Trump To N. Dakota Drought Victims: You’re ‘Better Off’ Than Harvey-Flooded Texans
The president offered no new details about either his tax reform legislation or his stated plan to end drought in our time for the northern Plains states. In both cases, intentions are policy.
A “flash drought” sparked by high temperatures in July and no rainfall has devastated the economy in the region: ranchers are selling their cattle to offset losses and farmers started to harvest wheat, beans, and peas two to three weeks early just to harvest what has not been scorched. These harvests are sometimes half the normal yield, and wheat farmers report yields one-third the normal size. Because the harvests are not fully matured, wheat farmers in the Dakotas report that their harvests are of poorer quality than normal.
The drought came on suddenly this summer. When farmers in the region started to plant their crops this spring, the entire region was under normal weather conditions, but the five-month period from March through July this year was the third-driest recorded since 1895, according to North Dakota’s state climatologist.
More than two-thirds of both North and South Dakota are considered to be under moderate to extreme drought conditions as of this week.
A climatologist with the National Weather Service in Montana reported this week, “This is as dry as it’s been in recorded history and some of our recording stations have 100 years of data. A lot of people try to compare this to previous years, but really, you just can’t.”
Worse, wildfires caused by this year’s Montana/Dakota drought are actively burning more than 500,000 acres in Montana, which led that state’s governor to declare a “statewide fire disaster” for September this week. This is the third consecutive month he has made this declaration. More than a million acres have been consumed in the wildfires this summer.
North and South Dakota have been spared active wildfires so far, but the smoke blankets all of South Dakota and much of western North Dakota, as seen in this National Weather Service satellite photo:
— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) September 4, 2017
Catastrophic Drought > Catastrophic Flood
President Trump spoke in western North Dakota on Wednesday in front of an oil refinery owned by Andeavor, the former Tesoro Corporation. According to the Washington Examiner, the White House specifically requested the oil refinery as a backdrop.
The Dakota drought was news to the president, he said: “You have a very serious drought. I just said to the governor, I didn’t know you had droughts this far north. Guess what—you have them.” The president did not report Governor Doug Burgum’s reply. Droughts can occur everywhere and anywhere, north and south. All that is needed is land and an unexpected absence of water.
President Trump told those in attendance that the “opposite” of a drought had recently happened in Texas and Louisiana, which they may have heard about in the news. Hurricane Harvey last week shattered rainfall records and killed at least 71 individuals, 70 in Texas. The president, who viewed images of Harvey’s devastation and spoke of “water damage,” saw the damage himself in two visits to the region.
Because water damage is the “worst” according to this president, a drought would be better or at least not as bad by definition, it seems.
The president told the North Dakotans, some of whom may have lost crops this summer, “You’re better off. You are better off, they [those in Texas and Louisiana] had the absolute opposite.” Devastating loss is devastating loss, and comparisons do not count as empathy. The president sometimes appears to be the sort of person who would tell someone who was just fired from their only job that he knows someone else who recently took a hit in the stock market. Perhaps it is a good thing that the president did not know about the drought and wildfires while he was in Corpus Christi last week.
Related: Rush Limbaugh’s Category 5 Stupidity
Nonetheless, President Trump not only promised aid to offset the effects of the drought on farmers and ranchers in the affected area, he also promised an end to the drought: “We’re working hard on it, and it will disappear, it will all go away.”
The president’s speech in front of an oil refinery in North Dakota on Wednesday introduced his details-to-follow tax reform plan—two of the “four principles” that he outlined are both tax cuts—and he also revealed that he thinks one sort of life-altering loss can be considered worse than another.
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