Trump's Irrational Budget Proposal: Nationalistic, but not Populist
Donald Trump's new budget proposal for 2017, released on March 13, is as politically irrational as it is damaging. The proposal, which calls for budget cuts to the Departments of State, Transportation, Interior, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Labor, Justice, the EPA, and the IRS, is a bizarre amalgamation of ideologies. The plan is certainly nationalistic, but not populist. In fact, many of the spending cuts that Trump is proposing would fall hardest on his core group of supporters.
Take, for example, the elimination of the Economic Development Administration, a subordinate of the Commerce Department that gives out grants to struggling communities. Or cutting the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps low- income households spend less on energy. Or ending job training programs for youth and seniors. Or flight assistance to rural airports. The list of terminated programs that help rural and low-income people goes on and on and on.
These programs are designed to help the working poor, which are among Trump’s key supporters. Without these programs this constituency would see a marked reduction in their quality of living, and Trump would be the one to blame. It makes little strategic sense to injure one’s most ardent fans.
There are bound to be wider political ramifications of defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. When cutting or modifying programs, it’s usually politically advantageous to make the impacts of the cuts as invisible as possible. The CPB, which funds PBS and NPR, is about the farthest from invisible as you can get. If those broadcasters vanish, parents would be left without the educational children’s programs that they rely on. The impact of such a cut would be felt deeply and widely, while only saving 445 million dollars.
These budget cuts are absurd, even from a purely strategic perspective. The eliminated programs serve to alienate the people that got Trump elected. Defunding CPB adds awareness to that injury. Trump can’t even declare a traditional tax cut; all savings are simply shuffled over to the military and the wall.
Not only is Trump’s budget strategically irrational, it is damaging to millions of Americans. When programs meant to help people who are struggling are axed, the poor get poorer. When the Department of Transportation loses funding, roads and trains get worse. When the State Department’s budget is slashed, diplomacy is damaged. When every program researching climate change is halted, our risk of environmental catastrophe increases.
With climate change accelerating, natural disasters striking more frequently, and sea levels rising, greenhouse gases are rapidly becoming the biggest threat to America’s national security. The threat of climate-induced war is also increasing, but unfortunately, Trump’s budget cuts funding for almost every climate-related program. Instead, all of this money goes directly to the military or the wall.
Put frankly, the military does not need more money right now. We are not in a full-scale conflict, and the fight against ISIS is more surgical than blunt. Trump seems to think that the only way for America to “win” is to find out “if sand can glow in the dark,” as Ted Cruz so aptly put it. Trump is trying to be a nationalist in the most simplistic way possible—by buying bigger guns. He ignores peace, nuance, liberty, and morality in his nationalist fervor, undermining the very things that make America great.
Truly, the only thing that this budget does is increase our ability to kill people and decrease our ability to improve their lives.