Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fighting For The People

Missing In Action: Our Elected Representatives
Taking Action: We the People
photos and words by C.A. Matthews 

I had hoped to give more details about local town hall events featuring "big name guests of honor," but, for the most part, they were no shows. It's not like the distinguished gentleman weren't at home. US Senator Rob Portman had sneaked into the venue at Terra State Community College in Fremont, Ohio several hours earlier than scheduled and never came out to speak to his constituents standing outside. Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH 5th District) didn't show for several events planned in the area during his recess week, but he reportedly did show up for a Republican fundraiser golf tournament. 

Golf balls and rich Republicans tend to garner these two politicians' attention more than "scary" ordinary Americans asking questions about the ACA and why it's okay to dump coal waste into Ohio's streams. At the very least, Congressman Jim Jordan (last week's top story) wasn't afraid to talk with his constituents at the Warren G. Harding Presidential Site in Marion. (Way to go, Jim! I guess you don't golf, or Bob and Rob thought they made a better team without you?)

On Wednesday, February 22, about one hundred activists stood outside the conference center at the community college in Fremont waiting for Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to come out and address the crowd's concerns about health care and other issues. The senator had arrived several hours earlier than announced and was already in the building and wouldn't make an appearance it was later discovered, but this fact didn't deter the activists. They stayed to share information about upcoming events with the public. 

The big story at the Portman Protest was how those who purchased a table at the fundraiser (non-Republican constituents) were told at the last minute they could not attend. These individuals paid the Sandusky County GOP $30 a seat to get into the conference center and hear Senator Portman speak and ask questions. They were told at the last minute by the local Republican party they couldn't attend because the senator's staff instructed the county Republicans to not let in non-Republicans constituents who might act "disruptive."

Almost immediately Senator Portman's staff denied discriminating against these individuals and said they were excluded because the Sandusky County GOP didn't want to include them. So... you decide where the buck stops, since they're still passing it back and forth!

Over 200 attended a rally on "The Future of America's Health Care" sponsored by Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio at Bowling Green State University on Saturday, February 25. Several groups hosted tables as well, providing information about area progressive organizations, petitions and upcoming events. Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH 5th district) was a no show in his hometown--as were US Senators Rob Portman (R) and Sherrod Brown (D) and a dozen other elected officials who were also invited. Only two sent letters of regret stating they couldn't attend due to prior commitments and offered their support--US Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D) and state Representative Steve Arndt (R). 
Ohio state Senator Randy Gardner (R) and state Representative Michael Sheehy (D) attended and gave their insights on American health care, fielding questions along with Dr. John Ross, a local physician/teacher and activist on public health care topics. The discussion was lively and poignant at times. Several participants shared their stories of how the ACA and Medicare has saved their lives and the lives of family members. State Senator Gardner did his best to handle concerns many had about the Republican proposal to abolish the ACA and institute "tax breaks" instead. As low income persons generally do not pay any federal income taxes, what "tax break" would these individuals receive to pay for private health coverage? (He didn't know.) Both Gardner and Sheehy said as state officials they cannot predict what their federal counterparts will do, but they both were in favor of Governor John Kasich's decision to accept the ACA's expanded Medicaid program, as over 700,000 Ohioans have benefited from it.

"Health care is a right," said Representative Sheehy, declaring it to be our next human rights struggle akin to the abolition of slavery and women gaining the right to vote. He noted citizens live longer in countries which provide universal health care. Dr. Ross shared that Taiwan in 1995 instituted a "Medicare for all" health coverage for its citizens after studying the US Medicare system and deeming it the world's best health care delivery system.  Dr. Ross also noted how the idea of the open market doesn't work simply in this case because health care isn't a consumer product: "People don't have two heart operations because they're cheap or on sale." Medicare for all is a smart business decision and would help entrepreneurs start their own businesses and create more jobs for Americans.

The main thread which ran through these town hall events was well stated by Senator Gardner. When speaking with a class of fifth graders, he asked them, "Who is my boss?" They answered "the president" or "the governor" until he told them, "No, you are my boss. I work for you." This is a lesson all Americans need to keep in mind as they continue to speak out and share their concerns with their elected representatives.

And now a look at the man who encouraged us to host town hall events this past week. He's...

