Week 20 pledge actions


As promised last week, this week we’ll continue dealing with three major issues – climate change, science, and taxes:

1) Hold the line on climate change

2) Let the EPA do its job: oppose H.R. 1430 and H.R. 1431

3) Learn About Tax Reform, Part 2

4) Attend Resistance School!

As usual, please take a few seconds to do our one-question survey, and keep recruiting more people to take the pledge!


1) Hold the Line on Climate Change

Last week, Trump signed an executive order directing EPA to begin the process of withdrawing and reviewing the Clean Power Plan. This set of regulations is intended to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants and to increase the use of renewable energy sources. Without implementing the Clean Power Plan, it’s unlikely that the U.S. can meet its obligations under the Paris climate accords (although Trump has not officially withdrawn from that agreement), thus endangering the prospect of coordinated international action.

The good news is that the process will take years. Environmental advocates will fight every step of the way, and in the meantime, the EPA is still legally obligated to regulate carbon dioxide. The bad news is that we don’t have time to waste when it comes to phasing out fossil fuels.

The worse news is that as president, Donald Trump now has the power to make his unfounded opinions about climate change into policy, and that his administration is full of people who share those opinions.

In addition to the executive order, House Republicans held hearings and introduced legislation to further their climate denial agenda. Trump is also considering a rollback of vehicle emissions and efficiency standards, which are a major part of reducing our overall carbon dioxide footprint as well as air pollution. These actions move the country backwards on climate change, to the point that we are ceding global leadership.

Next to the possibility of such massive global change, individual actions can seem small and inadequate. Yet they are a necessary first step, and with enough individual actions, we can still bring about meaningful change.

What You Can Do:

  • Keep calling Scott Pruitt to let him know that his climate denial is unacceptable.
  • Fight for local legislation. An International Energy Agency report argues that cities are the front line for cutting emissions, so we will need to fight on multiple local fronts, as well as in matters of national and international policy.
    • If you live in MA, a good starting place is the Mass Power Forward campaign, which involves a number of local organizations working towards clean energy and other environmental solutions.  Their legislative agenda is here.
    • Find local resources for your area here and see what action you can take in your home state or town.
    • Learn about the Compact of Mayors and see if your city is participating (Boston is). This group, launched by the UN, seeks to turn cities across the globe into political leaders. More info and scripts at Wall-of-Us.
  • If you drive a car, the New York Times says that getting a fuel-efficient vehicle is the biggest carbon reduction an individual can make.
  • Join the People’s Climate March in D.C. or other locations to make your voice heard.

2) Let the EPA do its job: oppose H.R. 1430 and H.R. 1431

Climate denial isn’t the only thing threatening the environment right now. In the past week, two new bills aimed at rendering the Environmental Protection Agency dysfunctional passed the House and moved on to the Senate. The EPA is an integral part of keeping the American people safe and our lands beautiful. Ever since its creation in 1970, when the Cuyahoga River burst into flames, the EPA has worked tirelessly to protect us. Now that the EPA is in trouble, we must protect it.

The first bill, H.R. 1430, is the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017 or the HONEST Act. It prohibits the EPA from making decisions and regulations “based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.” While the text of this bill seems reasonable, and many scientists want more open data, it’s a “wolf in sheep’s clothing type” statute. There are major concerns that the HONEST Act would prohibit the EPA from acting on its findings at all. For instance, medical studies use confidential data, so they cannot be called “transparent” by the HONEST Act’s standards. The EPA also needs to take action based on events that simply aren’t reproducible, like natural disasters, the fallout from nuclear weapons, or oil spills like Deepwater Horizon. Furthermore, as the EPA collects much of its own data, reproducing it would be extremely expensive. With the EPA budget set to shrink even more than anticipated under the Trump administration, the HONEST Act’s restrictions might force the EPA to focus on fewer projects.

