Conservative pundit David Brooks, speaking recently on the PBS News Hour, well described President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget.
Brooks said: “They are investing in everything that is hard power — military, homeland security, the border wall — and disinvesting in empathy, compassion, care, thinking, innovation. Everything is threat and fear, hardness and toughness. Everything else has to go.”
Our Constitution requires us to “provide for the common defense.” But we could ask the Trump budget: Just what is it that we are defending?
A cultural wasteland that rejects reason and scientific research? A place where tens of millions go without health care while the rich get billions in tax breaks? A landscape ravaged by corporate polluters and climate change? A prison-industrial state on the scale of the Soviet Union’s gulag archipelago?
Those questions may seem dramatic, but that’s just where we are heading if the GOP-controlled Congress passes Trump’s budget and repeals the Affordable Care Act.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates 24 million people will lose health care coverage under the new GOP plan. Medicaid, which helps the poor and disabled — especially with long-term care expenses — will be cut by a whopping $880 billion.
Amid an opioid and methamphetamine epidemic, the GOP plan removes the ACA mandate that insurance policies cover substance abuse and mental health disorders.
Yet while cutting off access to health care, the GOP is giving $270 billion in tax cuts to medical device makers and the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.
Although Trump has touted infrastructure improvements, his budget cuts the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program, Amtrak, and aid for rural airports. Also on the chopping block are $6.2 billion in housing programs and the Community Development Block Grant program, which provides funds for neighborhood improvement.
The Environmental Protection Agency will experience the steepest cut of any federal agency — 31 percent. More than 50 EPA programs, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, environmental enforcement, and everything related to climate change will be eliminated. Grants for the GLRI have helped Wisconsin fight invasive species, clean up toxic waste, restore wetlands and bolster shorelines.
Scientific and medical research at the National Institutes of Health, whose personnel recently developed a vaccine against Ebola, will be cut by $8 billion.
The budget eliminates the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowments for the Humanities and Arts and funding for libraries and museums.
Higher education grants will be slashed by $732 million. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance program, which helped millions of poor and elderly Americans pay their home heating bills, will be shut down.
Besides tax cuts for the rich, the only thing the GOP budget invests in is a $600 billion build-up of the military, homeland security and prisons. Even before its proposed $54 billion hike, our defense budget surpasses the defense budgets of the next eight largest nations of the world — combined.
Do we really want to live in a paranoid, fortified prison state with a “survival of the fittest” mentality crippling our domestic life?
We must rather proclaim — and remind our representatives — that, in addition to a “common defense,” our Constitution bids us “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice … promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Jamakaya has been an award-winning writer, historian and feminist activist in Milwaukee for 40 years. Her writing has appeared in dozens of local and national publications. See more about her at http://www.Jamakaya.com.