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Other View: Science 101 at the EPA

This appeared in Saturday’s Washington Post.


The week started with a hopeful sign for those concerned about climate change: Former vice president Al Gore met with Donald Trump for about 90 minutes on Monday, leading some to believe that the president-elect might be ready to accept facts and evidence. By the end of the week, however, Trump had selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pruitt wrote this in National Review in May: “Global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged—in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”

Dissent, indeed, is not a crime, and acknowledging the uncertainties in climate forecasts is reasonable. But rejecting or playing down the near-unanimous warnings of experts, which are based on decades of substantial and continually accumulating evidence and suggest vast implications for future generations, should disqualify a nominee from leading an expert agency charged with making science-based decisions. Among scientists there is virtually no dissent from the conclusion that human activity — the burning of fossil fuels, which releases heat-trapping gases that stay in the atmosphere — is leading to planetary warming, and that the coming changes pose severe risks.

No doubt we would disagree with Pruitt on any number of issues. He is a leading voice against the Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama’s centerpiece climate policy. Even before his nomination, the New York Times had uncovered extremely close ties between Pruitt and the oil and gas industry. He has been tapped to run an agency much of whose work he believes should cease.

We might not oppose Pruitt’s nomination based on these differences. There are legitimate arguments, based in states’ rights and concerns over overregulation, against the Obama administration’s assertive application of clean water and clean air laws. A president is entitled to advisers, if they are qualified, who reflect his views.

But rejecting settled science strikes us as being in a different category. The Senate should probe Pruitt’s position on climate change. If he explicitly or implicitly rejects the scientific consensus, that would be justification to vote no. If, on the other hand, he acknowledges the risks facing the globe, lawmakers should ask what Pruitt would be prepared to do as the nation’s chief environmental officer to combat them.

reader comment
Reader Comment: Who cares about Family Caregivers?

All of us must care about unpaid family caregivers. Caregivers represent an invisible workforce of more than 300,000 Idahoans who make it possible for aging parents, or other family members with physical or emotional disabilities or chronic illnesses to enjoy life in their own homes. Family caregivers not only serve as a lifeline for individuals who need assistance, they save Idaho tax payers — you and me — money and add value to our community.

In 2014, Idaho spent $271,522,099, 48 percent of its Medicaid budget, on care in nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and inpatient psychiatric hospitals. Family caregivers are instrumental in delaying the need for placement in these expensive, institutional settings. Providing caregivers with supports that extend their capacity to provide care makes fiscal sense.

To minimize that expense, public and private health care plans and long-term care programs should include family caregivers, providing supports and allowing them, upon consent of the person, to be part of the care planning process. TennCare in Tennessee is an example of how involving caregivers can help ensure better quality of care.

Family caregiving responsibilities impact employers. Businesses in the U.S. lose up to $33 billion annually in lost productivity due to the absenteeism of caregivers. In Idaho, nearly 70 percent of family caregivers are employed and based on national findings, are at risk of losing over $660,000 in wage wealth because of work sacrifices. Helping caregivers stay employed reduces the chance of them losing health care benefits for themselves and other family members, and having to rely on other social services.

Demographic shifts also highlight the importance of caring about caregivers. Ten years ago, the ratio of working age adults to older adults was 6 to 1. By 2020, this ratio will be 3 to 1. There will be fewer and fewer caregivers for a rapidly increasing number of people needing care.

So what’s involved in “caring” for a family caregiver? The Idaho Family Caregiver Action Plan, released by the Idaho Caregiver Alliance in November, offers an evidence-based set of recommendations to put Idaho on a course that is economically viable for caregivers, employers, and service systems. Recommendations include:

Giving caregivers “respite care” or time away from caregiving to prevent or delay burnout.

Investing in training and information for caregivers, who are increasingly expected to manage complex medical and/or psychological conditions.

Increasing public awareness about unpaid caregivers, and recognizing employers who accommodate the needs of family caregivers.

Working to embed the voice of caregivers in policy decisions and systems.

Working together we can provide a network of support for caregivers – one that minimizes the impact of caregiving on the economic and social wellbeing of families, businesses, and communities across Idaho. The Idaho Caregiver Alliance asks you to reach out to caregivers, talk to local and state policy makers about the importance of supports for caregivers, and use the Idaho Family Caregiver Action Plan to inform your conversations and actions. Plan available at: .

Letter: Oppose Hagerman shooting range

Oppose Hagerman shooting range

It is discouraging when the people who are appointed to uphold the law, protect the public, while encouraging growth, refuse to abide by their own policies and procedures. I am speaking directly about Gooding County Planning and Zoning. There is direct conflict when this commission grants special-use permits to the benefit of a few at the cost of many. The conflict being Shaw’s Shooting, a 7-acre commercial shooting range whose special-use permit to expand into a 33-acre military training range, 1 1/2 miles from the city limits of Hagerman, without any restrictions other than to plant some bushes for noise mitigation was verbally approved by Planning and Zoning, carte blanche!

