Back in 2008, Joe Biden gave a speech in which he said “show me your budget and I’ll show you what you value.” Last night Donald Trump released an outline of his budget — his “deconstruction of the administrative state,” in the words of his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon — and it certainly does that.
Trump’s apparent values: nihilism and cruelty:
- It slashes or eliminates programs which aid the elderly, the sick, the poor and the disabled;
- It cuts funding to museums, libraries, educational programs and the arts;
- It cuts the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency to its lowest level in nearly half a century;
- It eliminates the Appalachian Regional Commission;
- It dramatically slashes the budget of the State Department while jacking up the budget of the Department of Defense by tens of billions of dollars a year;
- The most striking cut: the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program, which funds Meals on Wheels, housing assistance and other community assistance efforts for the elderly. The entire annual budget for that is $3 million. That’s what just one of Trump’s weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago costs taxpayers.
No federal program, however well-intentioned, perfectly and efficiently carries out its stated mission. Any of us could go line-by-line down the federal budget and find fat and waste.
And, to be sure, this is just an outline. The so-called “skinny budget” that presidents release in advance of more substantive proposals down the line. Congress is the branch of government in charge of budgeting and it will, at best, nod at all of this as it does what it intends to do. Some in Congress have already declared this a “dead letter,” so the chances that any of these cuts and changes actually come into effect are uncertain at best and highly unlikely in many cases.
But it is not a useless document. It, as Joe Biden said in 2008, tells us what Trump values. And what he does not value.
- He does not value the poor elderly who may not get a hot meal without some help;
- He does not value children who rely on public broadcasting and libraries to supplement their education;
- He does not value the people of Appalachia, who supported him in overwhelming numbers, and whose suffering he and various surrogates have cited as the justification for the very existence of his campaign and presidency;
- He does not value clean air and clean water which, as we learned before the EPA was created, would be in much shorter supply if the free market had anything to do with it;
- He values the buildup of a military that is already larger and better-funded than the next several largest militaries in the world combined and does not value diplomatic efforts which make it less likely that we’ll be forced to use that military in future conflicts.
Even if Trump doesn’t get anything he wants in his first budget as president, he has already signaled who he is. Ask yourself if his values are your values.