WASHINGTON – Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said President Trump is not going to change and become “more presidential,” arguing that members of his administration “insincerely appeal” to minority communities.
“Those of us who stand up for the kinds of issues we’re dealing with today are often demonized, so please welcome demonized Maxine Waters,” she said at the start of her speech during the VOICES Coalition’s briefing on “The FCC’s War on the Poor” on Capitol Hill.
“Part of the FCC’s mission is to ensure that all Americans can access communication networks and to ensure that these networks offer diverse programming and are operated and owned by people from diverse backgrounds,” Waters said. “One of the main ways we can achieve these goals is through net neutrality, which guarantees a free and open Internet.”
Waters said she’s received “thousands of calls” from constituents who said they value net neutrality. The congresswoman said she supports efforts to overturn the FCC’s repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality rules.
“This administration is doing everything it can to roll back years of progress,” she argued. “This administration’s attack on net neutrality is yet another attack on communities of color and we just can’t stand for it.”
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) said repealing net neutrality was an attack on First Amendment rights.
“This is clearly just yet another way to shame the poor, blame the poor and shift all the wealth of this country to the few,” she said.
Waters called for the FCC to help create more diversity among broadcast station owners.
“In 2013, minorities owned just 6 percent of commercial television stations in the country, 6 percent of FM stations and 11 percent of AM stations. A lot of work needs to be done but this administration is not addressing this issue,” she said.
Waters applauded the Obama administration for expanding the Lifeline Program, which became widely known as the “Obamaphone” program during President Obama’s two terms in the White House. The program offers discounted phone service for “qualifying low-income consumers.”
“The Trump administration is now gutting it,” Waters said.
Referring to the Lifeline Program, Moore said, “We are asking for all-out rebellion if we take this last vestige of humanity from people to be able to stay connected.”
During a Black History Month speech at the White House, President Trump mentioned that the African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates – which have been falling since peaking in 2010 and 2009, respectively – are currently at the lowest point on record.
Waters argued that Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai have done “nothing” for communities of color.
“Trump and the members of his administration, like Chairman Pai, insincerely appeal to our communities but in reality they overturn regulations and write policy designed to push communities of color to the fringes of society and keep us there,” she said.
“I want us to not believe that somehow [Trump is] going to change, that he’s going to become presidential, that somehow his values are going to be different than what he has demonstrated and so, of course, we must fight,” she added.
Waters said she is “counting on” young people to help Democrats win the majority in the House.
“We must fight hard. We’ve got to make sure we take back the House,” she said.
Waters, who called for Trump’s impeachment during his first year in office, criticized the FCC for announcing that it would stop defending an Obama-era rule that caps state and federal prison phone rates for inmates. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately struck down the Obama FCC’s limits on “intrastate” phone rates but the caps on “interstate” rates were allowed to remain in place.
“They did this because that administration understood that regular contact between inmates and family members leads to lower recidivism and it also helps with rehabilitation efforts,” Waters said.
Moore said prisoners’ phone calls should not be a “money-making venture.”
“You can connect with family. They can connect with jobs. They can stay connected with their church, synagogue or mosque, whatever religious experiences they have, and stay in connection with their children,” she said at the event. “This is outrageous.”