Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between a candidate’s campaign promises, and what they’ll actually prioritize when elected. Every single member of Congress says they’re looking out for everyday working people, but when the rubber hits the road, do they actually follow through?
Donald Trump might’ve run on a platform of standing up for low- and middle-income Americans, but he’s governing on a platform of corporate tax breaks, government austerity, and cruelty toward our friends and neighbors who need the most help. The Republican Party thinks the super rich don’t have enough, and the poor have far too much. They’re loud and clear on this point — all you have to do is look at their budget proposal.
I think if you want a real, honest look into what a politician or their party stands for, all you have to do is look at how they plan to spend money. And looking at President Trump and congressional Republicans’ most recent draft of the spending bill will tell you more about who they are than any campaign talking point.
Their budget takes food away from hungry kids by ending the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. It takes health care away from millions of seniors, retirees, veterans, disabled people and children by ending the Medicare senior guarantee and slashing Medicaid. And it cuts billions and billions of dollars from our already struggling public school systems.
These heartless cuts don’t balance the budget like Republicans say they do, either. Republicans love to talk about lowering the deficit (often as an end in itself rather than a means to making people’s lives better), but this austerity budget has to rely on crude, phony math tricks to balance the budget out. In fact, Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, admitted that in order to square away the budget, the administration basically just made up $2 trillion. The GOP doesn’t actually care about balanced budgets and reducing the deficit; the truth is far more sinister.
What this budget is really saying, is Republicans resent the power of the people. It’s the next step in a long, intentional march by the wealthy and powerful few to take whatever is left away from the many — to take away the government services, assistance and support that people like you rely on, just to shave a couple of percentage points off the top marginal tax rate. They’re not even protecting their own constituents: This budget will hurt Trump and the Republican Party’s base more than anyone. As of 2015, 360,000 West Virginians — a state that went for Trump by almost 70 percent — relied on SNAP to feed their families. This budget guts the program, forcing the people who voted for Trump or the GOP to starve, or face eviction in order to eat.
But there’s a better way.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus’s People’s Budget puts working families first. It creates jobs that Americans need right now by investing $2 trillion on infrastructure; makes free college a reality for every student; ensures equal pay between men and women; protects older Americans’ futures by expanding Social Security; and recognizes the urgent need to fight climate change by investing in renewable energy projects.
In politics, budget proposals are moral documents. They lay out a vision for our country and make clear who you’re really fighting for. Any elected official can recite a stump speech about the plight of the working class. It takes courage to actually stand up to the wealthiest people in the world and say “I don’t work for you.” It takes guts to say that instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we should be making sure corporations are paying their fair share of taxes. Republicans are representing their core constituency beautifully. But unless you happen to be reading this in the Goldman Sachs boardroom, that doesn’t include you.
In a world where the richest eight people have more wealth than the 3.6 billion people in the poorest half of our world’s population, how can working people ever hope to have a voice at the table? Well, they might have the money, but we have the many. Our voices, our votes and our solidarity with one another are the most effective weapons we have against massive wealth and unregulated power.
Republicans don’t like that too much, and that’s why Democrats want to give you a vision for the future that doesn’t require working families giving up their dignity and their livelihood.
Because here’s the thing: I think if billionaires have a voice in Congress, the people should, too. There are 540 billionaires in America. That means there’s more than 300 million Americans who don’t have a billion dollars. Seems to me those folks should have a voice in Congress that’s at least 300 million times as strong. It’s only fair.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the wealthiest eight people have more wealth than “the remaining 3.6 billion people.” The article has been clarified to reflect that those 3.6 billion people make up the lower half of the global income distribution.