The second bill, H.R. 1431 is the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017, or Advisory Reform Act. It would change the selection rules for the Science Advisory Board such that board members can neither have grants from the EPA nor apply for them for three years following their board terms. Currently, members who have a research grant simply recuse themselves from topics surrounding their research. The Advisory Reform Act would disincentivize many experts in the field from working on the EPA Science Advisory Board. Also, because university researchers rely so heavily on EPA funding, the Advisory Reform Act it risks shifting the makeup of the board away from university researchers and towards researchers in industry. Furthermore, this new reform act would allow scientists with financial conflicts to serve as long as they disclose them; currently, people with financial conflicts cannot serve unless they get a waiver.

Both bills have passed the House and moved to the Senate, so we need to act now.

What You Can Do:

3) Learn About Tax Reform, Part 2

Last week, we brought you up to speed on tax reform. Not as much has happened since then as we might have feared.  One reason is the ongoing arguments within the GOP about a possible border adjustment tax. With the April 15 marches/protests fast approaching, it’s the perfect time to talk about Trump’s tax returns.

First of all, the tax reform conversation is closely connected to Trump’s returns, because many of the regulations up for debate are reflected in Trump’s own tax behaviors. For instance, Trump wants to eliminate the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which was responsible for about 80% of his own tax bill in 2005, according to the two pages revealed by Rachel Maddow. The AMT is a complicated patch to limit the effects of various loopholes and deductions. Essentially, you calculate what your tax would be normally, then you calculate what your tax would be at a lower percentage tax rate but with far fewer deductions allowed. If the second number is higher, the difference is your AMT bill.

More broadly, Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns breaks with presidential precedent. Starting with Richard Nixon, every president (and every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate) has released their tax information to the public. The breadth of disclosure has varied: for instance, Gerald Ford only released summaries, and some people did not include supplements. Still, every president and major-party candidate has made at least some information public – except for Trump.

However, the demand for Trump’s tax returns isn’t really about economics, or precedent. Nor is it really about embarrassing Trump with evidence as to whether his income and charitable donations live up to his claims. It’s about national security.

As you’ve been hearing from us and elsewhere, there are a lot of questions about how Trump’s foreign policy may be unethically influenced by his business interests. One obstacle to answering this question is that we only know bits and pieces about his foreign business interests. The basic two-page tax return wouldn’t tell us much more, but Trump’s full, apparently enormous (allegedly 12,000-page) tax return might contain lots of important things.  Any Schedule K-1s Trump received from partnerships or LLCs that he owns a piece of would reveal shell companies in which Trump quietly owns a stake, giving journalists new leads to follow. Any copies of a Form 1116 or a Schedule A would reveal where Trump is paying foreign taxes and how much, telling us more about which countries have influence over him.

There has been an extraordinary bipartisan consensus in favor of Trump releasing his returns. In addition to Democrats, Republicans ranging from Paul Ryan to Freedom Caucus member Mark Sanford, and even Trump allies Kellyanne Conway and Roger Stone have spoken publicly in favor of Trump releasing his tax returns (although Trump hadn’t hired Conway yet when she said it). The petition demanding Trump’s tax returns has over a million signatures.

What Can You Do:

  • Sign the petition demanding Trump’s tax returns!
  • Keep your calendar open April 15 for the Tax March.  We’ll have more details next week.
  • Educate yourself more by reading this detailed piece from Forbes about what Trump’s returns might and might not reveal.

4) Attend Resistance School

Resistance School is a free four-part weekly activist training course hosted in Cambridge at the Harvard Kennedy School. Its organizers include former Obama, Clinton, and Sanders campaign staffers. For those who don’t live in Cambridge or who can’t be there in person for other reasons, there is an option to attend virtually.

The first session is tonight, April 5. Its topic is “How to Communicate our Values in Political Advocacy” and the leader is cultural historian Dr. Timothy McCarthy. Help keep the movement alive and learn better strategies to help fight back!

What You Can Do:

  • Attend the first Resistance School Session tonight at the Harvard Kennedy School at 7 PM tonight – Directions Here
  • Attend the U.S. Department of Justice tonight virtually at 7 PM tonight – You can find link Here
  • Sign up for updates on the upcoming Resistance School Sessions
  • Mark upcoming sessions on your calendar, and tell your friends to join you!


That’s all for this week. As always, keep encouraging people to take the pledge, and please share any thoughts or questions with us at solidarity@mit.edu!

Until next week,

Solidarity MIT