The GOP Budget: This Isn’t Who We Are – Is It?

The GOP Budget: This Isn’t Who We Are – Is It?

I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but America is in the midst of an identity crisis, and the identity that emerges will shape the future our children and grandchildren inhabit.

Are we the people who inscribed “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” on the Statue of Liberty? Or are we self-absorbed climbers seeking to ingratiate ourselves with the powerful and privileged while devaluing the poor and ignoring the needs of the disadvantaged?

Are we a country committed to working with other nations to solve problems and resolve disputes, or are we belligerent saber-rattlers throwing our weight around?

Do we respect scientific expertise and intellectual excellence, recognize the social value of the arts and humanities, or do we sneer at the life of the mind and swagger with the hubris and arrogance of people who don’t know what they don’t know?

These are the questions posed by the “budget” the Trump Administration has presented to the U.S. Congress.

Trump’s budget cuts programs like Meals on Wheels that feed housebound seniors. It drastically curtails housing assistance to  poor people.  It takes the axe to  job training and education. It  eliminates the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps low-income job seekers age 55 and older find work by pairing them with nonprofit organizations and public agencies. It dramatically reduces funds for scientific and medical research.

The budget ends support for both NPR and PBS–sources of unbiased information for millions of Americans. It eliminates the endowments for the arts and the humanities.It destroys the EPA’s ability to enforce the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. It guts the State Department and “soft power” in favor of more and more powerful weapons–despite the fact that the Department of Defense has previously insisted that such expanded military capacity is unnecessary and even counter-productive.

As Daily Kos posted, 

Trump’s budget does have its increases. There’s much more money for defense, so Trump can add ships the Navy didn’t ask for, build more planes that the Air Force doesn’t need, and in general make defense contractors moan in ecstasy. There’s also a lot more money for DHS — because deportation forces and walls don’t run cheap.

CNN Money described what America would look like if the budget were to be passed as introduced:

More agents along the border, but a hobbled PBS. A bigger military, but less chance of getting a decent lawyer if you’re poor.

The budget unveiled by the Trump administration on Thursday would remake the United States — vastly expanding national defense but cutting or gutting dozens of programs that touch the lives of Americans every day.

 Charter schools would get more money. But federal money would be eliminated for an agency that improves water and sewer systems in impoverished corners of Appalachia.

The takeoff and landing of your plane would be guided by an air traffic controller working for a nonprofit, not the government. If you live in a small city served by subsidized commercial airline service, you might have to drive farther to get to an airport.

And if you use Amtrak trains to travel across the country, that would become harder, if not impossible. The budget would end support for the company’s long-distance train services.

It isn’t just that the proposed budget is inhumane– a “reverse Robin Hood” exercise that privileges the already privileged. It is also fiscally insane.

People who understand policy–who can connect the dots–know that most of the proposed “cost saving” cuts will end up being much more expensive than the amounts being saved; Meals on Wheels, for example, keeps seniors in their homes longer, and helps them avoid time–overwhelmingly paid for by Medicaid– in hugely more expensive nursing homes. Job training programs reduce welfare rolls. Clean air and water reduce medical outlays. Research breakthroughs save money while improving lives and health.

The budget that encapsulates Donald Trump’s “vision” for America is a prescription for a third-world country, where art, music, science and scholarship are considered effete affectations, where compassion for the less fortunate is a weakness and poverty is seen as evidence of a lack of merit (and certainly not a problem with which the privileged need concern themselves.)

Donald Trump’s “vision” for America is a nightmare.

Lady Liberty weeps.

[Originally published at on March 19, 2017]

Sheila Kennedy is a former high school English teacher, former lawyer, former Republican, former Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU, former columnist for the Indianapolis Star, and former young person. She is currently an (increasingly cranky) old person, a Professor of Law and Public Policy at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, and Director of IUPUI’s Center for Civic Literacy. She writes for the Indianapolis Business Journal, PA Times, and the Indiana Word, and blogs at For those who are interested in more detail, links to an abbreviated CV and academic publications can be found on her blog, along with links to her books..


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