With the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration fast approaching, we’ve taken stock of the destructive, discriminatory stances America’s current administration has taken—and how Trump’s legislation affects everyday citizens.
TRANSGENDER MILITARY BAN
In June 2016, Obama annulled the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security’s ban that barred openly transgender individuals from serving in the military. This ban also prohibited the Departments from using their resources to fund sex-reassignment surgery. In August 2017, Donald Trump directed the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to reinstate this anti-trans policy, arguing that more research must be conducted in order to prove that transgender individuals will not disrupt military effectiveness or tax military resources. Following Trump’s directive, multiple judges across Maryland and Washington D.C. blocked his ruling.
Besides Trump’s baseless anti-trans discrimination within the military, his administration has withdrawn Obama’s challenge to a federal injunction issued by Judge Reed O’Connor that aimed to prevent schools from being legally required to allow trans individuals to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. Trump’s Department of Justice has also reversed Obama-era protection of transgender individuals under a 1964 civil rights law banning gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes that this law does not cover discrimination “based on gender identity per se.” Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, responded to Trump’s extensive efforts to disenfranchise the trans community, stating, “transgender students thrive when treated equally, but too often they are not. These young people already face incredible hurdles in their pursuit of education and acceptance. With a pen stroke, the Trump Administration effectively sanctions the bullying, ostracizing, and isolation of these children, putting their very lives in danger.”
Under Obamacare, employers (excluding churches, mosques, and other houses of worship) were required to offer health insurance that covered all FDA-approved contraception, from birth control pills to sterilization procedures. In October 2017, Trump issued a “conscience protection” that allows employers to now refuse, for religious or moral reasons, to provide employees with co-payment free methods of contraception. The Trump administration justified its actions with the misogynist assertion that providing coverage of contraception could lead to more “risky sexual behavior” among young women. Under Obamacare, employees working for houses of worship not required to provide birth control could obtain coverage directly from insurance companies at no extra cost to the beneficiary. Now, this system is optional for employers, placing undue financial burden on women across the country. Vice President Mike Pence has additionally campaigned against birth control, insisting that unfertilized eggs are humans, and thus birth control is murder. Pence has also erroneously stated that condoms are ineffective protection against sexually transmitted infections.
In the beginning of October 2017, the House of Representatives passed legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except when the life of the mother is at risk and in cases involving rape or incest. Trump’s administration argues that fetuses older than 20 weeks can feel pain. The new legislation purports to protect these unborn children. During his campaign for president, Trump stated that there must be some sort of “punishment” for women who seek abortions if the procedure is ever banned, something Trump has repeatedly insisted he will do by instating pro-life justices in court and overturning Roe v. Wade. Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote to block states from funding family planning clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, that perform abortions. Trump’s pro-life beliefs contradict previous statements he has made concerning abortion in interviews in 1999 (he stated that he is “very pro-choice”), 2003 (during an interview on the Howard Stern show, he joked about attempting to persuade a girlfriend to get an abortion), and 2016 (Trump refused to respond when asked if he had ever been involved with a woman who had an abortion).
In August 2017, the White House suspended a proposed Obama-era rule aimed at increasing transparency around salaries and closing the gender pay gap. The rule, which was to have gone into effect next spring, would require businesses to record employees’ salaries on top of their gender, race, and ethnicity and report results to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This rule would enable employees to identify if they might be the targets of pay discrimination. The Trump administration is tossing this measure out, claiming that its additional paperwork would be “enormously burdensome” on employers. Ivanka Trump issued a statement backing her father’s move, despite the fact that she has built her entire business off her supposed support of working women.
Trump’s alleged predatory behavior towards over 15 women, as well as his horrific statements from the Access Hollywood tapes, cannot be tolerated. Republicans have excused his comments on grabbing women “by the pussy,” with Trump himself dubbing it “locker room banter.” In addition, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a thinly-veiled excusal of sexual assault and harassment by criticizing the Obama administration’s 2011 Letter to a Colleague, a document reminding educators that, under Title IX, survivors of sexual assault must be granted protections allowing them to stay in school and complete their education.
Following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Trump issued an ambivalent statement criticizing violence from “many sides.” Eventually, Trump agreed to sign a joint resolution passed by Congress that explicitly condemned white nationalists, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, though many feel this action was taken to calm the controversy surrounding his apparent ambivalence towards the racism in Charlottesville.
IMMIGRATION & DACA
Since announcing his candidacy for presidency, Trump has repeatedly discussed building a wall (at the cost of more than $20 billion) on the country’s southern border, insisting that Mexico will pay for it. Though it remains uncertain whether or not Trump’s wall will get funded, the president has made clear his severe anti-immigration views stance rooted in ingrained racism.
Under the Obama administration, higher priority was placed on deporting unauthorized immigrants who were gang members or felons, and those who posed security threats. Under Trump’s administration, agents can now pick up and remove undocumented immigrants without discretion—anyone who is convicted of a minor criminal offense, as well as anyone already ordered deported, regardless of his or her criminal record.
Since 2002, “expedited removal,” a law that allowed the government to deport undocumented immigrants without allowing them to go before a judge, was only applied to immigrants who had been in the United States less than two weeks and were caught within 100 miles of the border. The Trump administration plans to exercise “expedited removal” to its greatest extent, meaning that an undocumented immigrant living in the country for years with no criminal record could be detained and removed right away without going to court.
