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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days in Office Have Been a Disaster. Scott Pruitt’s Have Been Even Worse.

Mother Jones

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The far right’s opinion of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has plummeted since the time Breitbart News praised him for doing “the Lord’s work” in early March. In only a few short weeks, Breitbart‘s tone shifted, so by the end of the month, the news site, described by Trump adviser Steve Bannon as “the platform for the alt-right,” warned, “If Scott Pruitt is not up to that task, then maybe it’s about time he did the decent thing and handed over the reins to someone who is.”

Criticism from the left and center was inevitable for a former attorney general who challenged environmental rules on 14 occasions. But the same week the Trump administration rolled out its executive order targeting the Obama administration’s work on climate change, Pruitt also faced an onslaught of unexpected criticism from the far right. Climate change deniers think Pruitt hasn’t gone far enough or fast enough or stood his ground defending their position on the science. And that’s just for starters.

As I previously reported, one issue tops climate change deniers’ wish list for the Trump administration, and that’s gutting the climate endangerment finding. The endangerment finding is a science-based determination, prompted by a Supreme Court decision in 2007, that is the foundational basis for the agency’s regulatory work on climate change.

Analyst H. Sterling Burnett of the Heartland Institute—the right-wing think tank that is best known for pushing out misinformation on climate change—rattled off reasons he’s happy with what Pruitt and the Trump administration have done so far in their reversal of a Clean Water Act rule and clearing the way for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. But he was firm that the endangerment finding still must go. “My belief is if he doesn’t ultimately get rid of the endangerment finding it undermines all the good work so far,” Burnett said. He notes the endangerment finding poses a legal problem for his organization’s ambitions of gutting the EPA as we know it.

“The endangerment finding ultimately undermines all the climate rules Obama sought to impose,” Burnett continued. “If all Trump does is revisit the Clean Power Plan and the fuel economy standard and withdraw it, environmentalists can just go to court and say, ‘This is an endangerment to human health—you’ve got to do something.’ I think the courts will say, ‘You know, you’re right.'”

Heartland, which has received funding from the Koch brothers and Exxon and ultimately wants to end the EPA, isn’t the only one echoing this all-or-nothing thinking. “People I know are trying to finesse around the endangerment finding,” Cato Institute’s Pat Michaels said to Heartland Institute’s gathering of climate change deniers in late March. “There is no way to finesse around a monster.”

There appears to be an unconfirmed rumor circulating in climate change denier circles that Pruitt has not read EPA recommendations from the transition team, which was led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell. That’s according to Steve Milloy, who contends the EPA overstates the dangers of air pollution; he has also denied human contributions to climate change.

Climate change deniers make rescinding the endangerment finding sound simple. It isn’t. Climate advocates and former EPA officials remain confident it will survive, even as Trump takes aim at much of the EPA’s Obama-era climate work, from fuel economy standards to its regulations on power plants.

“The science basis for climate change and the fact that human activity is the driver of increased CO2 in the atmosphere is, if anything, more compelling than it was in 2009,” said ex-EPA air chief Janet McCabe in an email to Mother Jones. “Any review of the endangerment finding would need to consider all the available science and respond to the public comments that will certainly be provided to the agency on such an important issue. Any revision to the finding will surely be challenged in court, and EPA would need to be able to defend in court any conclusion that is contrary to the vast majority of climate and other scientists in the US and around the world.”

One executive order targeting a broad swath of climate initiatives wouldn’t be enough for the hard-liners. And aside from not having eliminated the endangerment finding, Pruitt is getting slammed by people who should be his natural supporters.

Fox News moderator Chris Wallace asked Pruitt on Sunday about his recent remarks denying the role humans play in climate change and the health consequences of Trump’s EPA budget cuts. Pruitt had said he would “not agree” human activity is a “primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” Pruitt’s original comments have prompted an investigation from the EPA inspector general and drew a rare rebuke from the American Meteorological Society. During the Fox interview, Pruitt still walked the line of climate denial but more subtly, saying that “climate is changing and human activity contributes to that change in some measure.” Breitbart columnist James Delingpole seized on the exchange, criticizing the EPA administrator for wobbling on science denial. It was “an ugly and painful sight,” he wrote.