Still Fighting For The People

Bernie Sanders hasn't let up one moment since the inauguration. He has led health care rallies and town halls, been interviewed numerous times on mainstream news programs, and published several biting op-ed pieces in large newspapers and periodicals. He hasn't skimped on his message or pulled back on his rhetoric since the campaign trail. If there's one person ordinary Americans can depend upon to speak up for our rights and to fight for a happier and healthier future for our children and grandchildren, it's Bernie Sanders.

A fascinating thing I've uncovered recently is how much Bernie has grown in popularity since the election. It's not only "Berners" who have faith in Bernie's ability to lead the political revolution; voters who supported other candidates have come to know and trust him as well. 

How else can you explain the sudden resurgence of pro-Sanders/progressive Facebook, Google+ and other social media groups? How else can I explain the growing numbers of "hits" on past articles about Bernie's positions I've published on the Our Revolution Continues blog? How else can you explain the large crowds who show up at rallies and marches to show solidarity with oppressed peoples for whom Bernie fights so hard to protect? Bernie Sanders is the man of the hour, and the public is eager to know more about him and support his ideas. 

Nick Brana, a former Sanders campaign staffer, feels now is the time to draft Bernie Sanders into a new progressive party to run for the presidency in 2020. He and several others have started DraftBernie.org and are currently surveying voters about the validity of forming a new party and drafting the Vermont senator as their first presidential candidate. With Bernie headlining the ticket, they feel that other progressives running for state and local positions in 2018 will soon join. Progressives will no longer have to compromise their beliefs and accept corporate money (and the strings attached to it) in order to run for office via an establishment party. They will find a home within a "People's Party" whose stated aims agree with their worldview. 

While others may argue that American third parties have been conquered and absorbed by establishment parties in the past and don't stand a chance in our current system, Brana disagrees. He sees history repeating itself in the same way the nascent Republican Party came into being. The GOP didn't come onto the political scene in a big way until 1856, but by 1860 they had won the presidency.
This remarkable feat was accomplished during a time of much debate over civil rights (slavery), turmoil in the economic system, and threatened succession by several states. Recent news stories of California wanting to leave the union, because of the current administration's violation of civil rights, add a sense of déjà vu to the Draft Bernie movement. Nick Brana may be prescient about the timing and ultimate success of this new progressive party.

However, the establishment party (parties, if you insist) isn't going to take a threat to their control of our electoral system lying down. Already the Democrats are taking actions similar to ones they implemented during the primaries last spring. Bernie Sanders was to speak at a town hall meeting in McDowell County, the poorest county in one of the poorest states, West Virginia, on February 13. It was to be televised and hosted by MSNBC's Chris Hayes, but at the very last minute, the National Guard Armory hall where it was to take place was "unavailable." West Virginia's Democratic governor more than likely was told to cancel the event by the Democratic National Committee to keep Bernie off the air. But why?

The televised town hall meeting Bernie led in Wisconsin  (also broadcast by MSNBC) received phenomenal ratings. You Tube clips of the Wisconsin town hall have received hits in the millions.  The CNN Health Care Debate between Senators Sanders and Cruz got good ratings too. Establishment Democrats (those who take corporate money) can't risk looking "less progressive" to the public they're trying to fool. They are cracking down on what they feel makes them look bad by comparison--Bernie speaking to and about the poor. "Corporate Dems"  shut down this necessary discussion about poverty in America at the expense of millions of suffering Americans who could be helped by implementing Sanders' proposed policies. 

Bernie said in a statement: If anyone in West Virginia government thinks that I will be intimidated from going to McDowell County, West Virginia, to hold a town meeting, they are dead wrong... Poverty in America will be discussed. Solutions will be found.”

The desire to keep "big money" in politics is the establishment's motivating factor to discredit Bernie Sanders yet again. However, this time it might not work. The mainstream media has given more air time to Bernie recently--much more than it did in all of the campaign of 2015-2016--and anxious Americans are looking online for answers to their problems. They're finding the answers in the words of Bernie Sanders. 

The establishment may think they can succeed in silencing one dynamic man, but in the end, they can't silence his ideas. Bernie Sanders' political revolution will live forever. He'll always be fighting for the people.

