White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 23. Bannon said the media is "adamantly opposed to" the president's agenda. (The Washington Post)

THE MORNING PLUM:

A new CNN poll out this morning tests one of the fundamental tenets of the Trump and Bannon worldview in a very illuminating way. It finds that large majorities reject the basic idea that undocumented immigrants who have been in this country for a long time — and have not committed serious crimes — should nonetheless be subject to removal.

It’s the latest sign of a larger trend that goes like this: Little by little, the narrative that President Trump and his top adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, have been telling about what is happening in this country is getting translated into concrete policy specifics. And Americans are recoiling from the results.

The CNN poll tries to pin down public sentiment about Trump’s expanded deportation efforts. It finds that 58 percent of Americans worry that those efforts “will go too far and result in deportation of people who haven’t committed serious crimes,” while only 40 percent worry that those efforts “won’t go far enough and dangerous criminals will remain.”

The poll also finds that a whopping 90 percent favor allowing those who have been working here “for a number of years,” know English, and are willing to pay back taxes to stay and eventually apply for citizenship. Only nine percent want them deported. And 60 percent say the government should prioritize legalizing those working here illegally over deporting them.

Trump has vastly expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants who are now targets for deportation, enshrining in policy the idea that even longtime residents and low-level offenders are nothing more than lawbreakers who should be subject to enforcement. In the Trump/Bannon narrative, these people remain threats — cultural, demographic, economic, and physical. But these CNN findings suggest the public broadly rejects this general notion, and sees assimilation as a more appropriate outcome.

This mirrors a recent Quinnipiac poll finding that support for allowing undocumented immigrants to remain is at a new high of 63 percent, even as a plurality thinks Trump’s deportation policies are “too aggressive.” Meanwhile, sizable majorities disapprove of Trump’s planned border wall and ban on refugees and migrants from Muslim-majority countries.

Bannon flatly rejects the very existence of such public sentiments. In the wake of the initial outcry over Trump’s travel ban, Bannon insisted that the “overwhelming majority of Americans” support his “populist nation-state policies,” meaning that a large majority is rooting for Trumpism to succeed. But this is just false, as much of the polling on his immigration policies confirms.

Now this notion will be subjected to another test. The American electorate and political world are now digesting Trump’s budget — which is the most ambitious blueprint yet for realizing the Trump/Bannon “America First” vision, as well as Bannon’s vow to destroy “the administrative state.” That phrase would appear to be shorthand for national regulations and international commitments created by allegedly unaccountable bureaucrats who are supposedly disenfranchising U.S. workers and weakening American sovereignty.

Thus, the Trump budget would boost spending to fund Trump’s border wall and increased deportations. It would deeply cut into the State Department budget in ways that weaken America’s constructive international engagement, to pay for a massive military buildup. It would slash away at the Environmental Protection Agency budget, weakening environmental protections and scrapping funding for international climate change programs and for Obama policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which are essential to meeting our commitments as part of the Paris climate accord. It would cut deeply into funding for scientific and medical research with a recklessness that has alarmed scientists.

And so, we are now seeing what the Trump/Bannon “America First” vision, backed up by the dismantling of the “administrative state,” might really look like in concrete terms. The public reaction to this will be illuminating, too.

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* GOP LEADERS MAY MAKE HEALTH BILL MORE CONSERVATIVE: CNN reports that Paul Ryan and House GOP leaders are considering a change to the GOP repeal-and-replace bill that might win over House conservatives who are angry that it’s still an “entitlement”:

One change that House leaders are considering is adding a work requirement for able-bodied adults who receive Medicaid. The change may appease some conservatives without alienating moderates that leadership needs to hold on to.

Conservatives think the GOP bill still spends too much to help poor people, so maybe adding in an onerous provision like this one will make up for that deficiency.

* SUSAN COLLINS COMES OUT AGAINST GOP PLAN: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) tells the Portland Press Herald that she will oppose the House GOP health bill, in part because rural Americans would end up getting hit hard:

Under the ACA, premium tax credits make up for geographical differences. … In contrast, under the Ryan bill, the geographical price disparities would be shouldered by enrollees, so that same 60-year-old living in Caribou would pay hundreds more per month in premiums compared to a Portland resident. … “Older people living in rural America would be really left behind,” Collins said.

If two more GOP senators oppose the bill, it goes down. Of course, House GOP leaders are going to change it. But those changes will be to appease conservatives, not lawmakers like Collins.

* REPUBLICANS REJECT TRUMP’S BUDGET: The Post talks to a number of congressional Republicans and finds no love for Trump’s deep spending cuts:

It is not uncommon for Congress to disagree with some priorities in a White House budget. But the blueprint risks putting GOP lawmakers on a collision course with Trump over demands for spending cuts they cannot deliver. Even those fiscal conservatives who do want to cut spending don’t necessarily think slashing major domestic programs is the answer.

It’s almost as if railing about Out Of Control Big Government in the abstract is a whole lot easier than cutting programs that people actually rely upon.

* TRUMP’S BUDGET WOULD HURT HIS VOTERS: The New York Times reports that Trump’s massive budget cuts would downsize aspects of government that help many of his voters:

The approach is a risky gamble for Mr. Trump, whose victory in November came in part by assembling a coalition that included low-income workers who rely on many of the programs that he now proposes to slash. For now, the president and his advisers appear willing to take that risk by casting the administration as better caretakers of taxpayers’ money.

That might work. Or maybe Trump can simply say that any reporting on how his budget will hurt his voters is Fake News.

* TRUMP’S BUDGET WOULD HURT HIS VOTERS, PART II: The Post’s Jeff Guo reports that the budget would eliminate government agencies that spend money on projects to help “rural regions stuck in generational cycles of poverty”:

More than 37 million people would be affected in the 698 counties where the agencies work — in Appalachia, the Mississippi basin, and rural northern New England — places where the poverty rate is 33 percent higher than the national average. By proposing to zero out these programs, the president’s budget would eliminate a key effort to help to some of the nation’s poorest regions.

But Trump is going to bring manufacturing and coal jobs roaring back, so it’ll all be just fine.

* GOP FANTASY POLICIES, UNMASKED: Paul Krugman explains how Trump’s budget and the GOP health-care plan will reveal the truth about GOP policy to voters:

What will happen if anti-big-government politicians find themselves in a position to put their agenda into practice? Voters will quickly get a lesson in what slashing spending really means — and they won’t be happy. That’s basically the wall Obamacare repeal has just smashed into. And the same thing will happen if this Trump whatever-it-is turns into an actual budget.

As Krugman notes, people hate spending on generic bureaucracy, but they will not support deep cuts to federal programs that protect the environment and feed the hungry.

* TRUMP AND MERKEL SET TO DISCUSS CLIMATE: Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are set to meet today, and look what’s on the agenda:

Merkel … is likely to press Trump for assurances of support for a strong European Union and a commitment to fight climate change. … A U.S. official said the Trump administration’s position on U.S. participation in the Paris agreement to curb climate change would likely come up in the Merkel meeting and be further clarified in the weeks and months ahead.

Administration officials have battled internally over the Paris climate accord. Bannon is against it and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is for it, so clarifying its position will be valuable.