This Isn’t Who We Are–Is It?

I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but America is in the midst of an identity crisis, and the identity that emerges will shape the future our children and grandchildren inhabit.

Are we the people who inscribed “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” on the Statue of Liberty? Or are we self-absorbed climbers seeking to ingratiate ourselves with the powerful and privileged while devaluing the poor and ignoring the needs of the disadvantaged?

Are we a country committed to working with other nations to solve problems and resolve disputes, or are we belligerent saber-rattlers throwing our weight around?

Do we respect scientific expertise and intellectual excellence, recognize the social value of the arts and humanities, or do we sneer at the life of the mind and swagger with the hubris and arrogance of people who don’t know what they don’t know?

These are the questions posed by the “budget” the Trump Administration has presented to the U.S. Congress.

Trump’s budget cuts programs like Meals on Wheels that feed housebound seniors. It drastically curtails housing assistance to  poor people.  It takes the axe to  job training and education. It  eliminates the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps low-income job seekers age 55 and older find work by pairing them with nonprofit organizations and public agencies. It dramatically reduces funds for scientific and medical research.

The budget ends support for both NPR and PBS–sources of unbiased information for millions of Americans. It eliminates the endowments for the arts and the humanities.It destroys the EPA’s ability to enforce the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. It guts the State Department and “soft power” in favor of more and more powerful weapons–despite the fact that the Department of Defense has previously insisted that such expanded military capacity is unnecessary and even counter-productive.

As Daily Kos posted, 

Trump’s budget does have its increases. There’s much more money for defense, so Trump can add ships the Navy didn’t ask for, build more planes that the Air Force doesn’t need, and in general make defense contractors moan in ecstasy. There’s also a lot more money for DHS — because deportation forces and walls don’t run cheap.

CNN Money described what America would look like if the budget were to be passed as introduced:

More agents along the border, but a hobbled PBS. A bigger military, but less chance of getting a decent lawyer if you’re poor.

The budget unveiled by the Trump administration on Thursday would remake the United States — vastly expanding national defense but cutting or gutting dozens of programs that touch the lives of Americans every day.

 Charter schools would get more money. But federal money would be eliminated for an agency that improves water and sewer systems in impoverished corners of Appalachia.

The takeoff and landing of your plane would be guided by an air traffic controller working for a nonprofit, not the government. If you live in a small city served by subsidized commercial airline service, you might have to drive farther to get to an airport.

And if you use Amtrak trains to travel across the country, that would become harder, if not impossible. The budget would end support for the company’s long-distance train services.

It isn’t just that the proposed budget is inhumane– a “reverse Robin Hood” exercise that privileges the already privileged. It is also fiscally insane.

People who understand policy–who can connect the dots–know that most of the proposed “cost saving” cuts will end up being much more expensive than the amounts being saved; Meals on Wheels, for example, keeps seniors in their homes longer, and helps them avoid time–overwhelmingly paid for by Medicaid– in hugely more expensive nursing homes. Job training programs reduce welfare rolls. Clean air and water reduce medical outlays. Research breakthroughs save money while improving lives and health.

The budget that encapsulates Donald Trump’s “vision” for America is a prescription for a third-world country, where art, music, science and scholarship are considered effete affectations, where compassion for the less fortunate is a weakness and poverty is seen as evidence of a lack of merit (and certainly not a problem with which the privileged need concern themselves.)

Donald Trump’s “vision” for America is a nightmare.

Lady Liberty weeps.

38 thoughts on “This Isn’t Who We Are–Is It?

  1. Just a few facts for your consideration. The average Meals on Wheels gets 3% of its budget from the HHS block grant. The states have discretion as to how the money is spent. The money should go to the best programs. If MoW is one of those best, it maybreceive no cuts. If a state is lazy and just cuts all programs it supports 16% across the board, MoW gets a budget reduction of less than 1/2 of one percent. I am in the audience of NPR/PBS frequently but anyone that thinks they give unbiased information would probably quote the Daily Koz as a source.

  2. The question you raise regarding WHO we are as a nation is not simple.
    We are both – in almost equal measure.
    The problem is: The racist hater ignorant part of American voted in larger numbers in a few states. We can never change those people. Our only hope is to out vote them.

  3. “where compassion for the less fortunate is a weakness and poverty is seen as evidence of a lack of merit (and certainly not a problem with which the privileged need concern themselves”

    I believe the above statement, copied from your post, accurately defines who we truly are as a country.

