President Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, putting together a collection of evangelical Christian, rural and working-class voters who felt betrayed by government. He was the outsider, agitating for an agenda that did not promote corporate profits at the expense of workers and vowing, for example, to leave entitlements alone. His vision was nativist, nationalist, protectionist and paternalistic. Big government for the little guy, in other words.
His two biggest initiatives so far — health-care reform and his budget — tell a vastly different story. This is old-style right-wing politics on steroids. Transfer wealth to the rich via Medicaid cuts for the poor and tax breaks to the rich. Deploy health spending accounts, where 70 percent of money comes from those making more than $100,000.
The budget is even less generous to Trump’s base. The Post noted that the listed of abolished programs included “the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which disburses more than $3 billion annually to help heat homes in the winter. It also proposed abolishing the Community Development Block Grant program, which provides roughly $3 billion for targeted projects related to affordable housing, community development and homelessness programs, among other things.”
President Donald Trump has proposed halting funding for rural clean water initiatives and reducing county-level staff, for a 21 percent drop in discretionary spending at the Department of Agriculture (USDA), according to a White House budget document.
The $4.7 billion in cuts would leave USDA with a budget of $17.9 billion after cutting some statistical and rural business services and encouraging private sector conservation planning. Farm groups warned that farmers and rural communities could suffer. The budget proposal would save $498 million by eliminating a rural water and wastewater loan and grant program that helps fund clean water and sewer systems in communities with fewer than 10,000 people. Other areas targeted for cuts include staffing at county-level USDA service centers.
If you are an industrial worker, you might be concerned about a 21 percent cut in the Labor Department, which will impact worker safety and training programs.
As one might expect, the AFL-CIO issued a blistering statement from its president, Richard Trumka:
Working people in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin didn’t vote for a budget that slashes workforce training and fails to invest in our nation’s infrastructure. President Trump’s proposed budget attempts to balance the budget on the backs of working families. The $54 billion cut to programs that benefit working families is dangerous and destructive. Huge cuts to the departments of Labor, Education and Transportation will make workplaces less safe, put more children at risk and make improving our failing infrastructure much more difficult. The administration can and should do better.”
The budget abandons the future—slashing investments in workers, communities, young people, protecting our environment and building democracy. There are major cuts in job training, education, health programs, the environment, the arts and foreign aid. Research programs in science and medicine are slashed. Sixty-two government programs/agencies are slated for elimination.
The budget, like the health-care plan, strikes at the heart of Trump’s campaign promises, which did not envision a libertarian evisceration of government. Trump leaves the details to others, but the details undermine his appeal to working-class voters, his core support. Either he never meant to be a different kind of Republican or his team has used his rhetorical routine to mask a budget that is less populist than any other in the modern era. Democrats would be wise to start analyzing the budget’s real-world impact — quantifying cuts to each state and to programs that serve people making, say, less than $75,000. What expenses are shifting onto the backs of working-class and middle-class people? What protections are eliminated? This is not going to match up with the beneficent image Trump tried to cultivate.
Trump hired a right-wing Cabinet, so it’s no surprise a right-wing budget and health-care plan emerged. Democrats would do well to focus on the clash between Trump, protector-of-the-little-guy, and Trump, friend-of-the-rich-and-powerful. The former was simply a sales pitch for the campaign; the reality should be a rude awakening for all those “new” GOP voters — who might be amenable to a true populist economic message from the other party.