If there’s one thing I’ll be doing tonight, it will be to not watch the State of the Union. And I won’t be alone. Across the country, activists, lawmakers and celebrities alike are boycotting the speech and staging demonstrations to turn the nation’s attention toward urgent realities like climate change and immigration raids.
It’s a safe bet that Donald Trump will take credit for boosting the economy during his first year in office. Not only will he be exaggerating, but he will also be glossing over the fact the “one percenter” economic policies of the Trump administration have been a disaster for human rights, development, and social justice. The issues that ActionAid has worked on for decades – fighting hunger, land grabs, and climate injustice around the world – are growing worse because of these policies. The Trump administration has gutted protections and regulations which have made it even harder to stop human rights violations.
In particular, they have cut the financial protections put in place after the 2008 financial crisis – like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Dodd-Frank – putting working people’s retirements at risk and enabling human rights violations around the world to be funded by Wall Street.
Just as alarming is how pension funds and hedge funds are now looking to buy farmland all over the world. They’re seeing it as a new source of financial investment, which is driving new waves of land grabbing: theft, fraud, and violence in poor, rural communities in the Global South. The U.S. was unfortunately weak on financial protection and even weaker on protecting human rights before Trump, but these cuts further enable human rights violations and empower the very same banks that almost destroyed the economy a decade ago.
The Trump administration is also wreaking havoc on rural communities in the U.S. Even though rural communities elected Trump because they thought he would “stick up for the little guy,” he has supported corporate interests over farmers’ needs time and time again. The appointment of Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture was a prime example of this: prior to joining Trump’s cabinet, Mr. Perdue built a career off of trading with big agribusinesses that prop up industrial farming.
When I visited farmers in Iowa just a few months ago, I saw firsthand how agribusiness and “free trade” policies have decimated rural communities and led to poverty and pollution. Despite talking like a populist, Trump is governing like a corporatist.
The rollback of financial protections and the corporate takeover of farming may not necessarily tug on most heartstrings, but they are part and parcel of the same erosion of human rights that we’re seeing in this administration’s crackdown on immigration. During Trump’s first eight months in office alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 110,568 immigrants, a 42-percent increase over the same time period in 2016.
So no, I will not be giving my time to the 45th president of the United States. Instead I will be tuning in to the work of fellow resistors across the country – like the women who are presenting The State of Our Union tonight at 8 PM EST. Together we are building – and believing in – a more just world for all.