plan calls for billions in cuts to both programs. The budget specifically targets the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program with nearly $30 billion in cuts over the next 10 years.

“The administration argues the SSDI cut isn’t really a ‘Social Security’ reduction: White House budget documents omit the disability program’s name, describing SSDI as a ‘federal disability program,'” HuffPost reported Wednesday. “But these are cuts nonetheless.”

During his opening statement at Wednesday’s hearing, Wyden called Trump’s proposed budget “a perfect snapshot of this administration’s policies robbing working families to pay off special interests and those at the top.”

“This administration’s budget is built on policies that pillage working families to pay for brand new windfalls for corporations and the wealthy,” said Wyden.

Source: Mnuchin Admits Trump’s Budget Cuts Social Security Even as President Claims He Is ‘Not Touching’ the Program | Common Dreams News

Trump Budget to Propose ‘Savage’ Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security While Hiking Pentagon and Wall Funds 

Trump Budget to Propose ‘Savage’ Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security While Hiking Pentagon and Wall Funds

“This budget is Trump’s pledge that as long as he stays in office, slashing Social Security, Medicaid, and whatever’s left of SNAP will remain a White House priority.”

By Jake Johnson

ust two days after vowing the White House “will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare” in its budget proposal for fiscal year 2021, President Donald Trump on Monday is expected to unveil a $4.8 trillion blueprint that includes hundreds of billions in combined cuts to those programs over the next decade, deep reductions in safety-net spending, and a major increase in Pentagon funding.

“The budget reportedly includes destructive changes to Medicaid, SNAP, Social Security, and other assistance programs that help Americans make ends meet—all while extending his tax cuts for millionaires and wealthy corporations.”
—Rep. John Yarmuth

The president’s plan, according to the Wall Street Journal, calls for hiking America’s already outlandish military spending to $740.5 billion in FY2021 and pouring $2 billion more into the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Meanwhile, Trump’s budget would enact punishing cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, and other crucial safety net programs.

“The White House proposes to cut spending by $4.4 trillion over a decade,” the Journal reported Sunday. “Of that, it targets $2 trillion in savings from mandatory spending programs, including $130 billion from changes to Medicare prescription-drug pricing, $292 billion from safety-net cuts—such as work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps—and $70 billion from tightening eligibility access to federal disability benefits.”

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, issued a statement late Sunday condemning Trump’s forthcoming budget proposal as “destructive and irrational.”

“The budget reportedly includes destructive changes to Medicaid, SNAP, Social Security, and other assistance programs that help Americans make ends meet—all while extending his tax cuts for millionaires and wealthy corporations,” said Yarmuth. “Congress will stand firm against this president’s broken promises and his disregard for the human cost of his destructive policies.”

Bobby Kogan, chief mathematician for the Senate Budget Committee, echoed Yarmuth on Twitter, calling the FY2021 blueprint “enormously cruel.”

“Less than a week after promising to protect families’ healthcare in his State of the Union address, the president is now brazenly inflicting savage multi-billion-dollar cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.”
—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

On top of the steep safety net cuts, Trump’s budget proposal would also slash the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 27%, the Housing and Urban Development budget by 15%, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget by 9%—even amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Warnings that Trump has Social Security and Medicare in his crosshairs intensified last month when the president told CNBC in an interview at Davos that he is “going to look” at slashing Medicare and Social Security should he win reelection in 2020.

After 2020 Democrats and others seized upon Trump’s comments as further evidence that his 2016 campaign vow to protect Social Security and Medicare was a lie, the president has since claimed he is attempting to “save” the programs.

“We will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare in Fiscal 2021 Budget,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “Only the Democrats will destroy them by destroying our Country’s greatest ever Economy!”

In a statement responding to the reported details of Trump’s FY2021 budget, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday said “once again the president is showing just how little he values the good health, financial security, and well-being of hard-working American families.”

“Year after year, President Trump’s budgets have sought to inflict devastating cuts to critical lifelines that millions of Americans rely on,” said Pelosi. “Less than a week after promising to protect families’ healthcare in his State of the Union address, the president is now brazenly inflicting savage multi-billion-dollar cuts to Medicare and Medicaid—at the same time that he is fighting in federal court to destroy protections for people with pre-existing conditions and dismantle every other protection and benefit of the Affordable Care Act.”

Source: Trump Budget to Propose ‘Savage’ Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security While Hiking Pentagon and Wall Funds | Common Dreams News