Posted with permission from Confined Space, a newsletter of workplace safety and labor issues.
"MARLEY was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to."
Feel free to celebrate. But then get back to work. Because corporate control of our government and attacks on the country’s (and the world’s) environment continue.
You can read all about what brought him down (if you have time) in the news. Meanwhile, a few observations.
- Pruitt’s Deputy, who will be running the agency, is a former coal lobbyist who denies basic climate science, and hardly a friend of the earth. According to the Washington Post, “Andrew Wheeler worked at the EPA more than two decades ago and later served as an adviser to Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), a high-profile critic of climate science who famously brought a snowball to the Senate floor as a prop. For the past nine years, Wheeler has been a lobbyist for a variety of companies, including Appalachian coal mining firm Murray Energy.” As someone said, environmental protections will still be weakened, the polluting industries will still control EPA — it will just be done more ethically.
- Pruitt had enough ethical (and possibly legal) violations to bring down ten mortal cabinet secretaries. Only his friendship with Trump and his single-minded dedication to fulfilling every wish of polluting industries gave him nine lives. But it was the unflagging work of journalists like the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and many environmental groups who did the hard work of getting the records and e-mails and sources that showed how corrupt Pruitt really was. His resignation shows that value of a free press and investigative journalism in this country. Unfortunately, the profession of investigative journalism is a suffering. Who knows what’s going on that hasn’t been uncovered yet? Having a Democratically controlled Congress that could hold real oversight investigations would help as well.
- Pruitt’s accomplishments have been overblown. He talked a good line, but the fact is that deregulating is hard work. There are numerous legal and procedural “t’s” to cross and “i’s” to dot. Most of his “accomplishments” are still underway — mired in the long research, writing, public comment and White House review processes, and some have been reversed by the courts. He’s certainly managed to delay protections, and begin the process of reversing others. And that process will continue. But the process of issuing protections for the environment is a long and difficult one, and it’s almost as long as difficult to reverse the process. We will keep fighting.
- The fish rots from the head down. Government workers and especially political appointees model their behavior from the top of their agency, and from the Oval Office. The message from Obama was clear. No ethical lapses would be tolerated. Period! Many of Obama’s political appointees thought at first that the White House was going overboard on ethics, but they (we) were wrong — as proven by that fact that Obama’s eight-year administration was by far the most honest and scandal-free of any modern American Presidency. (And for those inclined to attack me on that, I’m measuring by actual scandals, resignations and criminal indictments, etc., not the fevered conspiracy theories of right-wing ideologues and certain Congressional Republicans.) The White House is now occupied by a family of grifters. Whatever is eventually proven in a court of law (and there will be plenty by the end of this fiasco), the message sent down from the top is do everything you can you use your government office to enrich yourself. It’s been said over and over before, but if there wasn’t a Washington Swamp before, this administration has certainly created it. And for political generations to come, no Trump appointee will succeed in getting free from the stink of these years.
- And in case you inclined to feel sorry for the guy (just kidding), read his resignation letter. But not on a full stomach. As Bill Kristol tweeted, “The obsequious language of Pruitt’s letter is more fitting for the court of an Oriental despot than for the Cabinet of an American president.” Who knows, maybe he still dreams of being Attorney General.
And finally, if anyone at EPA is reading this, you might want to make him empty his pockets on the way out. Just sayin’.