The problems don’t end there. The Trump administration hasn’t yet filled any of the key political appointments at the agency, even as several on its transition team have stepped down. David Schnare, who like Pruitt sued the agency when he was at the conservative Energy & Environment Legal Institute, recently resigned, cryptically hinting at his frustration with the slow pace of changes the Trump administration is making at the agency. “The backstory to my resignation is extremely complex,” he told E&E News. “I will be writing about it myself. It is a story not about me, but about a much more interesting set of events involving misuse of federal funds, failure to honor oaths of office, and a lack of loyalty to the President.”

The Washington Post suggested one theory for why things are moving slowly: “Pruitt is bristling at the presence of former Washington state senator Don Benton, who ran the president’s Washington state campaign and is now the EPA’s senior White House adviser.”

Then there is the pesky problem of an investigation of Pruitt by the Oklahoma Bar Association following complaints that he lied to Congress about using a private email for state business as attorney general. Less significant, but still embarrassing, the EPA didn’t quite explain how it swapped out a coal-state Republican’s glowing review of Trump last week for a Democratic senator’s blistering take. For Breitbart, this was enough to suggest that a Deep State conspiracy was at work.

Pruitt hasn’t offered any direct response to all these criticisms, but he appears to be paying attention to the conversation in conservative circles. He gave Breitbart an “exclusive” at the EPA headquarters the same week of its columnist’s critical take.

In that interview, Pruitt left the door open for changes to the endangerment finding. “I think that if there are petitions for reconsideration for the endangering sic findings, we’ll have to address those at some point,” Pruitt said. Nonetheless, at his confirmation hearing a month earlier, Pruitt, a lawyer by training, gave a more definitive answer to Democratic senators when they asked him about it. “Nothing I know of that would cause a review at this point,” he said.

Heartland’s Burnett still seems willing to give Pruitt and the Trump administration some benefit of the doubt that they will eventually do the right thing to appease conservative critics. “It’s just so early that I think it’s too early to hit the panic button,” Burnett said. “I haven’t given up hope that just because it wasn’t in this set of executive orders that it won’t be forthcoming.”

But, Burnett added, “You never know.”

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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days in Office Have Been a Disaster. Scott Pruitt’s Have Been Even Worse.

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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

Mother Jones

In Shots Fired, the buzzworthy police drama premiering March 22 on Fox, federal agents investigate a black cop who has gunned down a young, unarmed white man. By the numbers, police actually kill more white people than they kill black people, but they kill black people at a far higher rate. Using population data from the Census Bureau and police shooting data from the Washington Post‘s 2015 database, we calculated that black men between the ages of 18 and 44 were 3.2 times as likely as white men the same age to be killed by a police officer. And while black men make up only about 6 percent of the US population, last year they accounted for one-third of the unarmed people killed by police.

We’ve obviously got some policing issues, but the Trump administration seems inclined to look the other way. Last month, in his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions made clear that his Justice Department will curtail the monitoring of problem-plagued police departments that the Obama administration used as a tactic to combat civil rights violations by police. (Sessions suggested the monitoring had undermined “respect for our police and made, oftentimes, their job more difficult.”) Lest readers have forgotten just how divisive the racial disparities in law enforcement have been, and continue to be, we put together this brief history of recent police violence and backlash to it.

July 2013
Sickened by the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, labor organizer Alicia Garza writes on Facebook, “I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter.” Her friend Patrisse Cullors turns the last bit into a hashtag.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire via AP Photo

March 2014
In a Pew poll, 46 percent of Americans agree that “our country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites.”
July 2014

Eric Garner is choked to death by an officer on Staten Island, New York. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” become a civil rights slogan.

Bruce Cotler/ Globe Photos/Zuma

Aug. 2014
A white cop in Ferguson, Missouri, kills black teen Michael Brown, sparking weeks of protest. Police deploy riot gear, armored vehicles, and sniper rifles, while demonstrators adopt a “hands up, don’t shoot” posture based on claims that Brown had his hands up when he was shot. On Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter takes off.
Oct. 2014
A Chicago cop shoots Laquan McDonald 16 times. Police officials claim the teen was approaching officers with a knife—a union rep says he “lunged”—but the city won’t release dash-cam footage.
Nov. 22, 2014

Tamir Rice, 12, is killed by a Cleveland officer as he plays with a toy gun in a park.
Nov. 24, 2014
A Ferguson grand jury declines to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Michael Brown‘s killer. More protests. Critics of #BlackLivesMatter respond with #AllLivesMatter.

