In this week’s headlines…
On Oct. 12, The White House announced President Trump’s decision to slash subsidies to health insurance companies that help cover out-of-pocket costs for low-income people. The loss of the subsidies could seriously destabilize insurance markets, but changes will likely not be implemented in time to affect coverage before 2019 (The New York Times, “Trump to Scrap Critical Health Care Subsidies, Hitting Obamacare Again,” 10.12.2017).
Trump raised the possibility of withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) after weeks of his administration proposing controversial changes to the deal. NAFTA has allowed Canada, the United States and Mexico to increase trade by utilizing each nation’s strengths, and a collapse of the agreement would affect industries throughout the global economy (The New York Times, “Trump’s Tough Talk on NAFTA Raises Prospects of Pact’s Demise,” 10.11.2017).
Attorney General Jeff Sessions dispatched a federal hate crimes lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute the killer of 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson, a transgender student who was shot to death in March 2016. Sessions has previously spoken out against hate crimes but has also opposed same-sex marriage and rolled back protections for transgender people (The New York Times, “Aiding Transgender Case, Sessions Defies His Image on Civil Rights,” 10.15.2017).
The Trump Administration announced on Oct. 12 that it would no longer be a part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), citing the group’s “anti-Israel bias.” In 2015, Unesco criticized Israel for mishandling heritage sites in Jerusalem, and, in July, it raised ire from Israel by designating Hebron—in the Israeli-occupied West Bank—an imperiled Palestinian World Heritage site (The New York Times, “U.S. Will Withdraw From Unesco, Citing Its ‘Anti-Israel Bias,’” 10.12.2017).
On Oct. 12, Trump disparaged the leadership of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, pushing away blame for the crisis situation and warning that the U.S. government will not provide aid “forever.” Three weeks after the storm, 83 percent of the island remained without power (The New York Times, “Trump Warns Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico That Aid Won’t Last ‘Forever,’” 10.12.2017).
Trump announced on Oct. 13 his disavowal of the Obama-era Iran nuclear agreement, warning that he would scrap the deal entirely if it was not renegotiated. By refusing to certify Iran’s compliance with sanctions, Trump would leave the fate of the deal to Congress (The New York Times, “Trump Disavows Nuclear Deal, but Doesn’t Scrap It,” 10.13.2017).
In our backyard…
Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison announced on Oct. 10 that the city ended 2016 with a surplus of $873,904 and reduced its deficit to around $11.9 million. This represents an improvement from 2015, when Poughkeepsie ended the year with a deficit of around $1.9 million, on top of the already-multi-million dollar deficit that had rolled over from previous years. Currently, the city is facing a possible penalty of up to $1.9 million from the federal government for its failure to transfer bus assets to Dutchess County after the county expanded transport services (Poughkeepsie Journal, “The City of Poughkeepsie reduced deficit in 2016 with surplus,” 10.10.2017).
Dutchess County, along with the Village of Pawling and the Village of Red Hook, is receiving around $8.3 million dollars in shared funding, which will defray the costs of improving water treatment facilities and infrastructure and constructing a new sewer system. The money comes from the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act and the Intermunicipal Water Infrastructure Grants Program, and represents part of a total $255 million in statewide funding (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Dutchess: $8.3M in funding will aid local clean water projects,” 10.9.2017).
On Oct. 11, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro presented the county’s 2018 budget plan, which does not include a tax increase and aims to save more than $27 million through shared services over the next two years. The cost-saving shared-services plan was mandated by the state and comprises 37 projects, including a countywide Drug Task Force, a salt purchasing cooperative, a public transit consolidation and a shift in police staffing. Molinaro condemned New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state for making the plan obligatory, criticizing the fact that 70 percent of county costs are allocated to mandated services (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Dutchess: No tax increase in 2018, millions saved in shared services,” 10.11.2017).
Spotlight on 2020 hopefuls…
California Governor Jerry Brown
Born in San Francisco in 1938, Brown did not always have political aspirations, despite the fact that his father, Edmund G. Brown Sr., served as both attorney general and governor of California. He attended the Sacred Heart Novitiate Jesuit Seminary and was prepared to become a priest before deciding to study classics at the University of California at Berkeley and earning his J.D. at Yale Law School. Brown worked as an attorney until his appointment as California’s secretary of state in 1970. Four years later, he replaced Ronald Reagan as the state’s governor and worked to further his progressive goals by setting statewide energy efficiency standards and creating the California Coastal Commission, as well as advocating for government funding of alternative energies research, education and small businesses.
Brown made his first presidential bid in 1976, but failed to secure the nomination. He continued on as governor, earning the sobriquet Governor Moonbeam for his liberal policies. He made a second failed run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980, then a fruitless Senate run in 1982. Following these defeats, Brown left politics behind and traveled for five years, studying Spanish in Mexico and Zen Buddhism in Japan and working with Mother Teresa in India. In 1988, he returned to California and became chair of its Democratic Party before chasing a presidential nomination again in 1991 and losing to Bill Clinton.
Brown focused his efforts in Oakland, founding the grassroots activist group We the People and successfully running for mayor of the city in 1998. In this position, he worked to revitalize the downtown area, reduce the crime rate and found the Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute.
In 2006, Brown was elected as California’s attorney general and used his post to push back against purveyors of risky loans, supporting workers’ rights and fighting against legislation that attempted to ban same-sex marriages. At the end of his term, he was reelected to the governorship, and then elected to a fourth term in 2014 (Biography.com, “Jerry Brown”).
On Oct. 5, Brown signed a bill making California a “sanctuary state,” meaning that police will be restricted from questioning people about their citizenship and detaining foreign-born residents on immigration violations. This legislation hinders Trump’s deportation efforts by protecting the more than two million undocumented people in California, which represent almost a quarter of such immigrants in the country (The Guardian, “California adopts ‘sanctuary state’ immigration law in snub to Trump,” 10.05.2017).
Speaking of a possible 2020 presidential run at a press conference in March, Brown noted that he would be 82 by then, but added, “Don’t rule it out” (The Hill, “Jerry Brown on running for president: ‘Don’t rule it out,’” 03.31.2017).