St. Lewis Post-Dispatch Editorial: Trump budget puts numbers on his vision for America. It is repellent

Originally published on All images have been added by Vision for America, not endorsed by the St Lewis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board.

Any budget is about priorities. It’s about ranking the spending that the budget-maker thinks is important. A budget defines a household, a business, a charity, a nation. A budget, as they’re fond of saying in Washington, is a moral document. Not this one.

The budget outline that President Donald Trump unveiled Thursday is profoundly disturbing. For the first time, the president has put dollar signs on his dystopian priorities. “If he said it in the campaign, it’s in the budget,” White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday.

Only the outline of Trump’s budget was released last week, the so-called “skinny budget” that new presidents present to outline their spending priorities. The line-by-line budget dealing with taxes and entitlements is due in May. Congress will spend all summer arguing about it. If history is any guide, very few of the skinny budget’s numbers will be adopted. Already senators are declaring parts of it “dead on arrival.”

Still it serves as a guidepost to Trump’s thinking. In his push to “Make America Great Again,” he would make America unrecognizable.

On the international stage, the budget portrays an America that is withdrawing into itself, an America that would replace its claim to exceptionalism with expanded militarism and nativism, an America moving to abandon world leadership on issues like hunger, the climate and international development.

“This is a hard-power budget, and that was done intentionally,” Mulvaney said. “The president very clearly wants to send a message to our allies and to our potential adversaries that this is a strong-power administration.”

Trump wants to increase the baseline Defense budget by 10 percent, or $52 billion. He proposes to do that by moving $52 billion out of other discretionary spending, including nearly $11 billion from the State Department and its development programs, i.e., the hated “foreign aid.”

The trouble with that kind of macho thinking is that it ignores the collective wisdom of generations of American military thinkers, from George C. Marshall to James Mattis, Trump’s secretary of defense. “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition,” Mattis said when he ran the U.S. Central Command.

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, immediately pushed back at the foreign aid cuts, saying foreign engagement needs to be “comprehensive in scope — including not just military engagement, but also the full and responsible use of all diplomatic tools at our disposal.”

Trump would abandon U.S. leadership in funding World Bank development programs, on climate change and even disaster relief. If there’s an earthquake in Pakistan on his watch, it’ll be the Pakistanis’ problem. Trump’s budget would take the shine off what President Ronald Reagan used to call “that shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”

As bad as the budget proposals are for international operations, they’re worse at home. The budget begins to implement what Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s top adviser, calls the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

What’s that mean at the street level? It would mean no more Community Development Block Grants that enable cities and counties to make life better for poor people. The city of St. Louis would lose about $16.7 million a year, most of it spent on grants to dozens of agencies doing everything from feeding kids and seniors to boarding up nuisance properties to repairing homes for needy citizens. St. Louis County receives about $7.3 million each year.

Trump’s budget would mean less help for the homeless. The CDBG block grants often pay for Meals on Wheels for seniors. The budget cuts after-school nutrition programs for at-risk kids. Mulvaney said the after-school meals are “one of those programs not showing any results” — as if kids not going hungry don’t count.

The budget would eliminate 20 percent, or $5.8 billion, in research funding for the National Institutes of Health and scientific research across several cabinet agencies. It would zero-out job-retraining programs in Appalachia, the very heart of “Trump country” during last fall’s presidential campaign. It would end funding for the Legal Services Corporation, which helps people too poor to afford lawyers. It would literally leave people out in the cold by eliminating the Low Income Energy Assistance Program and home weatherization help. It would end job training for young people at the JobCorps and older people at the Senior Community Service Employment Program.

Americorps would be gone; so much for civilian idealism in service to America. Teacher training programs are out. Maintaining the nation’s 563 wildlife refuges? Gone, as is support for Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That threatens Big Bird, Elmo and the rest of PBS programming. Funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities is eliminated. Funding for rural airports and Amtrak service would be cut.

The Border Patrol would get more money, more jails and more lawyers. Veterans programs would get a boost. Trump wants a $2 billion down payment on the famous border wall that Mexico was going to pay for.

This is the blueprint for Trump’s America. It is repellent and immoral. It cannot stand.

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