Darren Wilson St. Louis County Prosecuter’s Office/Reuters

Nov. 30, 2014
Five St. Louis Rams players walk onto the field for a game in the “hands up” position.
Dec. 3, 2014
The NYPD officer who choked Eric Garner escapes indictment. Days later, LeBron James and other NBA players don “I Can’t Breathe” shirts at pregame warmups.

Jonathan Brady/ PA Wire via Zuma Images

Dec. 18, 2014
The White House announces a new task force to “strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
Dec. 20, 2014
Two NYPD officers are ambushed. Their killer, a black man, had posted a photo of his gun on Instagram: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today.”
Jan. 2015
#BlackLivesMatter tweets average 10,000 a day.

Erik McGregor/Zuma

March 2015
A Department of Justice report says Ferguson police employees sent racist emails and targeted black residents with nuisance citations to generate revenue.
April 2, 2015
A white sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shoots black suspect Eric Harris after a foot chase. “I’m losing my breath,” Harris pleads in a video. “Fuck your breath,” another officer responds.
April 4, 2015

Walter Scott is fatally shot as he attempts to flee from Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Walter Scott in his Coast Guard days Courtesy of the Scott family

April 19, 2015
Freddie Gray dies of his injuries after a “rough ride” in a Baltimore police van.
May 2015
“I have heard your calls for ‘no justice, no peace,'” prosecutor Marilyn Mosby says as she announces charges against six officers in the Gray case. The White House task force releases its report: Police must “embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset.”

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

June 2015
Rapper Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” video depicts him being shot by police. It garners about 70 million YouTube views and wins two Grammys.

July 2015
BLM activists seize the mic at a Democratic candidate forum to grill Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders on police violence.
Oct. 2015
Rapper Vic Mensa’s video for “16 Shots,” a song about Laquan McDonald, goes viral.

Nov. 19, 2015
A judge orders the release of dash-cam footage that appears to show McDonald walking away from police when he was shot. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires his police chief the next month.
Nov. 22, 2015
Presidential candidate Donald Trump tweets out a chart of fabricated crime statistics suggesting that black criminals are responsible for the vast majority of homicides against white people. It’s entirely bogus. Here’s Politifact’s summary:

Feb. 7, 2016
Beyoncé’s dancers adopt a Black Panther look for the Super Bowl halftime show. Police unions call for a boycott of the star.

via GIPHY

Feb. 24, 2016
BLM activists disrupt a Hillary Clinton fundraiser, demanding she apologize for her racially charged comments about “super predators” during the 1990s. Clinton appears irritated, but the next day she does just that.
May 2016
The first state “Blue Lives Matter” bill passes in Louisiana. Attacking a cop is now a hate crime.
June 2016
The police-van driver in the Freddie Gray case is acquitted.
July 5, 2016

Alton Sterling is fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while officers have him pinned to the ground.
July 6, 2016
During a traffic stop, a Minnesota cop shoots Philando Castile as he reaches for his wallet—that’s according to Castile’s girlfriend, who livestreamed his demise on Facebook: “You told him to get his ID, sir!”

July 7, 2016
A black gunman kills five cops at a Dallas protest against police violence. He holes up in a parking garage, where police kill him with an explosives-bearing robot.
July 12, 2016
President Barack Obama defends Black Lives Matter at a memorial for the slain officers. “We have all seen this bigotry in our lives at some point,” and “none of us is entirely innocent,” he says. “That includes our police departments.”
July 17, 2016
A black military vet who ranted online about the treatment of black people by police assassinates three officers (one of them black) in Baton Rouge.
July 18, 2016
At the Republican National Convention, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who is black, proclaims that “blue lives matter.” In an op-ed the same day, he calls Black Lives Matter the “enemy.”

Mike Segar/Reuters via ZUMA Press

July 18, 2016
A police officer in Florida shoots a black caregiver who was lying in the street with his hands up. A union rep explains that the officer had been aiming at the man’s autistic patient, whose toy truck he mistook for a firearm.
July 27, 2016
After further acquittals in the Freddie Gray case, charges are dropped against the remaining officers.
Aug. 2016
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick starts sitting out the national anthem to protest police violence. A few pros and countless high school and college athletes follow suit.