 Sean asks an important question that many on the left are ignoring at the risk to all we hold dear: In the midst of all the resistance and protest against Trump, are we providing a viable alternative to the American people?
Providing a Viable Alternative
by Sean Nestor 

"Say what you like about Mussolini, but he made the trains run on time."

Many of my friends on the left seem convinced that Donald Trump's excessive abuses will lead to his certain defeat in 2020, if he isn't impeached first. Based on what I have seen so far, I believe Donald Trump has a strong change of being re-elected, and may even successfully push to remove the current restrictions on presidential terms to remain in the seat longer than eight years.

The automatic assumption of many on the left is that most voters will think like them and place civil liberties and social issues before all others--at least when they are threatened to the degree that Trump is threatening them. However, my experience is that most voters, sadly, will place their own economic self-interest above social issues and will accept increasingly brutal conditions toward minorities and resisters if it means they can be allowed to share in more of America's economic pie.

While many on the left are eager to point out the fascist tendencies of Trump as it relates to his treatment of marginalized groups and his constant overreach of executive authority, few are acknowledging the importance of another piece to that puzzle--how he uses economic opportunity as a carrot on a stick to get

away with those abuses.

This is the same strategy Mussolini used in Italy and Hitler used in Germany. By making the argument that the existing government is bureaucratic, ineffective, and corrupt, Trump is able to assert that the solution is a strong executive willing to dismantle that bureaucracy and deliver prosperity to the people directly. As long as people perceive that he is bringing them newfound wealth by creating more jobs at home, they will look the other way on any number of human rights violations.

Trump knows this, which is why he has been busy leveraging his power as president to pressure companies into investing in American jobs. Leftists, focused more on his outrageous behavior toward marginalized groups and unwilling to acknowledge anything positive about someone they find so abhorrent, will downplay and nitpick these advances. But if the largely apolitical masses feel their economic woes lessen even slightly during Trump's administration, they will line up to support him in spite of the reservations they have about his stance on any number of social issues.

This is the price Americans are set to pay for refusing to take income inequality seriously for so long. The leaders of both major parties--whom Trump can claim a victory over through his direct defeat of symbolic titans Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton--have been so feeble at addressing the economic plight of working Americans for so long that they have, in effect, created a powder keg of populist anger that is now set to go off and destroy the very fabric of the nation, and possibly more.

Beyond the obvious costs to minority groups who will be scapegoated and subject to ghastly levels of violence during his administration, the greater threat may well be to the notion of democracy as a viable form of government. Democracy will be equated to ineffective bureaucracy while strong executives (read: fascists) will be equated with prosperity and strength.

Combined with the nuclear stockpiles that leaders of both major parties have failed to eliminate during their many decades at the helm, we are facing an extremely grim future. Meanwhile, many friends of mine, newly outraged at the uncouth behavior of the president, have started to experiment with calling senators and holding protest signs in a vain attempt to right longstanding wrongs. Their approach conveys a sense that Trump himself is the problem rather than the symptom of deeper issues--namely, income inequality and the responsiveness of our government to the needs of its people. Their actions will further increase the likelihood that fascism will take hold while leftists struggle to establish a coherent identity that can provide a viable alternative.

Bio: Sean Nestor is an educator and activist from Toledo. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Single Payer Action Network of Ohio and Co-Chair of the Lucas County Green Party.

Janet Garrett, 2016 Democratic Candidate for Congress in the 4th Congressional District and Administrator of Indivisible Oberlin, issued the following statement:

I Challenge Congressman Jim Jordan to Debate
(Glass Steagall, National Bank, Medicare for All)

If we are going to build the economy, I ask you to co-sponsor HR 790, Glass-Steagall, and join the campaign for a National Bank for Infrastructure, the only way to build jobs and the tax base.

I am hereby challenging Congressman Jim Jordan to step up to the plate and debate me anywhere, any time in the 4th Congressional District.

Congressman, you and I both agree that the national economy is a mess.  We both know there is a crisis in health care.  Due to the collapse of Ohio as a job creator in industry and infrastructure, we are not generating the kinds of productive, high paying jobs the state and the nation need.  Hence, we have a hard time paying for things like health care.

There is an immediate two step solution to this situation.

