With the Republican health care bill recently released, clearly showing that Republicans don’t care much about mental health or addictions or women or families, many of us thought that things couldn’t possibly get any worse (funny, we think that every day of this administration and are continually proven wrong). Now we have a dystopian budget proposal that would bring us one step closer to The Hunger Games. Or Idiocracy. Or perhaps both. Trump has proposed a budget that would balloon 3 departments while gutting nearly every other agency, department, and program in the federal government, leaving the American people helpless and desperate, not to mention sick and cultureless.
He starts with a boost to the military, which is already disproportionately funded (we have to have SOMETHING to pound our chests about, right?), as well as homeland security/border patrol. These boosts are in spite of the fact that immigration from the Mexican border has been significantly declining over the last several years, mostly due to the global recession, and most undocumented immigrants fly here legally and then overstay their visas. (We could talk about why it’s nearly impossible for many immigrants to immigrate legally, but that is an entirely different and long article.) The boosts are also despite the fact that our security theater at airports does exactly zero to prevent terrorism.
Instead of addressing national security, the Trump administration is demonizing Middle Eastern countries and a specific religion and coddling Saudi Arabia, which, ironically, is the only country that has actually produced American terrorists. Also ironically, two of the many programs eliminated in this budget would be the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center, which I suppose are no longer needed since this administration isn’t even pretending to be interested in peace or international relations.
The third boost is to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which although seemingly noble, really does nothing but pit veterans against the rest of Americans.
These boosts come on the backs of Americans and people around the world while we cut foreign aid in the middle of one of the worst international humanitarian crises in history. At the end of 2016, 65 million people were displaced from their homes, often violently. Tens of millions of people have no access to clean water or food or education or health facilities at all. Tens of millions more are victims of serious human rights abuses. Forgetting for a second the horrors that people are facing in Syria, babies are dropping dead in famine-hit areas of South Sudan and the Lake Chad Basin. Women are dying from easily preventable things such as fistula and giving birth. If you don’t think that any of these things are America’s problem or that we shouldn’t care, you are the problem with the world. And let’s not forget that that foreign aid is a fraction of one percent of the total budget, and that those funds actually help the United States in the long-term. That fraction of a percent of the budget is meaningless to us, but life-saving to those it serves.
Another area that is a fraction of one percent of our budget is The National Endowment for the Arts and Public Broadcasting Service. I suppose buying one more helicopter is worth far more to Republicans than art and educational and informational services, such as Sesame Street, PBS, or actual, real journalism such as NPR. As the President of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting stated, “The elimination of federal funding to CPB [Corporation for Public Broadcasting] would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions — all for Americans in both rural and urban communities.”
In trying to rationalize these cuts, the Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stated: “One of the questions we asked was ‘Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?’ The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, which we will. But we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” Considering that these are the type of people to most benefit from the free information and education provided by these services, it’s completely disingenuous to think that the $1.35 per person per year it these services cost us is what’s negatively impacting our budget. In fact, The U.S. House of Representatives budget for office expenses, mail, and personnel expends more funds than does the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The Trump budget would also cut significant funds for the Environmental Protection Agency, because who really needs clean drinking water or breathable air. And we’ve already decided as a nation that the world’s researchers and scientists and experts must be wrong and the uneducated American people must be right and that climate change isn’t real so we don’t have to worry about it or do anything about it.
It would also cut significant funds for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (you know, that department that is now being run by a guy who stated he doesn’t have the expertise to run anything and doesn’t believe in the purpose or existence of this department). These cuts would eliminate Meals on Wheels, where even at current funding there are waiting lists of hungry and lonely seniors, as well as nutrition assistance for women, infants, and children (WIC) and other anti-poverty and community development funds, especially in Appalachia. Not that Republicans have ever seemed to care about seniors. Or community. Or women. Or poverty, for that matter. In fact, every aspect of this budget proposal indicates that Trump was merely pandering when he said that he wanted a government that puts the needs of its own people first. Alternatively, Trump simply has no understanding or insight into what American people and the country actually need.
Also cut? Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which would devastate medical and scientific research and further deteriorate the United States’ standing in the world in this area. Not to mention leave us woefully unprepared for another zika-like or ebola-like virus, or any other number of outbreaks we may face. And who needs cancer research and vaccination programs anyway.
High-speed rail and public transportation? Forget it. Air traffic control and commercial flights to rural airports? Don’t need it. Legal services for poor people? That silly Legal Services Reform Act of 1996 seems totally unnecessary, right? Funny enough, many of the recipients of these legal services, as well as many other services being cut, are veterans! The irony sometimes hurts.
And who needs workplace safety since the administration tells us that those programs don’t work anyway. Funding programs for low-income people to help pay for energy bills are also apparently superfluous, as are funding programs for disaster recovery, housing assistance, financial services for economically distressed areas, health and nursing programs, afterschool programs, and job training programs in the Department of Labor. The budget also would eliminate Americorps, the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, and funding for higher education for first-generation and low-income college students, including work-study programs and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) program that supports 380,000 community college students.
Instead of paying for infrastructure and education and healthcare, you, the taxpayer, will be buying America a wall. Except, of course, if we’re talking about private religious education, because we’re taking money from public education to fund those and charter schools. Forget for a second the backhanded way religious schools and churches are getting around the laws prohibiting government money from sponsoring religion, and forget for a second the fact that charter schools are no more beneficial or educational than public schools. Forget those things and call it something cool, like “school choice”, because that sounds so much better to those not really paying attention. And because we need a wall! Because America has its priorities. And the American people are clearly nowhere near the top of that list.
This budget would have the largest negative impacts on the poorest Americans. Interestingly enough, Trump supporters would also be most impacted: low-income, low-information voters who cared far more about charismatic xenophobic rants of hate that found easy (but completely fictitious) blame for their problems than actual policy. Kind of like Hitler supporters in 1932.
By the way, despite what the spin the administration is trying to do, all of the programs being cut DO, in fact, work. And they work well. We know because, well, science and research. Two of the many things that the administration wants to further cut and that Republicans don’t seem to care about.
Here’s the kicker: This budget would do absolutely zero for the deficit. The thing about basic economics is that you have to take in more than you spend. But instead of raising taxes to meet the needs of running a supposedly developed, first-world country, we continue to cut taxes. Bush’s wars were the first major military events in the history of our country that were completely unfunded. Taxes weren’t raised to pay for it. On the contrary, Bush and his Congress CUT marginal tax rates (which, of course, benefited wealthy individuals the most) and capitals gains and further lowered corporate tax rates. The cumulative effect of that is today’s large deficit. So just because Trump said that he would do something and is now doing it doesn’t make his actions right or beneficial to the country. Bush also said that he would cut taxes and then did so, leaving us where we are today. There is a difference between campaigning and actually leading or benefiting the nation. I suppose that learning from history or our own mistakes would be too much to ask from this administration or Congress.
Budgets are supposed to be statements of values. This budget clearly states America’s new values. This isn’t America first. This is America Last. A “Leave No American Behind”. America in Decline. America as a tyrannical, narcissistic, selfish bully. Not an America for which I am proud. Not an America I want to live in. Not an America I want my children to identify with. This is shameful. And every single person who voted for Trump or who chose to not vote at all (in any election) should be severely ashamed. And I’m sure they would be if they only had the critical thinking skills available to them to understand all of this.
Our only hope is that this early blueprint of Trump thoughts never sees the light of day on the House floor. It seems that even some Republicans are disgusted, which gives me hope that there are indeed a few somewhat sane Republicans left.