Update: reports now suggest that Trump does not intend to donate personally at all, but will instead donate from the Trump Foundation, which itself is funded by donations from others. Records show that Donald Trump last donated to the Trump Foundation in 2008.
The President’s response to Harvey has been characteristically puzzling. Instead of meeting with survivors of the catastrophic storm, he boasted about crowd sizes and turnout. The Commander-in-Chief has, however, also vowed to donate $1 million of his own personal fortune to help out those who have been affected by the hurricane.
On the surface, this is a seemingly generous thing to do – but dig just a little beneath the surface, and it’s clear to see that it’s yet another specious action by a President who doesn’t seem to grasp or care about the bigger picture.
It goes without saying that donations to victims of natural disasters are always welcome. Too often, those who are impacted by natural disasters are often forgotten about when the media circus moves on to the next big story and the waters or fires have receded. The government continues to work, but charities and non-governmental organizations play an essential role too, and they need these donations.
However, donations like this are a form of treatment after the fact; the event has already happened, and this is about making amends. Just like when it comes to disease, natural disasters need mitigating too, and that requires scientific research, flood protection, and effective science communication.
Just in case you need reminding then, the Trump administration is arguably the most anti-scientific federal government in living memory. It is severely defunding scientific research – and it would have gone much further had a bipartisan effort in Congress not temporarily stopped it.
In particular, billions of cuts to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been repeatedly proposed by the White House. These agencies don’t just look at climate change – which certainly exacerbated Harvey – but they also need funds to keep up their hurricane prediction efforts, which are impressively precise.
At the same time, important flood protection measures are being rescinded for petty reasons. The White House, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy and the Interior Department are all eroding the efforts of scientists to inform the public about the facts by spreading misinformation and censoring and bullying academics on government payrolls.
Donating $1 million to relief efforts is no bad thing, but it’s effectively all for show when you’re trying to sabotage America’s scientific legacy. This is reminiscent of the time that Trump donated $100,000 to the Department of Education while hoping to cut $9 billion from its budget.
The President is once again hoping his donation will make the headlines and get him some much-needed positive coverage, the sort that will plaster over his abysmal track record. In reality, he is a hypocrite and a dangerous one at that.