Kevin Terrell/AP

Sept. 2016
Clinton debates Trump: “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police,” she says. Critics pounce. “Yes, Hillary Clinton called the nation racist,” writes a Washington Times columnist.
Oct. 2016
Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the DOJ will (finally) start collecting national data on police use of force.
Dec. 2016
A jury of 11 whites and one African American deadlocks in the trial of Michael Slager. A retrial is scheduled for late August 2017. A separate federal trial, to determine whether Slager violated Walter Scott’s civil rights, is slated to begin in May 2017.

Mic Smith, File/AP Photo

Feb. 2017
In his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions suggests that the Justice Department, under his watch, will discontinue its practice of monitoring police departments suspected of violating people’s civil rights.
March 2017
A new drama series, Shots Fired, debuts on Fox. “There were a lot of people who never saw Trayvon Martin as a kid,” one of the show’s co-creators tells Mother Jones. “He was painted as the victimizer, and Zimmerman Martin’s killer got donations from all over the country. So in doing a show that deals with police violence, the question was how do we make those people who sent in the donations see this kid as a human being? One of the things we came up with was to make one victim white.”

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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

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In Fox’s New Police Shooting Drama, Even the Extras Cry

Mother Jones

Shots Fired—a 10-part drama series that premieres on Fox on March 22—is a gripping examination of police violence and racial injustice in America. The show stars Stephen James (Race, Selma) and Sanaa Lathan (Love and Basketball, Alien vs. Predator) as Department of Justice officials called by the governor into a fictional North Carolina town to look into the fatal shooting of a young white man by a black sheriff’s deputy. The conflict escalates when the pair learn of another killing—of a black teen whose mother was warned by sheriff’s deputies to keep quiet—that has gone all but unnoticed by the town’s white residents. As the dual investigations unfold, the show offers sharp commentary on the human toll of violence and the role of race in the criminal justice system.

The series was created, written, and directed by husband-and-wife duo Reggie Bythewood (who most recently directed the TV series Gun Hill) and Gina Prince-Bythewood (director of Love and Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees). I caught up with Reggie earlier this week to talk about who inspired the show and what will happen to police accountability under the Trump administration. Watch the trailer, and then we’ll talk.

Mother Jones: Okay, this seems obvious, but I’ll ask anyway. What made you want to do a show about police shootings?

Reggie Bythewood: We have two boys. In July 2013, as the George Zimmerman verdict was being announced on TV, I sat down with my oldest son, then 12 years old. He got emotional when the verdict came back not guilty. Instead of hugging and consoling him, I pulled up an Emmett Till documentary on YouTube and made him watch it. Then I talked to him about the criminal justice system and how in many cases it doesn’t work.

It was the first real man-to-man talk we had. It was also the first time Gina and I felt like we wanted to be a part of the conversation. Not just as parents and black people, but as artists. We had been thinking about making a movie since then. But after Ferguson, Fox approached us about doing a series. We jumped at the idea, because a movie would have been a 90-minute version of the story instead of the 10-hour series we created.

MJ: One of the two shootings investigated on the show involves a white victim and a black cop. Usually we see the opposite. Why did you flip it?

RB: I want to stress that Shots Fired is not about a black cop who kills a white kid. It’s about the shooting of an unarmed white guy and an unarmed black guy. We wanted to create a narrative where we could look at both cases. But to answer your question, there were a lot of people who never saw Trayvon Martin as a kid. He was painted as the victimizer. And Zimmerman got donations from all over the country. So in doing a show that deals with police violence, the question was how do we make those people who sent in the donations see this kid as a human being? One of the things we came up with was to just make one victim white.

MJ: In Jesse’s case—he’s the white kid who is killed—you have these themes of grief and injustice projected onto a white family that are more familiar to a black audience. Then you have a black cop whose life is thrown into disarray—a notion that might resonate more with people who empathize with the police—and that idea is projected onto a black family. That seems instructive for people on both sides of the fence.

Reggie Bythewood created, wrote, and directed Shots Fired along with and Gina Prince-Bythewood. Courtesy Fox

RB: We wanted to let people understand what a mother feels when her son is killed and is painted as the victimizer. We also wanted every character to be three-dimensional and human. Some people are coming into it seeing things from the cop’s point of view who would not ordinarily think that way, but that’s an unintended consequence of the way we approached our primary goal.