"First, Congress can pass the Glass-Steagall Act, HR 790, recently introduced by Rep Marcy Kaptur, Rep Tim Ryan, Rep Marcia Fudge, Rep. Walter Jones and dozens of co-sponsors.  This will break up the Wall Street banks, stop their control over credit generation and open the door for productive investment.  Glass-Steagall has been endorsed by the Republican and Democratic Party platforms, so there is nothing standing in the way of you adding your name as a co-sponsor to HR 790.  I hope you support the platform your party adopted at the Republican Convention this summer.

Second, Congress can create a National Bank for Infrastructure, like the national banks that were created throughout our history, which generated the large amounts of credit, without taxpayer funds (!), to build all of our industry and infrastructure.  As a sitting member of Congress, you can initiate draft legislation to create this bank.  The bank can then directly fund or participate in financing infrastructure and industrial development, creating the millions of jobs we need to build the nation and the tax base.

These steps will jump-start the economy and allow us to not only build our overall output, but allow us to pay for Medicare for all, which will solve our health care needs.  Rep. John Conyers recently introduced HR 676, "The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act", which addresses this crucial matter.  I would urge you to co- sponsor this bill as well.

The citizens of our congressional district want this discussion to take place.  A debate between the two of us would certainly frame the discussion in a useful way.  We can set a debate agenda that addresses these crucial topics and others.

Therefore, I am challenging you to debate me on this agenda anywhere in the district.  I will clear my busy schedule to make myself available to engage in this dialogue. I look forward to sharing a podium with you.

Contact Janet Garrett-- 440-724-9981, janet@janetgarrett.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Town Hall in Small Town America

Here Comes Mr. Jordan… 
A Town Hall in Small Town America
photos and words by Cindy A. Matthews

A town hall for Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) took place outside on President's Day, a pleasant winter's morning in the central Ohio town of Marion. The sun by 10:30 a.m. had burned away the morning's fog which blanketed the rural areas of Ohio's fourth congressional district. We drove fifty miles through the fog from our town to see our congressman and to ask him questions about the ACA and other topics. Others had driven more than two hours one-way to the town hall in what qualifies as one of the most gerrymandered districts in the United States.

The scene that greeted us in front of the Warren G. Harding Home Presidential Site was simply inspiring. A crowd of 300+,  featuring individuals of all ages, genders, races and physical abilities, packed the front lawn of President Harding's modest late-Victorian era abode on Mt. Vernon Street. An accurate crowd estimate is hard to give since the myriad of signs springing up on poles made for a forest of color and blocked my view of the edges once we had immersed ourselves into the group. Chanting and cheering had already begun when we squeezed in closer to the front porch to find a good spot to observe. 

The energy soared as Congressman Jordan exited the front door of the historic house in shirt sleeves only. Picture this: February 20th in Ohio and it's 60 degrees Fahrenheit--no one is wearing a parka or snow boots or more than a "Make America Great" cap. (As an aside, I experienced several snowstorms and bitter cold in February while growing up in Ohio in the 1970s. Does this spring-like weather two months early mean there's no such thing as "climate change" as Jim Jordan and the Republican Party claim?)

The questions about the Affordable Care Act revealed Jim Jordan's position for better or worse on health care. He stated at one point that "health care is bad for business." Business people making big profits are more important than saving lives or preventing the suffering of his fellow Americans in the representative's opinion. He also stated he did not like how his able-bodied 27 year old son had to pay higher private health insurance premiums because other people's young adult children are sometimes sicker with diseases like M.S. or cancer. It wasn't "fair" since his son is "healthy" and shouldn't have to subsidize other "non-healthy" Americans' health care.

A woman standing next to me with a child in a wheelchair said, "Obviously, Mr. Jordan does not understand that people do not choose to have cancer or M.S." The booing and jeering began. Mr. Jordan's self-centered position did not go over well with vast majority of the crowd, so he made sure one of his supporters (wearing an NRA cap) carrying a "Defund Planned Parenthood" sign got a chance to praise the congressman for his anti-abortion position. Mr. Jordan, in turn, stated he was proud to have voted to remove all funding for abortions from any government aid the U.S. provides throughout the world.