In 2012, the Obama administration established Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an immigration policy that adopted the criteria of the DREAM Act (initially introduced to Congress in 2001) that allowed unauthorized immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action and be eligible for a work permit. DACA and the DREAM Act were rescinded by Trump’s administration in September 2017. Trump decided to postpone the expiration of work permits granted to current DACA/DREAM recipients’ for six months. During these six months, a waiting period at the end of which some 800,000 individuals will become eligible for deportation, Congress must decide how to properly handle those previously protected under Obama’s policy.
In October 2017, Trump signed an executive order that initiated the dismantling of Obamacare. The order would allow individuals to purchase short-term policies that don’t comply with Obamacare’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions, in effect encouraging people, under the pretense of free will, to sign up for flimsy health insurance packages that don’t provide adequate coverage due to lack of regulation. Trump issued a vague statement that that his executive order will allow people to “go out, cross state lines, do lots of things and buy their own health care.” Trump also decided to withhold Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies to insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket medical costs for millions of low-income Americans. Without these subsidies, insurance markets could quickly unravel—insurance companies, needing higher premiums, will most likely leave Obamacare exchanges, pushing more vulnerable Americans into unregulated, non-ACA plans.
Trump has flip-flopped frequently on his stance on gun control. In his 2000 book “The America We Deserve” he stated, “I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” In 2012, he praised Obama’s bid for more gun control following the Newton, Connecticut shooting that left 26 dead. In the 2015 Republican debate, Trump boasted about carrying handguns and said that gun-free zones in schools, churches, and military bases increased the chance of attack on those locations. In 2016, he secured the support of the NRA. After the Orlando shooting at Pulse Nightclub, Trump vowed to meet with the NRA to discuss prohibiting individuals on the terrorist watch list and the no fly list from buying guns. However, nothing came of that meeting. More recently the SHARE Act, which would make it easier to purchase firearm silencers, has made its way through the House (Donald Trump Jr. is a notorious supporter of SilencerCo., one of the top manufacturers of silencers in the United States). Though Trump Sr. has not publicly discussed this legislation— which was in the works prior to the Las Vegas shooting—he has not condemned it in the wake of the tragedy.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, undermines the United States’ historic role in preserving cultural heritage worldwide. The Trump administration cited “anti-Israel bias” and mounting arrears as reasons for leaving. Though UNESCO may be an imperfect organization, it has been a leading force in the promotion of education and the preservation of intellectual and artistic traditions of our shared cultural heritage. Trump’s withdrawal adds to his administration’s pattern of distancing itself from international organizations—a move that reduces a nation’s credibility and undermines its power, potentially generating negative economic effects.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE ENVIRONMENT
In the beginning of October 2017, the Trump administration announced it will repeal Obama’s proposed Clean Power Plan, a series of standards that would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of renewable energy. President Trump vowed throughout his campaign to eliminate Obama-era environmental regulations and has called the Clean Power Plan “stupid” and “job killing.” Earlier this year in June, Trump declared that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate accord. After confusion surrounding whether or not Trump would stick to his decision to withdraw, White House advisor Gary Cohn confirmed in September that the administration still plans to back out. Trump has been quoted on several occasions saying that he doesn’t believe global warming is real. During his campaign, he stated that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Trump continues to minimize the issue of global warming despite extensive research and the compilation of data spanning hundreds of years confirming climate change.
Trump is also an active supporter of the construction of oil pipelines. Under Obama, the Army Corps of Engineers halted construction of the final piece of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe. However, in January 207 Trump signed an executive order ordering the Secretary of the Army to expedite the approval of both the Dakota and Keystone pipelines.
After mocking reporter Serge Kovaleski of the New York Times for his physical disability, Trump has decided to attack the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, which backtracks on previous ADA requirements that businesses be accessible to disabled patrons.
In June, Senate Republicans proposed the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The Better Care Reconciliation Act would cut funds for Medicaid, a program that helps the disproportionately high percentage of disabled Americans who live in poverty (often due to their complex needs) afford healthcare. Disability rights activists staged a “die-in” protest at the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office to protest the new plan. They were subsequently arrested and removed by Capitol police. According to witnesses, some protesters were dropped on the ground by police officers dragging them from their wheelchairs.
Though many of its details are still unclear, it appears Trump’s tax plan will benefit the rich and add to the national debt. The income tax for high earners making above about $418,000 will be reduced from 39.6% to to 35%. The Alternative Minimum Tax, meant to minimize tax cuts for those earning more than $130,000 and married couples earning more than $160,000 will be scrapped. The Trump administration also plans to scrap the estate tax, the fee a family pays when an asset worth over $5.49 million is passed onto an heir after a family member dies. Large corporations will benefit from a tax rate lowered from 35% to 20%. The tax plan also pushes Trump’s pro-life agenda by designating unborn children as beneficiaries for 529s, tax-advantaged college savings accounts.
In December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules that regulate internet providers and prohibit them from blocking and charging premiums for certain content. The repeal won’t go into effect until 2018 and at the moment, its consequences are unclear. However, many have predicted that internet providers may begin to charge customers more for faster service—in effect, creating a “fast lane” and a “slow lane” for internet users. Start-ups may also be affected, having to pay to reach consumers.
Don’t miss ONE YEAR OF RESISTANCE at The Untitled Space, an exhibition on view from January 16 to February 4, 2018 featuring work from over 80 contemporary artists responding to Trump’s government and the current political climate in America.