MJ: Your research process has been grueling. Tell me about it.

RB: Our writers read articles. We watched the Jordan Davis documentary and several others. We had a two-hour Skype meeting with former Attorney General Eric Holder. We spoke with Ray Kelly, the former police commissioner of New York. He’s a proponent of stop-and-frisk—I’m not. But if you really want to do a good job, you can’t just talk to people who share your point of view. We spoke with Michelle Alexander author of The New Jim Crow, and we read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. We talked to people who have been victims of police misconduct. We talked to black cops and white cops. One of our staff writers, J. David Shanks, a black guy, was a police officer in Chicago for six years. One of the people whose words really resonated with us was Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant.

MJ: What did she say?

RB: She came to the writers’ room and talked to us about what it’s like as a mother to see your child become a symbol—of civil rights for some, and of anti-law-enforcement, of hate, for others—and watch people lose sight of the fact that this is a human being. So part of our goal was to make the victims—all the characters, really—human, and to make people empathize.

MJ: The DOJ launched investigations into two police shootings while you were filming last summer—Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Did that affect production at all?

RB: It was emotional on set when these incidents happened. There was a day when we had a prayer circle because it was hard to continue with the subject matter. It was amazing to see the extras crying on set. But those shootings reminded us that we had a cause. Yes, we’re artists. Yes, we’re doing a TV show to entertain. But this is all for real.

MJ: Now we have an attorney general—Jeff Sessions—who indicates that the Department of Justice will pull back on investigating police abuses. Yet your main characters are DOJ people doing exactly that.

RB: We assumed Hillary Clinton would be the next president and that there wouldn’t be a drastic shift at the Department of Justice. But I think the show is more relevant now in a way that we didn’t expect, because it highlights the importance of having a DOJ that listens to the people it serves, the urgency of these cases, and the need to have a responsive DOJ. I hope we expand that conversation.

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In Fox’s New Police Shooting Drama, Even the Extras Cry

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8 People Who Owe Their Lives to Obamacare

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump has vowed to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA)â&#128;&#138;—â&#128;&#138;a move that could leave some 30 million Americans without health insurance. ACA literally sustains millions of livesâ&#128;&#138;. Without the health insurance it provides, many people wouldn’t have access to medicine and procedures that they need to survive. When we asked people on Twitter and through healthcare advocacy organizations to share their stories of how ACA keeps them alive, we were overwhelmed with responses. We heard from people waiting for organ transplants, from cancer survivors, from people with debilitating mental illness, and more. They told us about the toll that disease has taken on their lives: Before the ACA, some were forced to skip treatments because of the price; others couldn’t get insurance at all because they were already sick. Here are a few of their stories.

Claudette Williams

Claudette Williams, 58, Orlando, Florida: I lost my job in 2005. After that I decided to purchase a policy. I found them online. They had a gentleman come to my house, and we talked about my blood pressure medications. The insurance was almost twice what they had quoted me because of the medication, and also because of my condition. I eventually couldn’t afford it any more. I was uninsured, except for one year when I qualified for Medicaid. I ended up in the emergency room on a few occasions for heart trouble. I also developed diabetes. I couldn’t afford to have regular mammograms. In 2014 I signed up for Obamacare. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of last year. The lumpectomy alone was billed at $40,000. I have four more chemo sessions to go, and after that, I have to do radiation. Luckily my cancer is only a stage one, so my prognosis is pretty good. But it is really scary thinking about my insurance being taken away. This is a fight for my life.

Charis Hill

Charis Hill, 30, California: When I was 25, in 2012, I had a series of unexplained and undiagnosable respiratory challenges that felt like the flu or bronchitis or pneumonia. Doctors just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. My condition got worse and worse. I visited urgent care a few times. I thought I was having a heart attack once. They tried to blame it on anxiety.

Eventually reached out to my dad, who was estranged from me. I knew that he had a severe health condition. The first words out of his mouth were, it sounds like you have what I have, which is ankylosing spondylitis (AS). I knew that I would need health insurance to be treated. But if I were to get a diagnosis before getting health insurance, I would have the preexisting condition working against me. So I got the cheapest plan that existed. I wasn’t getting all the tests done or getting all the treatments. Then, ten months later, the ACA was implemented, and because of my income, I was eligible for a subsidy to purchase health insurance on the exchange in California. I got a better plan for less than I was paying before, which meant that I could access more treatment and not skip medication.