A brave sixteen-year-old took a chance to speak his mind. He wanted to know what the congressman would do to make sure there is clean water and a healthier Ohio for his generation in which to raise their families. Mr. Jordan stated he doesn't believe the Environmental Protection Agency is necessary. The young man afterward told me he lives in Jim Jordan's home county in Ohio where the fossil fuel industry has left polluted streams and rivers. Without the EPA to hold these industries accountable, where will their clean drinking water come from in the future? Mr. Jordan's lack of concern could be interpreted that he simply doesn't care since he has moved on from his fossil-fuel-fouled home county and lives a comfortable life elsewhere.

There were many questions that simply did not get answered, as one second the congressman was standing on the front porch of the Harding home and the next he had vanished back inside. Many of the crowd grumbled this had been a typical town hall for Jim Jordan--he comes in late and leaves early before any of the tough questions are voiced. He chooses the Warren G. Harding site because it looks "presidential" and good on television. Mr. Jordan tries to tie his own "small town America" image to the one Harding affected in 1920 when he announced his candidacy from the very same front porch. (For anyone not familiar with the scandal-riddled, short presidency of Warren G. Harding, Laton McCartney's The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country  makes for excellent reading. You can read a fantastic review of its main points in the article below Town Hall Helps.)
Janet Garrett and the 16 year old who asked a great question.

After the town hall abruptly ended, we were invited to a short meeting of like-minded individuals at the Marion Public Library located just around the corner from the historical site. There we discussed how unsatisfied we have been at the lack of leadership on Mr. Jordan's part and how he seemed to follow the Tea Party faction's talking points without listening to the actual questions or concerns of his constituents. Much frustration was expressed over how health care is seen as a for profit pursuit instead of a human right, in direct contradiction to the Hippocratic Oath. 

Two individuals who plan to run in 2018 against Jim Jordan spoke briefly--Janet Garrett of Oberlin and Andrew Mackey of Union County. It's heartening to see progressives  ready to unseat the Tea Party congressman. They want to work on tackling the Ohio fourth district's toughest problems, namely providing help for those suffering from opiates addiction, gaining permanent health care coverage and building affordable homes for all who have suffered under the cloud of NAFTA and the neglect of elected officials like Mr. Jordan.

photo by Adrian J. Matthews
Town Hall Helps
Now that we've shown you what a town hall can be like, here are some helps and articles to give you an idea of how you can take action at a town hall or similar event near you. Let us know how it went--please send in your stories, photos, drawings and poetry about your experiences. Our Revolution Continues is a blog about you, the ordinary American who expresses a progressive viewpoint. Please share it! 
Email: thebernieblog2016@gmail.com 

An extensive listing of  Congressional town hall meetings this month:

The Teapot Dome Scandal Redux?
by Adrian J. Matthews

Almost one hundred years ago Big Oil decided it would use the United States government to make massive profits at the expense of the environment. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

By the time the 1920 elections rolled around, Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s presidency had been tarnished by the United States’ unwilling involvement in World War I. The country was in a mood for change, and the Republican Party aimed to supply it. Strong GOP contenders for the presidential nomination emerged. They included war hero General Leonard Wood, Herbert Hoover, and Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts. Another candidate with less favorable odds was Warren G. Harding, a little-known senator from Ohio.

Enter two fabulously wealthy oilmen, Harry F. Sinclair, owner of the Mammoth Oil Company, and Edward L. Doheny, a man known as "The Rockefeller of the West" and owner of the Pan American Petroleum Company. These were men with prime resumes for corruption and graft who decided they could stand to become richer yet. Their opportunity came at the Republican convention, held that year in Chicago. Sinclair was already a major donor to the Republican Party and had tremendous influence as a consequence. Doheny’s reach extended from his oilfields in California to deep into Mexico, where he meddled freely in politics to preserve his oilfields from seizure by the Mexican government. They, and other interested oilmen, compiled a list of requirements they’d want from a Republican government, should it be elected. At the top of that list were the incredibly lucrative Navy reserve oilfields –

Wyoming’s Teapot Dome and two oilfields in California, Buena Vista and Elk Hills.

