While people take solitary strolls in the coincidental clean air, polluting industries and the government are quietly working on a dirty comeback. The Environmental Protection Agency has decided that protection is the last thing it wants to do during a pandemic and has suspended monitoring and reporting requirements. The president, meanwhile, is handing out gifts to his friendly polluters. He almost immediately answered a call from the American Petroleum Industry to suspend the regulations and is trying to provide a $3 billion bailout for the oil industry, according to Environmental Health News. But closer to home, the Bureau of Land Management is considering leasing up to 150,000 acres in the Moab area, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The BLM allows these "expressions of interest" in leasing to remain anonymous, but there's no doubt there's an urgency to file — while no one's looking.
Not to upset the uber-lords, the Utah Foundation has cautiously and ever-so conservatively ventured into the realm of gerrymandering. "Nationally, policymakers have at times tried to "game" the redistricting process to ensure a desired outcome," they say. At times. "The finessing of borders to achieve a politically desirable outcome is often called gerrymandering." Finessing. That's pretty mild stuff for an egregious strategy shown to protect incumbents and dilute the opposition's voting pool. And it's true that the Supreme Court has declined to rule on partisan gerrymandering – because it's too hard for them to figure out. So maybe it's excusable that the Deseret News carried a Utah Foundation op-ed saying "it's not as simple as it sounds." Sure it's challenging, but it's really not that hard to the right thing. And that is what an independent advisory commission has been charged with doing.
There may be a tiny silver lining from the pandemic. The Utah Department of Health suspended the cruel and unusual work requirement for Medicaid recipients. "Work requirements or 'community engagement' rules have always been illegal, illogical, and unnecessarily punitive," Stacy Stanford, policy analyst with the nonprofit Utah Health Policy Project told the Salt Lake Tribune. Sadly, the GOP hangs onto the Horatio Alger fairy tale that people should pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Never mind that they make minimum wage or are a single mom with kids. Utah thinks they're basically lazy bums because poverty is a sin and something only churches should be dealing with. The Trib's letters to the editor are heartbreaking. One noted that our health care for profit is immoral, and another asks what will happen to those without insurance. If the answer is some kind of government-funded health care, then you can be sure the GOP will scream socialism. It's going to cost the state, but better money than lives.