To the Editor: Draining the swamp

To the Editor:

As a child in a struggling working family in rural Maine, I learned quickly about corporate responsibility, economic inequality and environmental degradation. The belief that factory employment would provide one’s family with sustainable livelihood proved false for so many of us.

Dyes and other toxic chemicals polluted the river, killed fish and put lives at risk. Yet the townspeople ultimately had to bear the tax burden of cleaning up the river.

Sadly, President Trump reminds me of these realities. As a real estate tycoon, he stiffed contractors and working people. His multiple bankruptcies left numerous creditors holding the bag. He even impersonated an agent to promote his own business interests. Now he profits from his presidency, from selling hats at his rallies to charging state guests at his properties, often underwritten by taxpayers.

Donald Trump Jr. once boasted that the Trump company didn’t need banks because they had plenty of Russian money. Is it any wonder this self-proclaimed billionaire will not release his tax returns and argues in federal court that he is absolutely above the law?

What do we make of a person who claims “great and unmatched wisdom” but hardly admits being wrong? He even insists that his weather predictions cannot be contradicted and that the size of his inauguration crowd was the largest ever. He claims to build walls (most vigorously against constitutional investigations), but also separates families and cages children at the border.

When union organizers came to my town, the factory bosses called them outsiders, out-of-staters stirring up trouble and driving away jobs. In the same way, President Trump blames immigrants for violent crime and job losses. The checkered reputations of businesspeople appointed to his cabinet and the deregulation of the fossil fuel industry remind me of the factory owners and the river in my hometown.

Trump’s avid support of carbon-based fuels not only adds greenhouse gases that warm the planet, it also makes it more difficult for states like Maine to take full advantage of the growing green economy. Governor Janet Mills’ efforts to promote greener and good-paying industries could be significantly magnified by federal policies facilitating renewable energy projects. Maine’s potential for wind, tidal, geothermal and even solar energy is enormous. Tragically, President Trump and his party turn a blind eye to the future of our children and grandchildren.

How wise, or even trustworthy, is a president who “jokes” about being “president for life” and “the chosen one”? Just as worrisome is the people’s attorney general acting like President Trump’s “fixer.” His personal attorney Giuliani collaborates with business associates arrested for funneling Russian money into U.S. elections and orchestrating pressure on an ally invaded by Russians. And grab your wallet when a president and his party, despite their warnings about a national debt crisis, dramatically increases it to enrich wealthy individuals and giant corporations, leaving ordinary citizens to shoulder that debt into the future.

Furthermore, the security of our state and nation is dangerously compromised when a president welcomes foreign interference in our elections and trusts Vladimir Putin’s words more than U.S. intelligence. Presently, President Trump is under an impeachment inquiry for apparently extorting a foreign government for personal political gain. He praises murderous autocrats while distrusting allies, even berating and abandoning Kurdish allies who helped us defeat the Islamic State. He ceded influence in the region, moreover, to two authoritarians and a war criminal: Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan and Syrian President Assad. Meanwhile, ISIS regains strength in Syria.

Corruption in government and business, growing authoritarianism, foreign interference in our elections and loss of civil rights clearly threaten citizens in Maine and across the nation. Denying the impact of climate change, using divisive, even incendiary, language and ignoring greener technology also make us demonstrably less safe.

In central Maine where I grew up, there are plenty of bogs and dead water. I know a swamp when I see one. Trump’s presidency — far from “draining the swamp” — is surrounded by expansive dark waters of unfathomable corruption. Maine and the nation need a national administration with vision. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

John Ripton


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