Tag Archives: Trump budget

What Swamp Is Being Drained?

Reactions to Trump’s proposed budget from the country’s much-disparaged “elites” has been unremittingly negative, for obvious reasons–if such a budget actually passed, it would eviscerate support for science, the arts, medical research, children’s health, urban redevelopment and transportation, not to mention food for the poor.

As many policy analysts have pointed out, this budget would wreak havoc for huge numbers of Trump voters, which raises an obvious question: why would the administration  risk proposing massive cuts to the very programs that benefit his base?

A recent post to Washington Monthly  by Nancy LeTourneau offered a chilling answer to that question.

She begins by referencing an article about the budget by Damian Paletta and Robert Costa:

The budget, in its deeply conservative framework, risks alarming some of the president’s supporters…

But a White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Trump saw the shrinking of the “welfare state” as a necessary component of his nationalist, working-class appeal and part of his pledge to “drain the swamp.”

The unnamed official was almost certainly Bannon, who has been quoted as promising that Trump would bring “capitalism” to the inner cities. Bannon’s version of capitalism bears a striking resemblance to Social Darwinism’s “survival of the fittest.” (It certainly doesn’t include government action to level the playing field for people who would otherwise be excluded.) His is a savage, unregulated version of capitalism, and for Bannon, it applies primarily if not exclusively to inner cities.

“Inner city” is code, as LeTourneau notes, for people of color.

That kind of argument works once you have identified the recipients of government programs as the undeserving “them” who are separate from the deserving “us.” That is the divisive lie that Paul Waldman zeroed in on today.

The whole point here is to set “taxpayers” against the supposedly undeserving whose scams and schemes can be stopped with only indiscriminate cuts to social programs. Watching Mulvaney answer questions from the press this morning, that idea came through again and again. Every time he’d get a question about a specific cut the administration proposes — to Social Security disability, to food stamps, to Medicaid — Mulvaney would say that the only people who would suffer would be those who don’t deserve to get the benefit in the first place. “We are not kicking anybody off of any program who really needs it,” he said.

By now, most sentient beings should recognize that as the kind of code Lee Atwater explained when talking about the Southern Strategy.

As LeTourneau points out, this budget gives “draining the swamp” a whole new meaning. The phrase no longer applies to our maligned bureaucracy, or to the people (like the President himself) who have enriched themselves by taking advantage of government programs and tax loopholes; it applies instead to “those (dark) people” who are undeserving parasites living off hardworking taxpayers.

As Gabe Ortiz explains:

Sure, the new 2018 budget slashes billions from food assistance, cancer research, and disability benefits, but the Trump regime has still miraculously found plenty of taxpayer money for two of his favorite, racist pet projects. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney unveiled a budget proposal asking for billions to terrorize immigrant families, expand Trump’s mass deportation force that has been targeting moms and dads with no criminal record, and to build some of that f*cking wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

As LeTourneau  reminds us, none of this is new.

It is all Republican rhetoric from the past that is being warmed up and repackaged for the present. These are the tactics they have been using for decades now to win over the support of white working class voters and, for the most part, they’ve worked. Why change course now?

Support for “draining the swamp” all depends upon who you think inhabits the swamp.

And How About That Budget?

Once upon a time, when self-righteous folks made speeches about their deep levels of concern about this or that issue, skeptical listeners would respond by telling the speaker to “put your money where your mouth is.” That rejoinder reflected a widely-held recognition that talk is cheap—that a person’s real priorities could only be determined by examining the level at which one “walked the walk,” including where a person put his or her money.

There are many differences between government budgets and personal ones, but there is also one undeniable similarity: you can determine governments’ priorities by following the money, by seeing what measures and programs public officials want to fund—or defund.

For example, the GOP’s persistent efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are entirely consistent with its belief that male dominance should take priority over women’s health.

Donald Trump has sent his preferred budget to Congress, which will have the last word on expenditures, and we can be sure that the budget that emerges (assuming one does) will differ significantly from its current form. That said, there is significant Republican support for the President’s priorities in this Congress, and those priorities should appall anyone who actually cares about poor or middle-class Americans–or the future of the planet.

The President is advocating enormous increases for America’s already bloated defense budget, at the expense of widely valued programs like the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Legal Services, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, among many others.

The Corporation for National and Community Service promotes volunteerism in distressed communities, and provides college stipends for those who serve those communities. Legal Services—already inadequately funded—provides critically important legal assistance to people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer to fight predatory lenders and slum landlords, get divorced, or access Medicaid and Medicare, food stamps and other benefits to which they are entitled.

Much sarcasm is generated by the periodic efforts to “save Big Bird,” but public broadcasting and the Endowments for the Arts and Humanities bring unbiased news, cultural events and civic conversations to citizens who would not otherwise have the opportunity to explore those perspectives.

It’s hard to look at this budget without seeing a deliberate effort to kick people when they’re already down,an effort to further impoverish the people who are most disadvantaged by depriving them of everything from legal assistance, to heat in the winter, to educational entertainment.

Trump’s proposed budget also cuts funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly a third; and eliminates support for climate change research as “a waste of taxpayer money.”

It is difficult to understand this Administration’s wholesale rejection of science and climate change as anything other than a cynical subsidy to the bottom lines of fossil fuel companies. The environmental dangers of this assault have been widely discussed, but its cynical subtext has not: the effects of environmental degradation will fall first—and hardest–on poor Americans.

Flint, Michigan is hardly the only disadvantaged community with contaminated water.

Nor would polluted water be the only likely result of the savage cuts to EPA programs: there is likely to be a return of the smog and poor air quality that once characterized our urban areas, and fewer efforts to eliminate lead in the soil and house paint in older, more deteriorated neighborhoods.

This budget rewards the privileged with tax credits while waging war on the people least well-equipped to fight. It is an exercise in cruelty, not to mention stupidity—a short-term political map to long-term disaster.

Following the money in this budget leads directly to dystopia.