In the torrent of horrific appointments coming out of the Trump administration it is easy to miss specifics that wash by. Allgov.com, for those brave enough to face them all, regularly posts an up-to-date list of Trump appointments.
Among the most recent batch: Seema Verma, who has been tagged by Trump as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at Health and Human Services (HHS); William Beach was named Commissioner of Labor Statistics part of the Department of Labor (DOL); and Bruce Lee Myers will be head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA operates as part of the Commerce Department under Wilbur Ross, recently alleged to have business ties to Russians close to Vladimir Putin.
Prior to her appointment as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma redesigned Indiana’s healthcare program for former Governor — now Vice President — Mike Pence. Under her Healthy Indiana Plan the state’s care rating went from the 33rd healthiest state nationwide (bad) to 41st (worse). Part of the re-organization was removing people from Medicaid eligibility if they didn’t contribute to health care savings accounts.
At the Dept. of Labor, recently appointed Commissioner for Labor Statistics William Beach was formerly the longtime president of the Koch-brother-funded Institute for Humane Studies (“called a haven for climate change deniers”) and more recently was at the right–wing think tank Heritage Foundation. There he advocated abandoning Social Security and supported privatization of retirement in financial markets. During the Great Recession he favored cutting unemployment benefits.
The first two of these far-from-qualified appointees embody the kind of bumbling incompetence and/or extreme ideology we’ve come to expect from this administration. But for pure self-serving grifting potential it may be hard to beat the appointment of AccuWeather CEO Bruce Lee Myers to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA operates as part of the Commerce Department and runs the National Weather Service. Under normal circumstances this conflicted appointment might attract substantial attention, but given the thick fog of questionable ethics engulfing President Trump it hardly receives the kind of notice it deserves.
Allgov.com reports: [… Bruce] Myers was executive vice president and general counsel for AccuWeather. In 2007, Barry took his brother’s place as chief executive officer of the company.
The Myers brothers for years financially supported Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania). In 2005, Santorum introduced a bill that would have restricted NWS [the National Weather Service] from providing regular weather reports to the public. Instead, it would reserve the taxpayer-funded product of NWS for use by companies such as AccuWeather. Santorum’s bill was not passed.
In 2014, AccuWeather made a deal with the Chinese government to disseminate weather information there for 20 years. The agreement was made after Chinese hackers were accused of having accessed into NOAA’s computers to disrupt satellite data dissemination.
AccuWeather has been critical of the Weather Service and Myers has made no secret his desire to privatize all or parts of the weather service for profit. Congress recently passed and Trump signed legislation that should speed that process along. The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 has provisions to expand and pursue pilot programs to use and coordinate commercial data options and private-sector weather solutions among various federal government weather stakeholders.
So thanks to Trump and the GOP Congress it looks like the sun (and our tax dollars) may soon be shining down on for-profit private-satellite operators like Bruce Lee Myer’s family business AccuWeather. Who says you can’t control the weather (or at least control access to crucial weather information)?
The question is whether the USA can survive the blatant conversion of government resources to inform and enrich the President’s friends. Those folks must have very deep storm cellar-bunkers many hundreds of miles from major sources of water — as well as their own private line to what will become secret government disaster warning information. Duct tape and plastic isn’t going to help as climate change drowns Miami.