    I have witnessed people’s hard hearts so frequently over the past twenty or more years. They really don’t care about the misfortune or hardships of others until or unless it hits someone close to them that they care about. That is when they want everyone else to be concerned for their relative, close friend or maybe even themselves. You are expected to put their concerns at the top of your prayer list and to do everything you possibly can to help ease the new burden that has come upon someone that they care about. Yes, these are the very same people who condemn the unemployed as being lazy and turn their heads away from the misfortune of others they don’t know and don’t care about.

    Unfortunately, that is exactly the moment that my heart becomes cold to them and their sudden concerns. I also witnessed this over and over again in church. Just one more reason that I stopped participating in organized religion.

    It seems that most people who have been lucky enough to have never experienced any type of hardship seem incapable of truly caring about anyone else that is experiencing a hardship. If they attend church they may claim to pray for those people, but they don’t actually make any type of effort to help those who are suffering.

    In my life experience, this is the behavior of the bulk of the people that I have known. I have spent more time doing volunteer work than most people I know, yet most of the time my heart turns away from those who suddenly need “everyone” to care about their misfortune. I recognize that should not be my reaction, but it is. I may feign concern for their problem, but I typically won’t go out of my way to help them.

  4. Nancy, I am so sorry for your situation. I have not seen the wide-spread hard-hearted culture you describe. Any time there is a world or national crisis, (tsunami or Katrina), the only group more generous than the US government is the US people. It is sad to me that you have never experienced that generosity in your life. If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know through this post or let Sheila know. She has my email address if you prefer to keep this private.

  5. Yes, Lady Liberty weeps. We have had 45 citizens serve as President. Sadly, I believe this is the worse we have ever had.

    Indirectly I have learned that the culture of his own company is one of chaos, confusion and constant fear because of his inability to stay focused on one project, volatile personality and temper. He does not lead but manages by fear and intimidation.

    Each day our news is full of press releases, interviews and tweets point to how we need to be made great again. Really? How conceded of you, Mr. President! It is we the people who make us a great nation. Our caring compassion. Our willingness to help those in need. Our commitment to justice, truth and our American values of freedom for all no matter what your ethnic or religious background make us great nation that has been admired around the world. Our restraint in the use of our power. Our understanding of the value of compromise and negotiation. Our goal for world peace.

    Our current President would do well to think about the following quote from President Lincoln, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time

  6. I volunteer for an organization that feeds the poor and operates the local Meals on Wheels. I noted a while back that I only saw black or Hispanic kids from the local university come to volunteer. I asked one of them if the white people at the university did volunteer work. She said, “Oh yes, they hold lots of fundraisers.” It struck me that holding fundraisers is nice, but they never see the faces of the poor. They are the future of the Republican Party.

    St. John Chrysostom said, “If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find him in the Chalice.” I think, if you never even see the beggar, you won’t find it in your heart to truly help him.

  7. What a horror we have become! Yet, it should surprising no one considering the moral decent this country has been in since Reagan was elected and the philosophy of greed preached by Ayn Rand swept the Republican Party and some in the Democrat Party as well.

    Recall for a moment Nancy Reagan’s efforts to have catsup named a vegetable so that schools could avoid the cost of feeding children nutritious food. Or Ronald’s benign neglect of the AIDS crisis that allowed thousands to die because they were deemed unworthy. And the Reagan gift that keeps on giving… “distrust and hatred of our own government”.

    Over the decades regulations put into place to assure clean water and air have been endlessly opposed by dirty industry as if those company’s lawyers, lobbyists, and board members did not drink water or breathe air. Greed driven opposition to regulation gave the nation the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Political propaganda is daily spewed from the airways to feed the fears and prejudices of the masses. And so here we are… a very angry and divided nation, a nation of haves and have nots, a nation of hungry children and abandoned women, a country unable to see any life goal except for acquiring money. We are a country seemingly on the cusp of a final decent into a hell of our own making.

  8. We Americans know the answers to those questions posed by Sheila today; we also know the problems confronting resolution of the problems and who is standing in the way of halting Trump’s proposed Tea Party based budget.

    Sheila and I and a few others on the blog have the distinct advantage/disadvantage of having worked inside government; we know that what we are allowed to see in public, horrible as it has been for two months, it is but the tip of the iceberg. As long as the Republican privately owned and operated Congress can make use of Trump’s insanity by distracting the public, as well as some government officials, and he will continue signing (and displaying his huge signatures before the cameras) the bills composed by them…he will remain in the White House as titular head of this government.