Citizens4Hagerman, who are appealing this decision due to its location and safety issues are targeted as unpatriotic and need your support. This special-use permit will divide this small rural town under the pretense of economic growth. Loss of tourism and property values are a reality. Those who use the Snake River in the Hagerman Valley should know there are no polices to protect them. The river is not considered “a road;”it does not meet the P&Z safety criteria. Line of fire is 360 degrees from this military range encompassing the river, the town of Hagerman, homes and schools. Craziness!

About 7,200 rounds of ammo are discharged daily from 5.56- and .223-caliber arms that have a range of up to two miles. The noise echoing off the canyon walls, seven days a week, seven months a year, with no restrictions, remind us again that despite safety, location and noise issues to the citizens of Hagerman, the Gooding P&Z have given this special-use permit carte blanche. To quote the Gooding P&Z, it’s “comparable to the noise production produced by the waterfowl hunting clubs.” NOT!

Kathy McKenzie


Krauthammer: Tweets and theater entertain, but Congress is the main event

WASHINGTON — The most amusing part of the Trump transition has been watching its effortless confounding of the media, often in fewer than 140 characters. One morning, after a Fox News report on lefty nuttiness at some obscure New England college — a flag burning that led a more-contemptible-than-usual campus administration to take down the school’s own American flag — Donald Trump tweets that flag burners should go to jail or lose their citizenship.

An epidemic of constitutional chin tugging and civil libertarian hair pulling immediately breaks out. By the time the media have exhausted their outrage over the looming abolition of free speech, judicial supremacy and affordable kale, Trump has moved on. The tempest had a shorter half-life than the one provoked in August 2015 by a Trump foray into birthright citizenship.

Trump so thoroughly owns the political stage today that the word Clinton seems positively quaint and Barack Obama, who happens to be president of the United States, is totally irrelevant. Obama gave a major national security address on Tuesday. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s son got more attention.

Trump has mesmerized the national media not just with his elaborate Cabinet-selection production, by now Broadway-ready. But with a cluster of equally theatrical personal interventions that by traditional standards seem distinctly unpresidential.

It’s a matter of size. They seem small for a president. Preventing the shutdown of a Carrier factory in Indiana. Announcing, in a contextless 45-second surprise statement, a major Japanese investment in the U.S. Calling for cancellation of the new Air Force One to be built by Boeing.

Pretty small stuff. It has the feel of a Cabinet undersecretary haggling with a contractor or a state governor drumming up business on a Central Asian trade mission. Or of candidate Trump selling Trump steaks and Trump wine in that bizarre victory speech after the Michigan primary.

Presidents don’t normally do such things. It shrinks them. But then again, Trump is not yet president. And the point here is less the substance than the symbolism.

The Carrier coup was meant to demonstrate the kind of concern for the working man that gave Trump the Rust Belt victories that carried him to the presidency. The Japanese SoftBank announcement was a down payment on his promise to be the “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” (A slightly dubious claim: After all, how instrumental was Trump to that investment? Surely a financial commitment of that magnitude would have been planned long before Election Day.) And Boeing was an ostentatious declaration that he would be the zealous guardian of government spending that you would expect from a crusading outsider.

What appears as random Trumpian impulsiveness has a logic to it. It’s a continuation of the campaign. Trump is acutely sensitive to his legitimacy problem, as he showed in his tweet claiming to have actually won the popular vote, despite trailing significantly in the official count. His best counter is approval ratings. In August, the Bloomberg poll had him at 33 percent. He’s now up to 50 percent. Still nowhere near Obama’s stratospheric 79 percent at this point in 2008, but a substantial improvement nonetheless.

The mini-interventions are working but there’s a risk for Trump in so personalizing his coming presidency. It’s a technique borrowed from Third World strongmen who specialize in demonstrating their personal connection to the ordinary citizen. In a genuine democracy, however, the endurance of any political support depends on the larger success of the country. And that doesn’t come from Carrier-size fixes. It comes from policy — policy that fundamentally changes the structures and alters the trajectory of the nation.

“I alone can fix it,” Trump ringingly declared in his convention speech. Indeed, alone he can do Carrier and SoftBank and Boeing. But ultimately he must deliver on tax reform, health care, economic growth and nationwide job creation. That requires Congress.

The 115th is Republican and ready to push through the legislation that gives life to the promises. On his part, Trump needs to avoid needless conflict. The Republican leadership has already signaled strong opposition on some issues, such as tariffs for job exporters. Nonetheless, there is enough common ground between Trump and his congressional majority to have an enormously productive 2017. The challenge will be to stay within the bounds of the GOP consensus.

Trump will continue to tweet and the media will continue take the bait. Highly entertaining but it is a sideshow. Congress is where the fate of the Trump presidency will be decided.