Trump’s ‘ March Mas­sacre’

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - Email: jjack­son@rain­bow­ Fol­low Jesse Jack­son on Twit­ter:@RevJJack­son JESSE JACK­SON

While much of the coun­try tunes into March Mad­ness, the NCAA men’s bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment, the White House has un­leashed a March Mas­sacre, its “skinny bud­get” plan for 2018. Bud­gets of­ten seem im­pen­e­tra­ble, packed with a bl­iz­zard of num­bers too big to com­pre­hend. But bud­gets are value state­ments. They tell us what we value and what we dis­count. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bud­get re­veals who counts and who does not.

Trump be­lieves in walls. This bud­get in­cludes a $ 2 bil­lion- plus down pay­ment— paid by U. S. tax­pay­ers, not Mex­i­cans— for his fa­mous wall on the bor­der. It also builds a wall around the wealthy and around the mil­i­taryin­dus­trial com­plex. They are pro­tected and re­warded; the rest of us are at risk.

The first pri­or­ity for Trump is a “mas­sive” tax cut for the wealthy and cor­po­ra­tions. A first in­stall­ment came with his health care plan that cuts the top- end taxes used to sub­si­dize health care un­der Oba­macare and pays for that tax cut by de­priv­ing mil­lions of health in­sur­ance ( 14 mil­lion in the first year, ac­cord­ing to the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice). Older, lower- wage work­ers and those in ru­ral ar­eas— iron­i­cally, a source of many Trump votes— get hurt the most.

Trump’s “skinny bud­get” doesn’t con­tain his tax- cut plan. That is promised in May. But the bud­get is dis­ci­plined by that plan, so in­creases in mil­i­tary spend­ing are “paid for” by cuts in do­mes­tic pro­grams. We don’t know yet how Trump will fi­nance his tax cuts. This bud­get ex­cludes any re­port­ing on manda­tory pro­grams like Social Se­cu­rity and Medi­care. What’s clear is that Trump will ei­ther vi­o­late his prom­ise to pro­tect those pro­grams or vi­o­late his pledge to bal­ance the bud­get in a decade. The March Mas­sacre is likely to be fol­lowed by a May Mon­stros­ity.

Trump will add 10 per­cent, or $ 54 bil­lion, to the Pen­tagon’s bud­get over its base­line ( 3 per­cent and $ 18 bil­lion over Obama’s plan). The Pen­tagon al­ready spends more than the coun­tries with next eight largest mil­i­tary bud­gets com­bined. Its books are so messed up, they can­not be au­dited. Cost over­runs, con­tract rip- offs and mas­sive waste are rou­tine. What we need are not smarter mis­siles but wiser poli­cies. But wis­dom is not pro­tected be­hind the wall: Trump would cut fund­ing for diplo­macy by nearly 30 per­cent. Even gen­er­als and ad­mi­rals have protested this folly.

Trump lays waste to the do­mes­tic pro­grams beyond his walls. The most vul­ner­a­ble take the big­gest hit. His bud­get would dev­as­tate ru­ral ar­eas, cut­ting re­gional devel­op­ment au­thor­i­ties, sup­port for ru­ral ra­dio sta­tions and ru­ral air­ports, sup­port for clean wa­ter pro­jects and more. Com­bined with his health care plan, Trump is be­tray­ing his big­gest sup­port­ers. Rep. Harold Rogers of Ken­tucky de­nounced the re­duc­tions as “dra­co­nian, care­less and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.” And he’s a Repub­li­can.

Trump aban­dons his pledge to re­build our in­ner cities. His bud­get cuts funds for vir­tu­ally every pro­gram for im­pacted com­mu­ni­ties — com­mu­nity devel­op­ment block grants, preschool and after- school pro­grams, sum­mer en­rich­ment pro­grams, help for stu­dents to pre­pare for col­lege, col­lege work-study and grant pro­grams, in­fant nu­tri­tion for im­pov­er­ished moth­ers with chil­dren, and hous­ing and rent sub­sidy pro­grams. If passed, this bud­get will pro­duce-more un­em­ploy­ment, more poverty, more de­spair and more shat­tered dreams. Trump deals with this by call­ing for a re­turn to ag­gres­sive po­lice tac­tics, giv­ing po­lice the im­pos­si­ble task of sus­tain­ing or­der amid de­spair.

Trump tram­ples his prom­ise to work­ing peo­ple. This bud­get con­tains no hint of a pro­gramto re­build Amer­ica. It dec­i­mates La­bor Depart­ment fund­ing to en­force worker health and safety in fac­to­ries and mines, to pro­tect against wage theft, to en­sure min­i­mum wage and fair- hours laws are re­spected.

Much more is left on the cut­ting- room floor. Pro­grams to deal with climate change are gut­ted. The Repub­li­can fix­a­tion on Planned Par­ent­hood and rolling back sup­port for women’s health care con­tin­ues. The bud­get makes a bizarre as­sault on sci­ence and re­search.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have called Trump’s bud­get dead on ar­rival. They can’t raise mil­i­tary spend­ing with­out gain­ing Demo­cratic votes, and Demo­crat swill block the deep­est and more per­verse cuts. But the thrust of Trump’s bud­get re­flects the val­ues that gov­ern the Repub­li­can con­gres­sional ma­jori­ties. They won’t get ev­ery­thing they want, butwhat they get will leave Amer­ica more un­equal, more vul­ner­a­ble, with greater poverty and de­spair from Chicago’s in­ner cities to Ap­palachia’s ru­ral hol­lows.

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