Sunday, March 19, 2017

Let them eat fighter jets. Trump budget spends more on military, deportation, and the Wall; but cuts EPA, diplomacy, Meals on Wheels for seniors

One headline said that a budget is a moral document, meaning that where you choose to spend your money indicates something about your values.   Clearly the Trump budget values military hardware over diplomacy and building relationships with other nations.

It builds up the military that already is, by far, the most powerful one in the world, while the budget for the State Department is being cut by about 30%.   That budget doesn't just pay for embassies around the world to do the necessary work of passports, visas and helping travelers.  It also includes programs like AID (the Agency for International Development) to partner with developing nations on projects that end extreme poverty and promote resilient democratic societies.  This program accounts for only 1% of our federal budget, but it buys us invaluable respect and appreciation and thus advances our security worldwide.

One example of such projects was in Nigeria.  Because of our help in setting up a public health program there, they were able to play a pivotal role in limiting the spread of the Ebola virus throughout Africa and keeping it from coming to the US.

It's disturbing that, at least in his public statements, our new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is fine with this sharply cut budget.   There is no hint in his apparent attitude that he is not on board with this drastic downsizing of his department.  They got rid of most of the upper level, career staff who have the experience to maintain such programs.

Other programs that have been axed are the Meals on Wheels program for seniors and school nutrition for kids from poor families.  The White House Budget Director said that "It's just not cost effective."  His talking point is that they're not going to keep asking the single mother with two kids to give her hard-earned money to pay for programs that don't show results.   I'd like to know his criteria for "not showing results" when the goal is feeding hungry people.

President Trump, in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, was asked if he realized that his budget cuts were going to affect people who voted for him more than most groups.   He acknowledged this, but his reply was typically Trumpian:   When criticized, he pivots and washes his hands of whatever it is.   He said, about the budget, "Well, this is just a blueprint.  Congress hasn't weighed in on it yet."

But Paul Ryan had just been all over tv, emphasizing how his budget advisers had been at the White House "every day," working closely with the administration on crafting the budget.   The truth is that this is very much Paul Ryan's baby, and Trump has little idea of what the budget does, much less the implications for real life.

One expert, who heard Trump being interviewed about the budget said it was obvious that Trump had no understanding of budgets -- just like he didn't realize that he was putting Stephen Bannon on the National Security Council when he signed that executive order that Bannon put in from on him.

This is where the late, great journalist Molly Ivins would sum it up by saying:  "Folks, we're in deep shit."


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