Older man with gray hair and long white mustache standing at a podium with his mouth  open waving both hands in the air and the words American Conservative Union on the podium

We had yet another week of very little to be joyful about. The executive branch is fixated on destroying our environment and living out childhood fantasies by playing around with the military. We are yet to see a sanguine and inspiring candidate for the midterms rallying the people on the scale of Ralph Nader or Bernie Sanders. Even beautiful actions by teachers calling for higher wages and better educational conditions have a demoralizing side. They are receiving meager support from national political figures, and they show us how poorly the most important people in our communities are treated. The last seven days become even more unacceptable when they are just a continuation of the garbage we had to endure throughout March. I’ll begin with a recap of the month to put this week’s news into perspective.

Following the mass murder at a Florida high school (and thousands of other shootings in recent times), the Congress decided not to eliminate gun violence and bring down sky-high crime rates. Our representatives and senators are split between those loudly and aggressively refusing to play any part in gun control measures and those who are quietly hedging their bets and making insincere comments while waiting for gun nuts to vote for them in November. The only people who can stop children being shot in school are taking millions of dollars to make sure manufacturers can continue to profit off murder and so a few low-IQ, violent animals can ease the pain of some past emasculation.

The West Virginia teachers’ strike ended with a modest pay increase and a return to work. They deserved a lot more than they received, but at least they experienced some success with their direct action of shutting down the state’s education system. Very few politicians publicly supported the teachers which was disappointing for a number of reasons. The issue was an easy one to support because everyone loves teachers and there were no moneyed interests to piss off. Unionization, wages, and labor rights should be issues for every politician to at least discuss. After seeing how mediocrity and centrism were crushed by neo-fascism in 2016, candidates should be putting every ounce of effort into being more radical and progressive.

The executive branch moved even further to the right with a large number of staffing changes. Torture fan and goombah of the far-right “syndicate” Mike Pompeo was nominated to be the next Secretary of State. John Bolton, a notoriously racist warmonger, became the president’s National Security Advisor. Gina Haspel will replace Pompeo as head of the CIA. She has played an active role in past torture programs and will likely continue the agency’s disregard for human dignity and life. Every position with a new holder in some way affects foreign policy and economic planning, both of which will turn even further toward war and corporate enrichment.

The month ended with the passage of a $1.3 trillion spending bill that covers less than six months. That averages out to almost three billion dollars a year and the Congress still couldn’t find a single penny for gun control, public schools, new energy infrastructure, or any of the other things the country desperately needs and which would improve the lives of everyone. If a hack writer for a free local newspaper can afford to supply his child’s school with tissues, the United States government should be able to provide some. The bill was nothing more than a continuance of the status quo.

April began with (in addition to the deliciously timed religious holiday on Fool’s Day) the EPA announcing its plan to eliminate the Obama administration’s fuel efficiency standards for cars. It wasn’t exactly a welcome start to the new month. The justification for the rollback was that it would reduce car manufacturers’ costs and regulatory burdens. As we have seen time and again, increased profits and/or lower costs does not increase workers’ wages or improve their working conditions. So even if the big corporations see their bank balances grow because their automobiles are technologically backwards, only the rich will benefit. The only guarantee is that American cars will pump out more toxic fumes, worsening public health and exacerbating the devastating effects of climate change. The invisible hand of the market is total bullshit, but as long as capitalism runs the world, everyone should only buy electric cars and hybrids to force the manufacturers to only produce safe, efficient vehicles. Republicans love the free market so let’s make it work against them.

It doesn’t seem as though the executive branch is stabilizing after a tumultuous March. Another new, über-con joined the administration in a position for which they are wildly unqualified. Susan Combs was chosen to serve as acting secretary for fish, wildlife, and parks in the Department of the Interior. She is a Texas rancher with very close ties to the oil industry. She served as Texas’ comptroller and repeatedly fought to keep animals off the endangered species list and to weaken its effectiveness. Her wishes are to leave the country open to rampant drilling and to rescind all protections for any lifeform that may impede rigs and trucks. In her new job, she will have control over the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. It is entirely possible that she will shoot the act with a semiautomatic “hunting” rifle and hang its carcass on her office wall. Then Zinke and his congressional co-conspirators could sell off public lands to fossil fuel companies who will turn America into a barren wasteland. The Trump administration is choosing short-term financial gain over very long-term ecological stability and planetary health.

On Tuesday, Nasim Aghdam shot three people with a handgun at YouTube’s headquarters before thankfully killing herself (and sparing many others). She had no connection to the victims and only opened fire because she was unhappy with the company’s policies. This earns a mention in a political news roundup because there has still been no action on gun control and the only proposals would have done nothing to prevent it. Even sane liberals and progressives are only calling for an assault weapons ban, and I would love for them to tell me how such a ban would have prevented the shooting. Those individuals need to come around to the need for a total handguns ban or admit they are fine with mass murders as long as the victims are adults and less than five people get killed or injured.

Trump requested southern border states deploy National Guard troops to the Mexican border in what is fast becoming a war on immigration. His request comes during a relatively peaceful, violence-free period when immigration is continuing to decrease. Trump has failed to secure funding for his border wall so is trying to placate the worst racists in his party by doing something for border security. At the time of writing, Texas and Arizona have already pledged troops with deployments expected to begin next week. Hundreds of troops and millions of dollars will be sent to the border with a peaceful ally to threaten and potentially open fire on people of color. It is so unbelievably racist, and the elected left should be doing everything it can to end the bigoted rhetoric pouring out of Washington and to crush the violent, pro-military factions in the government. Right now, their actions are the same as Dick Cheney’s heart: fake and not doing anyone any favors.

Inspired by West Virginia’s brave teachers, educators in Oklahoma and Kentucky struck for more livable salaries. They are only asking their representatives for what they need and deserve. It is not clear how much they will be offered or what exactly will bring the strikes to an end. The reaction from our national leaders has been as muted as the one to the West Virginia strike. It would be very disappointing for the midterm elections to not include public education funding or labor issues. The Republicans definitely won’t touch those issues and establishment Democrats aren’t interested in a well-educated electorate. The best we can hope for at the moment is a decent raise for the striking teachers followed by more actions around the country.

One piece of good news came from the Department of the Interior of all places. The National Park Service guaranteed it would not massively increase the entrance fees at America’s national parks. The increase would have almost tripled the cost to just enter a park and put the nation’s natural treasures further out of reach for many people. The plan was to cover the huge gap in the NPS’ budget, created by both Democrats and Republicans who love to talk about patriotism but won’t help anyone enjoy the land they are supposed to be proud of. The more people who visit National Park Service units, the more educated the population is about environmental protections and diversity. The people of this country could then work to protect our waterways and air and prevent native species from being extirpated. Repairing trails, training rangers, and safeguarding the very foundations of human existence would be money well-spent. It just shouldn’t be the people’s money, especially after they have already paid their hard-earned taxes.

It’s sad that affordable entrance fees are the best thing to have happened in national politics over an entire week. However, it fits the pattern 2018 has been following and which, with the lack of competent progressive candidates, will continue for months to come.