I have infusions of a drug every eight weeks. I have to go to an infusion center for 2.5 hours. There’s no generic. There’s no way to get those treatments unless I have insurance. They slow down the progression of my disease. I also take anti-inflammatory medications orally. AS is a severe inflammatory condition. It primarily affects the spine. It causes a lot of pain and fatigue from the body trying to fight that inflammation. I’m permanently disabled. I was a college athlete, and now I’m not even able to run. I use a wheelchair sometimes. As hard as I fight to be healthy, I’m never going to be healthy, and I’m always going to have to rely on the medical system to keep me alive.

John Weiler, 27, Oakland, California: I got HIV when I was 19. When I was in college, I was on my parents health insurance, so when I started meds when I was 21, I took it for granted that I was going to have insurance that would cover it, because it was so easy. When I went to grad school, I naively accepted a position without asking any questions about how the insurance was structured. When you do a science PhD, it’s typical for the school to pay your tuition, pay your health insurance premium, and give you a stipend. In my program, the stipend is about $30,000 a year. So when I enrolled and started to look at my insurance situation, I realized the policy offered to students provided up to $10,000 worth of prescription coverage per academic year, and that was it. But in 2013, the student government got together and petitioned the university to change across the UC system. The students basically said, ‘We don’t care if our insurance premiums are higher, we don’t want these things that the ACA offers to not be part of the insurance plan for the school.’

I was on a med cocktail called Complera, and that one was $22,000 a year. HIV meds are super expensive. I switched to a different medication since then, called Stribild, and I don’t know exactly what it is this year, but if I remember correctly, that one was closer to $27,000 a year.

I’m about to graduate and find a job, and, let’s say worst case scenario, first Congressional session they manage to totally gut the ACA and revert to how things were before. If that were to happen and I were to get a job, it would be totally legal for an employer to be like, ‘Hey, yeah, we’re not covering this.’ I’d be looking at close to $35,000 a year in medical expenses just for maintenance, let alone if I got sick.

Ruth Linehan

Ruth Linehan, 26, Portland, Oregon: I graduated college in May 2012. I was 22. About a month later, I started an internship as a software developer at a Portland startup. Thanks to ACA I was on my parents’ insurance. After four months I was offered a full time job, but the insurance didn’t start until 6 weeks after my first day as an employee. On my first day I was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. I looked like I was 7 months pregnant. I started chemo the day after I was hospitalized. This is an incredibly fast-growing cancer. I was in the hospital for seven weeks. I received about four rounds of chemo. After four months I was declared in remission. I continue to be in remission. The hospital bills were about half a million dollars. I only had to pay about $10,000 because I was on my parents’ insurance.

If I lose my job and the cancer comes back, what am I going to do? I worry about illness down the road. I’ve had cancer at a very young age and a lot of very harsh chemo. I worry that I won’t be able to get affordable insurance, or get insurance at all.

Larry Sterlingshires, 35, Tennessee: I have a condition called hidradenitis surruptiva—look it up, do not look at pictures, because it’s not a good time—it’s a chronic skin condition that’s ultimately debilitating. As it progresses, it causes tissue degradation on the skin layer that doesn’t heal, like normal wounds do. Sometimes it creates lesions that don’t heal for a year and half. It’s debilitating because it’s painful—the tissue underneath is exposed without that protective layer, so it bleeds regularly. You have to keep everything patched and bandaged, and it easily gets infected. But because of the ACA, I can have medication that can’t completely undo the symptoms, but it seems to have halted its progression, and even promoted some healing. Complications related to the tissue damage and infections can be fatal.

The medications I’m on right now, in addition to just my normal medications for diabetes and hypertension, will help me survive longer. This lets me afford something called Claravis, and another medication called Humira. Humira runs approximately $7300 a month, and the Claravis is about $4000 a month. Those basically keep me functional without being completely disabled. That’s no exaggeration. If you check the disability schedule, it’s so painful and considered debilitating enough that you can qualify for full disability with it. The Affordable Care Act covers all of that medication in full. I come from poverty, I’m just now getting used to having insurance for the first time in my adult life, and now that seems like it might evaporate.