Rejecting the other candidates for various reasons, Sinclair and Doheny worked and spent hard to transform Harding from an obscure outsider into the nominee for his party. They succeeded. In the election Harding became the 29th president of the United States. Thanks to their substantial campaign contributions, when Harding formed his cabinet he agreed to allow Doheny’s old buddy, Albert Bacon Fall, to become Secretary of the Interior. Needless to say, Doheny had an ulterior motive for this placement.

Fall was a man of the West through and through. He had been a prospector and mine owner, and he owned the sprawling Three Rivers Ranch in New Mexico. Articulate, volatile, bullying and vindictive, Fall was elected to the US Senate in 1912 and for years ran New Mexico as a virtual private fiefdom. Under his watch graft and corruption became endemic in the state, yet such was the Republican party’s power in New Mexico, Fall remained unchallenged.

Once appointed, Fall immediately began work on his side of the arrangement. As the name implies the Naval reserve oil fields were intended for use by the United States Navy in future wars, and as such came under the control of the Secretary of the Navy, Edwin Denby. Fall found Denby to be agreeable and pliant. After a little persuasion the Navy reserves were transferred to Fall’s control and then leased to Doheny and Sinclair, in return for which Fall received his nice payoff.

Just as an indication of the wealth these oilfields generated, the Teapot Dome field was worth $495 million in 1920 dollars. The equivalent value today would be almost $6 billion.

It should be noted that Fall cared nothing for the environment. His attitude was one which is still seen in the West today – first come, first served; take what you want and all you want. If there’s nothing left for the next guy, too bad. At the Teapot Dome inquiry he would later utter something that epitomized his attitude. “Sir, if you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake and my straw reaches across the room, I'll end up drinking your milkshake.”

Fall was all for opening up every resource and exploiting them until they ran out. He is on record as saying, “I don’t know how succeeding generations will do it. Maybe they will use the energy of the sun or the sea wave – but they will live better than we do.”

Unusually prescient and ultimately flawed. The environmental impact of the pollution caused by Big Oil is having a terrible effect on humanity, and future generations look unlikely to live "better than we do" – if they live at all.

Fall hated the new conservation movement with a passion, since in his view it deprived him and his rich oilmen buddies of those juicy natural resources. Again, this resonates with what we see today, with the imminent disbandment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the checks, however limited, it places on industry. Fall frequently butted heads with Harry Slattery, head of the Forestry Commission, who was suspicious of Fall’s machinations where the Naval oil reserves were concerned. Slattery had succeeded Theodore Roosevelt’s disciple Gifford Pinchot, the first conservationist to have a major influence in government, and was justifiably worried for the future of the country’s natural beauty.

Slattery had cause to be alarmed. Fall’s plan would be nothing short of

devastating where the environment and Native American rights were concerned. On Fall’s agenda were the opening up of the reservations, the forests, and the whole of the Alaska Territory to exploitation by private industry. He’d already struck at the Navajo Reservation in the Four Corners area. In June 1922, he decreed millions of acres of Navajo land to be public lands. In effect, it gave the oil companies the green light to exploit the area as they pleased. All royalties gained from the oilfields would fill the coffers of those cash-starved Western states and the Federal government – but nothing would go to the Navajo tribe. (Standing Rock, anyone?)

It was no secret in Washington that Fall aimed to bring the US Forest Service under his purview, but Fall had made another enemy in the shape of Henry C. Wallace, the powerful Secretary of Agriculture. Wallace detested Fall and his plans to exploit the nation’s natural resources. With Wallace’s pressure brought to bear, Harding backed away from any idea of giving Fall the Forest Service and distanced himself.

Fast forward to the modern day, and we still see the tremendous influence Big Oil has in government. Corrupt practices abound.
(If only today's recently auctioned-off Wayne National Forest could be kept safe from the frackers.)
President Trump recently signed legislation to repeal a regulation that would have required energy companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments. That this is no new thing under the sun can be seen when we compare it with Edward L. Doheny’s direct meddling in Mexican affairs. The legislation signed off by Trump is the first time in sixteen years that the Congressional Review Act (CRA) has been used to repeal a regulation and only the second time in the two decades during which the act has been law. 

