Monday, March 27, 2017

Trump Budget a Big FU to His Supporters

Trump continues to prove the pundits right from one day to the next, failing to live up to even the low expectations most sane Americans had for him from the start. Suffice it say that this is shaping up as the worst start to a presidency in history, even surpassing the short William Henry Harrison stay in the highest office (WP). Another Muslim ban shot down before it was ever adopted (LA Times), a healthcare plan that appears to be little more than a tax cut for the wealthy (The Nation), with a dramatic reduction in benefits and subsidies for everyone else, also shot down (NYT)  and a budget that will hurt the working class and poor while enriching business and the wealthy (WP). Trump also continues to manipulate the truth and data with reckless abandon. The good news is people might be starting to pay attention, as Trump’s approval rating hit a new low, of 37%, in the latest Gallop Poll. Let’s briefly take a look at the latest lowlights, each in turn.

Trumpcare is dead for now, the victim of infighting among conservatives and a startling backlash from constituents (NYT), alongside a general inability to rule in the wake of their disingenuous opposition to everything Obama tried to do the past six years. The bill would have cut 24 million Americans from the health insurance rolls over a decade, partially to fund a $600 million tax cut for the wealthy. Of course, that pales in comparison to the next item on the agenda, a $6 trillion tax cut that is three times the amount of the Bush cut that helped push us toward the financial crisis (NYT). How will Trump pay for this massive gift to the rich and powerful? By destroying many benefits and services that make our families and communities safe and secure, of course. He'll try to voucherize Medicare to shift costs to retirees, and slash Medicaid, whose biggest costs are for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. He'll starve our schools and low-income kids who get their meals at school, and slash funding for research on medical breakthroughs and climate change.

As the Washington Post argues, if you are a poor person in America, the Trump budget is not for you. But you are not alone in being disappointed by a plan that appears to go against everything Trump purported to support on the campaign trail. Sure there is the nod to Reagan and a building up of our military while cutting funding to the social safety net for those most in need (USA Today). There is continued deregulation and further attacks on public broadcasting and the arts (WP). And there is the expected cuts to plenty of elements of the social safety net (Yet there is plenty of disappointment for a wide array of Americans. Those doing medical and scientific research, or those who think it might be a pretty good thing for the government to support, are among them (WP). There is also Mother Nature, who I increasingly envision as Iron Eyes Cody in full sob mode. And even those working class voters who thought Trump might bring back their jobs are starting to realize the mythology at the heart of that promise (The Guardian), while rewarding those he slammed in almost every stump speech (TNR). Even Republicans seem less than enamored with the plan, for a variety of reasons (WP).

Getting back to healthcare for a moment, Trump has refused, as is his penchant, to blame himself for the failure, instead blaming anyone and everyone else he can think of (The Guardian), including the Democrats, who might thank him come November ’18. The danger is that he could still essentially kill Obamacare through the backdoor, using a series of executive orders and other mechanisms to undermine key components of the plan. Trump appears to live in a world of his own rendering, where he never makes a mistake, knows more than just about anyone else on the planet (save his own family and Steve Bannon) and is as popular as Charlie Chaplin at the height of his fame.  

This leads us to the third big story of the past week or so, in case you haven’t been paying attention – which is understandable in attempting to keep your sanity intact – namely, that the Russia connections just won’t go away. FBI Director James Comey said the investigation is ongoing and pressure is building for an independent commission to oversee it.  Sean Spicer, in his usual feckless way, seemed to indicate that Trump’s campaign manager for several months last year, Paul Manafort, implicated as a key figure in a conspiracy that would put Watergate to shame, didn’t actually have much to do with the campaign. The fact he resigned because of the Russian links, of course, shouldn’t really bother us. Nothing to see here, back to the absurd Trump claims about Obama bugging Trump Towers, which he quadruple-downed on with a recent Time Magazine interview. The problem of the moment appears to be serious fears that the investigation is being undermined by its own House Intelligence Chair (The Guardian, Slate), disappearing from an Uber ride after running to the White House with potential “proof” of the absurd bugging claim. But the evidence is piling up and there is certainly more to hear on a story that could mean a foreign government not only manipulated an election but are now expecting payback (Daily Mail, 538, Vox). No one I know of is using the word “treason” yet, but aren’t we skating around it, particularly as policies within the administration so far seem to favor the Russian perspective and they are working so hard to undermine the investigation?

Putting it altogether, we have a president who has no compunction about lying, in fact, one who thinks lying is part of a healthy, balanced daily diet. He has tried and failed to ban Muslims from countries who have never engaged in terrorist activity here. He has tried and failed to abolish Obamacare, at least for now. He has hired a bunch of radicals to his cabinet, many firmly behind Steve Bannon’s dream to dismantle the American government full stop. He has ostracized our allies, drummed up violence against every oppressed group imaginable, shown an unwillingness to help those who voted for him and continues to take credit for things he hasn’t done. The level of cruelty in his budget and Trumpcare initiatives is almost nonpareil in recent American politics and there is growing evidence for the conspiracy theory that he is essentially a Russian agent doing the bidding of one of our greatest enemies for most of the past 70 years. It’s a hell of a record for a guy that might be lucky to even make it through his first term, much less win a second.

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