Debbie Lynn Smith, 59, Las Vegas, Nevada: I was a TV writer and producer. In 2000 I was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans. It’s also called popcorn lung. I got it from buttered popcorn. When you work in TV, you work 15 hour days. They provide snacks and things. Microwave popcorn is one of the things they give you. I ate a lot of it. It just so happened that I was susceptible to this disease.

I was in remission for 16 years, but I was living with 50 percent of my lung capacity. I couldn’t do TV anymore, couldn’t put in those long hours. I really had a hard time working and being reliable because I would get sick. So I couldn’t get insurance through work. I had insurance through the high-risk California program and I was paying $2,000 a month for that. My husband was on it, too, he had prostate cancer. We moved to Nevada. When the ACA came around we were ecstatic. We were both out of work at the time, so we went on ACA.

This year, in April, my disease came out of remission. I am now down to 30 percent of my lung capacity and waiting for a lung transplant. So you can imagine the fear I have—being so close to getting a transplantthat they might repeal the ACA right away, and I will no longer have access to insurance, and I won’t be able to get my transplant. I am extremely stressed. I was so stressed before the election that I could not take anything else. I was working for Hillary and I ended up in the hospital.

Michele Munro

Michele Munro, 64, Southern California: I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. I was 44. I was a single mom with two boys. I had Kaiser insurance. It wasn’t a bad cancer, and we caught it early. Then seven years later I was diagnosed with a different type of breast cancer. That was 2004. I also had a hip replacement. The Kaiser premium doubled, so I went without insurance for the first time in years. I was working as a freelancer, and insurers told me I was uninsurable. In 2011, ACA started to kick in. It was not allowing insurance companies to consider preexisting conditions. I applied and was accepted into Aetna. The first thing I did was go for a mammogram, and, sure enough, I had a triplenegative tumor. Very aggressive. It was small and early, so we caught it just in time. I had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy and breast reconstruction, all covered through ACA. I went into the hospital seven times total for infections. The billing was $900,000. Aetna settled and paid out $180,000.

I’m feeling really good right now because December was the fifth anniversary of being cancer-free. I exercise a lot. I’m doing everything I can on my end. But there is only so much you can do. I’m scared for myself, and also for my children. My parents had to claim bankruptcy for health insurance reasons. They were not covered for a medical emergency.

Suzanna Moore, 29, Fairfield, Iowa: When I was a baby, I had a stroke. I recovered well, but I would always have issues afterward. Throughout my childhood, it always a concern if I would have proper health care. I grew up in a pretty poor family in New England. With Obamacare, I went to an orthopedist for the first time in forever and got a prescription for orthotics to alleviate chronic pain in my knees and ankles on one side, because my right side was affected more from the stroke than my left side. The pain built up for a while, but basically throughout my twenties, I was never able to get it addressed, because I was living on my own in Tennessee and was unable to focus any money toward my personal health care.

I also had a meniscus tear during that time. Had I had surgery on that on my own, it would have been like $15,000 or more. With Obamacare, we still had to prioritize, but we didn’t go in debt over it.

My husband has a rare condition called achalasia, which means the muscles in his throat stopped working the way they were supposed to, so he had trouble swallowing and eating. He had to force food down his esophagus with air and water. After a while, it got so painful that he was eating less and he was losing weight rapidly. It was hindering his quality of life, and, left untreated, it could contribute to throat cancer. So he had to have surgery about eight months after I had my knee surgery. We were able to afford all of it. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without Obamacare.

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8 People Who Owe Their Lives to Obamacare

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Trump Expected to Sign Executive Orders Hitting the EPA

Mother Jones

Scott Pruitt will almost certainly be the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Oklahoma attorney general’s nomination is expected to sail through Senate—possibly as soon as Friday—despite Democrats’ protests that he is unfit to lead an agency that he has repeatedly sued. The administration has already imposed a freeze on the EPA’s social media, halted its rulemaking, and reportedly mandated that all agency research be reviewed by a political appointee before being released to the public. But next week, once Pruitt is sworn in, the real frenzy will begin.