    As long as there are tax dollars to pay for his three White House locations and almost weekly golfing vacations; food for the hungry, help for the needy, showing basic diplomatic respect for other heads of state, will go by the wayside and continue to be accepted presidential behavior. The term “defunding Meals on Wheels” is deliberately misleading; usage of federal funds to states is decided on and regulated by the states and Meals on Wheels is but one provision which will suffer. Trump’s budget manager (I cannot remember his name, only his words); admitted that Meals on Wheels will suffer losses in states which use CDBG funds to fund the program. He also cited after school programs in poorer areas of the the country which feed school children the only decent meal they have access to, will lose funds. He reasoned there is no proof that feeding those children increases their ability to do better in school. That no proof is provided feeding these hungry people benefits them supports cutting those funds.

    Nancy; when I was a monitor for the Division of Community Services, a division of Mayor Hudnut’s office, I worked directly with staff in 5-6 multi-service, senior and health centers. The staff at every location was dedicated; often donating their time and money to aid those in need. One counselor at Near Eastside Multi-Service Center (now John Boner Center); a divorced mother of 7 children; provided housing, food and clothing for abused women and their children in the sanctuary of her own home. At that time, there was no place in this city for them to go.

    “This” IS who we are and who we will remain unless and until the remaining humanitarians in the Republican party come forward to end the “deconstruction” of democracy and America as the greatest nation on earth.

  9. That you have to even ask the question suggests it might be. I’ve actually found some comfort in knowing that millions of Americans now understand what it’s like to be a fiscally-conservative social progressive living in Indiana with the right-wing extremists firmly in charge of the General Assembly and governor’s mansion. I’m thankful that the activist reaction to the presidential election results and 45’s reprehensible behavior in office has been swift and intense, even in our own Hoosier state. The only questions now are whether it can be sustained and wether it can achieve any real political results.

  10. Ken, thanks for your concern and I do appreciate it. While you have not seen the wide-spread hard heartedness that I described, the difference may be because I live in a very rural area. This is most likely a reflection of the bulk of rural voters being republicans and the bulk of Dem voters living in metropolitan areas. Hence, I am surrounded by republicans and I was once one myself. It is no secret that the democratic party shows more concern for the disadvantaged and the poor. However, the hard-heartedness I speak of goes beyond political motivations and may be a part of the lack of connection in rural areas and the necessity of having to figure out a way to survive on your own. Unfortunately, with regard to my life’s circumstances, I have experienced the cruelty and greed of neighbors. Without going into detail, I have personally experienced the vultures swooping in to feast on the spoils.

  11. Meals on Wheels’ average amount of daily donations increased by 50 times on Thursday after the White House proposed cuts to some of the program’s funding, a spokesperson for the group said, according to CNN. (In L A)

    Volunteer registration additionally increased by 500%, according to Meals on Wheels America spokeswoman Jenny Bertolette, CNN reports.

    Give through taxes or charity. Same result. But will charitable giving be sustained?

  12. Nancy, like you I have witnessed the hardheartedness of neighbors and even family members. And I have lived in the country, but now live in what is called the “inner city”. My present neighborhood is full of poverty, homelessness, and crime. There is kindness between some neighbors, but there is selfishness too. Unfortunately, the majority isolate themselves behind curtained windows and locked doors. The few kind people on my street remain open to newcomers and helpful to others, sometimes even strangers.

    I wish I knew why so many people chose isolation and selfishness over openness and giving. Maybe something is broken inside of them.

  13. To Ken Glass, while I admit your point about MoW block grant, I also know that this budget (like all presidential budget plans) is basically a wish list, and it more or less shows where a president’s heart is and isn’t, and I believe the gist of Shiela’s post here is that this president’s heart does not seem at all with the people of this country. In addition, to ignore the the needs of the people, while at the same time ignoring the input of those with expertise is not leadership. In this respect, this president is dangerous, and what’s even more frightening is the lack of compassion that Ryan and the GOP show for people. What I’m saying is that you are nitpicking one point while all the evidence around that one point also shows this president’s lack of concern for the people of this nation. Yes, we need to be true to facts, but the real fact here seems to me to be that this president doesn’t give one damn about any of us who are not rich and who can’t serve him and his interests in some way. It’s all there, in black and white, in his budget proposal. )-:

  14. Though we have always had the rich and the poor, we can trace government intervention to make sure such is policy to the general counsel for Big Tobacco, Lewis Powell, who wrote his infamous memorandum to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1971 on how corporate America could take over the politics of our country with, among other things, giant infusions of money. Powell, a Virginia lawyer who represented Big Tobacco long after its toxic effects were known and after cancer warnings were required on cigarette packages, was later rewarded by an alcoholic Nixon via an appointment to the Supreme Court in a sort of round robin exercise in addiction and politics.
    Unfortunately, the Chamber took his advice, ran with the ball and you know the rest of the story – from a Reagan recession caused by huge tax cuts to the rich and corporate class to and through Bush’s Iraq adventure on the cuff and McCutcheon and Citizens United decisions by a right wing court and the current prospect of having Trump appoint at least one more right wing jurist to the court to cement conservative jurisprudence for years to come, a dreary prospect for those of us who had hoped to live in a democracy.

    As Shelia and my fellow commentators have so aptly written, the costs of current budget proposals to millions of people are disastrouly high and heartless, and one can only hope that our streets and sidewalks are not littered with dead and dying Americans and do not begin to resemble those of Calcutta where we depend upon charity and Mother Teresas to do the work that governemt has abandoned in favor of heaping favors on the rich while the underserved poor and even some in the middle class who take bankruptcy due to stratospheric medical costs suffer (even though insured) as a result of high deductibles and other market-based costs.

    If there was ever a time for us to adopt single payer healthcare, a system practiced both in capitalist and socialist states and at far less cost and with better results than our market-based system where healthcare is a mere commodity and not a right, this is it. We may be the richest country in the world but distribution of such income and wealth provided by our economy increasingly resembles that of a banana republic. It seems the rest of us are funding an ATM machine for the superrich, who wave the flag and make defense industries ever richer in their attempts to divert our attention from their money-grabbing via bought government.

    Solution? Elect those who reject Powell’s power grab, pass single payer legislation, substantially increase the minimum wage, tax those who have been riding the gravy train of low rates and end such handouts as “carried interest” to the superrich and in general champion the rights of people over bankers and corporations. Socialism? Not at all. Let’s not let big business frame it as such when it amounts only to fair playism in a capitalist economy regulated by consuming Americans and not the Koch Brothers and their congressional (and now executive) surrogates. It’s our country, not theirs. Let’s defend our property.

  15. To Ken Glass…NPR and PBS are moderately liberal and their reporting is factually based. At least that’s what they say at https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/, the best resource I’ve found for judging the bias and the quality of news sources. I like that site because they explain their methodology, which appears to me to be as objective as one could expect. They rate news outlets as left bias, left-center bias, least biased, right-center bias, and right bias. They also rate outlets on the degree of factually based reporting: very high, high, mixed, low, and very low. They rate both NPR and PBS Newshour as left-center on bias and high on factual reporting.

  16. We have yet to see if Bannon/Trump/Pence are any more predatory than Congress in terms of budgeting.

    But however that comes out the people of the country will remain the same. None of them will be better off, no improved lives. The poor will still be so, the sick the same, the parents, the great middle class who do everyone’s work, those born elsewhere, the privileged, the predatory, the ignorant, the crooks, everyone will be here in the same numbers, but the government has lost interest in them unless they are wealthy and serve the government financially. Government of, by, and for those who serve it. The looting of hundreds of years of progress. The final step in shutting down and selling off.

    What will the final collapse look like? Which group will be the first to turn desperation into action? Who will first take advantage of the government looking the other way? Some bodies will die in the streets, whose?

  17. I think “identity crisis” is too mild. We are at war. We are in another civil war and, like previous U.S. civil wars (there have been more than one, but we just have not named them). This one will be just as brutal, but the battlefields are different, and the bloodshed and mayhem will not be quite as obvious.

  18. No one likes to admit their dying. America’s “body politic” is terminally ill, just take look at the MRI. Technical adjustments are fruitless. Denial is understandable. We don’t appear to have the where with all for a fundamental change in treatment. We’re sitting beside the bed waiting for a miracle that will never come; not at this rate, that’s for sure.

  19. Ken, the problem is we love being heroes. John Wayne, riding to the rescue. So we love to be generous during disasters. But we need to be everyday heroes for people who can’t or don’t know how to pull themselves out of whatever holes they find themselves in. For the current crop of Republicans in Congress–the most privileged class of humans in the world–pulling up the ladder they used to climb up to their vaunted status and then blaming the people they leave behind for not figuring out how to do it seems to be the philosophy of the day.

