The Mark UP

Donald Trump vs. the Pursuit of Happiness

To stop President Trump’s and his congressional allies’ assault on human health and the environment, return to America’s founding principles.

President Trump and his allies in Congress are pursuing a dangerous agenda that would unravel popular, common-sense protections for clean air, clean water and a stable climate. They think political divisions in our country will allow them to succeed without opposition.

We can stop them, though, if we focus on our founding principles and the values that unite us as Americans. We believe in “certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We believe that an American denied a fair shot is an American robbed of these fundamental rights. We believe in the American Dream.

But the Trump presidency poses an existential threat to those values, to our health and our safety.

Mr. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency moved last week to repeal the Clean Power Plan, America’s best tool to fight climate change and reduce tens of thousands of asthma attacks caused by dangerous coal-fired power plants. In prepared remarks Mr. Trump was scheduled to deliver recently at the White House to 300 industry representatives, he bragged about weakening the very protections Americans have come to rely on to stay safe and healthy.

The president went so far as to tell the National Manufacturers’ Association his administration has been “cutting regulations at a pace that has never even been thought of before” to “bring back our great American Dream.”

Bring it back for whom, though, Mr. President?

Mr. Trump’s government is attempting to end and defund initiatives that fight asthma-inducing power plant pollution and protect our drinking water. He has moved to expose more of our coastal communities and workers to the dangers of offshore drilling, less than a decade after BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout killed 11 and spoiled the Gulf coast. And by directing the federal government to ignore climate change, Trump has exposed the most vulnerable among us to its crippling impacts, including, scientists say, the supercharged nature of recent hurricanes that have devastated Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida.

The aim of Trump’s actions is disturbingly clear: to reward a wealthy few in corporate board rooms at the expense of American families’ health and safety. President Trump does not stand for the American Dream; he is sabotaging it.

America’s health and environmental laws exist to protect our lives, liberties and happiness. They help safeguard the American Dream–our collective belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can create for yourself and your family a better life, free from dirty air, deadly water, unsafe food or needlessly dangerous work conditions.

That’s why nearly 50 years ago Congress passed transformative laws that cut the toxic pollution spewing from smokestacks and tailpipes, limited the waste and raw sewage dumped in our waterways, and cleaned up carcinogenic hotspots created by irresponsible dirty industries.

When Republican President Richard Nixon established the EPA in 1970 to implement these popular new laws, he and most Americans recognized them as necessary to our prosperity. Between 1970 and 2011, air pollution dropped 68 percent while GDP grew 212 percent. Our economy thrived, and America’s environmental and health protections were the envy of the world.

Until now.

Today in America, 6.2 million children suffer from asthma. Half a million children between 1 and 5 experience toxic levels of lead that prevent them from reaching their full potential (black children are twice as likely to be exposed). And millions of the most vulnerable among us–women, children, minorities, and the elderly–continue to disproportionately suffer from the devastating impacts of climate change like extreme weather and heat waves.

By abandoning America’s Clean Power Plan and other everyday safeguards, President Trump’s administration will cause more pain and suffering. Each time a child suffers a preventable asthma attack in school, we betray our national heritage, built on shared values of equality of opportunity and the individual freedom to reach one’s full potential.

We can do better, and we know how. Mr. Trump may sit in the Oval Office, but we, the people, can limit his power to undermine our health and safety by speaking out and voting our values–next month in Virginia and next year nationwide.

Americans believe our students should have the freedom to succeed in school without being hurt by water fountains with toxic levels of lead. We believe we should clean up smokestacks and landfills that are frequently near low-income communities. We believe in an America that says yes to clean energy that creates jobs, cuts pollution and saves families money on energy bills, not one that allows large corporations to condemn our neighborhoods to decades of disease.

Above all, we believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–for all Americans–and we will fight in the halls of Congress and at the ballot box for those whose inalienable rights are violated by this administration’s recklessness. It’s time we reclaim the American Dream, for all of us.

Kevin S. Curtis is executive director of the NRDC Action Fund.