According to Reuters, President Donald Trump plans to sign between two and five environmental executive orders aimed at the EPA and possibly the State Department. The White House is reportedly planning to hold an event at the EPA headquarters, similar the administration’s roll-out of its widely condemn travel ban after Defense Secretary James Mattis took office. While we don’t know what, exactly, next week’s orders will say, Trump is expected to restrict the agency’s regulatory oversight. Based on one administration official’s bluster, the actions could “suck the air” out of the room.

Trump may have hinted at the forthcoming orders in his unwieldy press conference on Thursday. “Some very big things are going to be announced next week,” he said. (He didn’t make clear whether or not he was referring to the EPA.)

Former President Barack Obama’s array of climate regulations, including the Clean Power Plan limiting power plant emissions, are certainly high on conservative activists’ hit list. So too is the landmark Paris climate deal, in which Obama agreed to dramatically cut domestic carbon emissions and provide aide to other countries for clean energy projects and climate adaptation. The EPA’s rule that defines its jurisdiction over wetlands and streams is also a prime target. As attorney general, Pruitt launched lawsuits against a number of these regulations.

“What I would like to see are executive orders on implementing all of President Trump’s main campaign promises on environment and energy, including withdrawing from the Paris climate treaty,” said Myron Ebell, who headed Trump’s EPA transition and recently returned to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in an email to Mother Jones.

H. Sterling Burnett, a research fellow the Heartland Institute, which rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, says Trump could start by revisiting the Obama administration’s efforts to calculate a “social cost of carbon“—and by forbidding its use to determine costs and benefits of government regulations. He also wants to see broader restrictions on how the EPA calculates costs and benefits. In particular, Burnett hopes Trump will prohibit the agency from the considering public health co-benefits of regulations—for example, attempts by the EPA to argue that limits on CO2 emissions from power plants also reduce emissions of other dangerous pollutants.

Or Trump could take a cue from Republican Attorneys General Patrick Morrisey (W.V.) and Ken Paxton (Texas), who recommended in December that Trump issue a memorandum directing the EPA to “take no further action to enforce or implement” the Clean Power Plan. (The Supreme Court halted implementation of the rule a year ago while both sides fight it out in federal court).

The holy grail for conservatives would be reversing the agency’s so-called “endangerment finding,” which states that greenhouse gas emissions harm public health and must therefore be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The endangerment finding is the legal underpinning for the bulk of Obama’s climate policies, including the restrictions on vehicle and power plant emissions. Undoing the finding wouldn’t be an easy feat and can’t be accomplished by executive order alone. The endangerment finding isn’t an Obama invention; in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gasses if it found they harmed public health. Pruitt said during his confirmation hearing that the administration wouldn’t revisit the finding, but he also launched an unsuccessful lawsuit against it in 2010. Neither Ebell nor Burnett expects to see Trump to tackle the endangerment finding just yet.

Environmentalists are already planning their response. Litigation is certainly an option, but it would of course depend on the details of Trump’s executive actions. Several groups, including EarthJustice and Natural Resources Defense Council, have already sued to block Trump’s earlier executive order requiring that every new regulation be offset by scrapping two existing regulations. Their case: The administration can’t arbitrarily ditch regulations just because the president wants fewer of them on the books.

They could be making a similar case soon enough. “A new president has to deal with the record and evidence and findings,” EarthJustice’s lead attorney, Patti Goldman, said. “If you take climate and the endangerment finding, that is a scientific finding that is upheld by the court. That finding has legal impacts. If there’s a directive along those lines, there will have to be a process.”

Of course, anti-EPA Republicans disagree about what is constitutional, which is one reason the agency is in for a tumultuous ride over the next four years. For many conservatives, no EPA at all—or at least one that has no regulatory powers—is the best option. “I read the constitution of the United States, and the word environmental protection does not appear there,” said Heartland’s Burnett. “I don’t see where it’s sanctioned. I think it should go away.” A freshman House Republican recently introduced a bill to do just that, but there’s no sign that it’s going to pass anytime soon.

And while Burnett acknowledges that the EPA probably won’t be vanishing in the near future, he’s been happy with the direction Trump has taken so far. He’s pleased with the president’s moves to restart the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, and he’s hopeful that the administration will move toward an EPA with “smaller budgets and a smaller mission, justified by the fact that you’ll have fewer regulations.”

Depending on what Trump does next week, that could be just the beginning.

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Trump Expected to Sign Executive Orders Hitting the EPA

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