It’s part of the aggressive deregulation effort that Trump’s administration and the GOP Congress are undertaking to roll back Obama-era rules on fossil fuel companies, financial institutions and other businesses that they say have "suffered" for the last eight years. The regulation was meant to fight corruption in resource-rich countries by mandating that companies on United States stock exchanges disclose the royalties and other payments that oil, natural gas, coal and mineral companies make to governments. At a signing ceremony in the Oval Office, Trump said the legislation is part of a larger regulatory rollback that he and congressional Republicans are undertaking with the goal of economic and job recovery.

The corruption goes further. When Trump signed off on the budget conferring tax subsidies on Big Energy companies, standing by his desk in the Oval Office was House Speaker Paul Ryan. Recent senatorial disclosure documents show Ryan and his wife, Janna, own stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the very energy companies that benefit from the tax subsidies in Ryan’s budget plan. These energy giants stand to profit directly from the $45 billion in subsidies and tax breaks.

Also present in the Oval Office was House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). Hensarling in May 20, 2014 in a speech to The Heritage Foundation said:

Crony capitalism is something different. With crony capitalism, success is arranged through government-granted favors to those with the best political connections. “Crony capitalism” slows economic growth and redistributes income. It can breed corruption and undermines the legitimacy of both government and free enterprise. It is what I call the Washington insider economy. But regardless of its name, for generations it has been a threat to our conservative principles.
In looking at how much Ryan and his family stand to gain from the budget deal signed by Trump, it’s hard to find a more breathtaking example of "crony capitalism." Yet Hensarling remained silent on the issue. In fact, he himself received $61,350 in campaign contributions from the oil industry.

That Trump is wedded to the idea of Big oil and Coal can be seen in his planned

destruction of the EPA. “We’re bringing back jobs big league. We're bringing them back at the plant level, we're bringing them back at the mine level. The energy jobs are coming back,” Trump continued. “A lot of people going back to work now.”

There’s no mention of the fact that the EPA (A Nixon-era Republican creation) has been consistently de-funded, decried and denigrated by Republicans since Reagan. Lacking the budget for inspectors, those "56,000 rules" have largely gone unenforced, to the lasting detriment of the environment.

Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s pick to run the EPA, is bought and paid for by the oil and gas industry. Since 2002, he’s received more than $314,000 from fossil fuel companies. There goes any control over Big Oil and Coal’s financial arrangements. There also goes any control over their impact on the environment.

Almost one hundred years have passed since the Teapot Dome Scandal broke upon the United States. Back then dedicated public representatives like Thomas J. Walsh did their level best to uncover the corruption and see that those responsible were punished. To a large extent they succeeded, although the scandal failed to prevent Republican Calvin Coolidge becoming President in 1924. It seemed the voters of the United States were largely indifferent to the affair.

Now it seems corruption in high places has gone into overdrive with President Trump in the White House.

I was in the crowd outside the Warren G. Harding Home Presidential Site in

Marion, Ohio, when Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) spoke from the house’s front porch at the town hall meeting held there on President's Day. Jordan’s ties to Big Oil and Coal are well known. He voted yes on opening the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling. He voted yes on barring the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, and no to several measures to cut oil company subsidies and impose environmental controls and emission limits. He also voted no on removing oil and gas exploration subsidies.

As Jordan spoke to a largely skeptical crowd, I looked at the relatively modest late-Victorian home. I couldn’t help but reflect on the Teapot Dome Scandal and the role its former owner had to play in the affair. Back then corruption was kept quiet and was seen as a matter for shame. Now? It’s running rampant, thanks to the new Trump regime in the White House and the GOP control of Congress. The corruption is blatant, although the people responsible are beginning to realize that thanks to the wake-up call Bernie Sanders delivered to the nation their corruption is now being noticed and criticized. 

Jordan’s demeanor grew increasingly grim as he faced the crowd who called him out for his support for the abolition of the ACA and his active destruction of environmental controls on Big Oil and Gas. He broke off the meeting abruptly to duck through the front door of the Harding home, leaving his constituents feeling angry and disappointed in their representative.

With the likes of Trump, Ryan, and Jordan in charge of government, I fear for the future of this country and the planet as a whole. It’s only the active and rising public awareness of the activities of Congress and government that gives me hope.

Bio: Adrian J. Matthews is an armchair historian who sees many parallels between the Harding administration and the current one.
Here is a map of Ohio's Fourth Congressional District 
(for those who are curious how gerrymandered it is.)