  20. Mary Jo Wenckus,

    Thank you for clearly explaining that our citizens only come out to help others when there is a disaster and then quickly go back to living their comfortable lives, never giving a thought about the daily struggles of their neighbors who are right in front of them.

  21. John Pavlovitz is a minister who reflects on the troubles within the church and understands why so many people have stopped attending church. His sermon today reflects exactly what I and others have written about on today’s blog.

    If you are interested, here is the link to today’s post: http://johnpavlovitz.com/

  22. Do you know what you get when you drain the swamp? You get alligators, crocodiles, and big snakes with no place to go except your back yard.

  23. Mirsm! The key to disguising your bias is selecting which story to cover and which to ignore. PBS/NPR are not sloppy enough to allow inaccuracies. They just decline to cover positive news about conservatives and negative news about progressives.

  24. Cindi! I don’t pretend to know what is in Donald Trump’s heart, and I am no fan of him…yet. However, if he holds all agencies of the Federal government, military included, accountable for efficiency and effectiveness, I will become one. I am over the mantra that says the solution to every problem is more money.

  25. Mary Jo! 60 million Americans (25% of the adult population) spend an average of 10 hours per month in charity work for which there is very little hero worship.

  26. Nancy, while I do not agree with you assessment that (you separate by party, neither of which I claim) dems are more compassionate than GOP, do you see any value in assessing the effectiveness of all programs where government money is spent. I won’t pretend to know how every school looks based on one, but I have watched for three years while more than 50% of the free/reduced breakfasts get thrown in the trash, mostly unopened.

  27. The 3% government contribution to Meals on Wheels has been reported by some. Some counties have a number of corporate and other donors who contribute 100% of the cost. However, in poorer communities with low-paying jobs, few or no big corporations, and much greater need, the government contributes over 1/3 of the costs.

    Those who can afford to do so pay fees for their Meals on Wheels deliveries. But when the money runs short for purchase and preparation of food, waiting lists of those without enough money or food grow and needy seniors go without. As you have noted, keeping seniors nourished, in their homes, and with the week-day wellness checks by delivery people is MUCH less expensive than subsidizing nursing home care for our poorest citizens who would require Medicaid funds for such care. Of course, Trump’s budget would block grant and cap Medicaid funds too – at the very time baby boomers will escalate the number of retirees. It seems death panels are on the agenda again – just in a different form.

  28. States still have the flexibility to choose programs for belt tightening. If they evaluate the effective and find MoW to be one of them then they should continue to fund it. BTW Retiring baby boomers have little to do with Medicaid

  29. Yes, Ken, evaluating the effectiveness of gov programs is necessary and has been lacking. However, to just quickly and completely end funding for programs that are needed by so many is cruel and heartless. While the trump team is busy cutting programs to assist those in need he is also gutting valuable agencies that protect all of us. He and the Rs in Congress are doing all of this while handing gifts to the uber wealthy on silver platters.

  30. Drumpf’s budget cuts appear to be aimed at programs wingnuts absolutely hate because their korporate overlords hate them. They are cutting welfare for the needy to finance taxcuts for the greedy. They need to raise tax rates to pay down the debt. Stealing from the needy is not going to do that. This country cannot cut our way out of debt. If wingnuts had raised finances to pay for their illegal wars and prescription drug program our debt would be much more manageable. We cannot afford another cut taxes recession and we cannot afford wingnut pols.

  31. Ken: Who runs the state programs. Republicans or Democrats? I can see a pattern re: how the states will choose to allocate their program funds, if the fed government allows that to happen. It doesn’t seem like a good alternative for the poor and elderly under Trump Nation or states.

  32. I thought this might help toward a better understanding of the give and take on today’s topic:

    “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”
    ~George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism,” 1945

    The above is from “The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism” by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman (Boston: South End Press, 1979) p. vii.

  33. I have noted some memoirs from people that assisted in the “war against poverty” starting with LBJ, and the lack of positive results. Now, many programs, no matter how modest, are fully funded by the FEDS and find they have very little local support. If the feds won’t support us neither will we is a common reaction. And, many people familiar with training, education, and other programs are happy to get a soft job to keep them employed, even though some taxpayer somewhere has to be taxed for nothing. Ask does EVERYTHING need to be federally funded to be worth doing? Can’t local governments do anything from their own tax dollars?

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