So we’ve had all this pundit hand-wringing, in the wake of the introduction of the health-care bill, about the ways in which Trump and the House Republicans are at loggerheads. Trump said he’d insure everybody, while the House Republicans are throwing 24 million off the rolls. The hand-wringing, as I’ve experienced it, has carried a whiff of sympathy for the president; observations, for example, that the Republicans have boxed him in on health care with their bill.
Any sympathy for him is totally undeserved—Trump was just making it up as he went because he hadn’t the slightest idea how health care worked. Sympathy for Trump assumes he had actual policy intentions regarding health care, which he almost certainly did not. He just knew people roared when he said Obamacare was a disaster, and roared again when he said what I’m going to give you will be better and cheaper. The only difference between him and the Republicans is that they understood this whole time that repealing Obamacare would throw millions off the rolls, while he did not. You can decide for yourself which one of those is worse.
But now we come to the budget, where we find the President and the congressional majority singing nearly in harmony. Which is weird, isn’t it? I mean, if you think about it, the same distinctions regarding Trump and the congressional Republicans that apply to health care should apply equally to the budget. Republicans in Congress want to whack away at domestic spending, which has been their goal for decades. But Trump, why, he promised to invest in the great proletariat. He wouldn’t cut anything that helped them, would he?
Well, this budget is Trump’s. There’s a game of three-card monte being played about whether the health bill is Ryancare or Trumpcare or something else; but there’s only one president, and he proposes the budget. So this is Trump’s. And the right wing loves it. Remember all the hard-right folks who frowned upon Ryancare and Trump’s embrace of it? Well, this budget is turning those frowns upside down. It was barely 9 am when a statement praising the budget landed in my inbox from Heritage Action, the 501(c)(4) arm of the Heritage Foundation. A week ago, Heritage Action was apoplectic about health care.
It’s easy to see why they’re happy—big increases for defense and massive cuts to domestic programs. None of this is surprising, of course, in part because Trump’s budget director is Mick Mulvaney, a really right-wing former member of Congress who was confirmed for his current job on a 51-49 vote (John McCain joined all 48 Democrats, although for reasons of his own, not because Mulvaney is a radical extremist).
Mulvaney did the cable-news circuit mid-week to promote the budget, officially called the “America First” budget (yep, no one seems to bat an eye anymore at open allusions to past crypto-fascist groups). He singled out the usual weak sisters, the ones the Republicans have been trying to get rid of since Newt Gingrich’s time, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). And predictably, he contrasted these snooty enthusiasms of chardonnay-swillers along the coasts with the real Americans whom he and his boss so valorize.
“When you start looking at places that we reduce spending, one of the questions we asked was can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no,” he said.
Clever of his p.r. people to advise him to throw in that Detroit mom. But we all know that what he really cares about is that coal miner in West Virginia. Fine. It might be hard to tell that miner why he should spend his tax dollars on Downton Abbey and folkie reunions where Barry McGuire does his 21,384th rendition of “Eve of Destruction.” Although if Mulvaney were being honest with Mr. Miner, he’d also tell him that of each dollar in taxes he pays, one-one-hundredth of one penny goes to the CPB.
But now let’s replace the CPB with another of the government’s alphabet-soup acronyms that is slated for total elimination under Trump’s budget, the ARC. ARC stands for Appalachian Regional Commission. The ARC was created in 1965 as a federal-state partnership to spur economic development in 420 counties across 13 states, serving some 25 million people, in the region we call Appalachia. West Virginia is the only one of the 13 states that the government identifies as being wholly within the region.
The ARC had a budget of around $120 million in 2016, and here are some of the indefensible projects it wasted that coal miner’s money on. Around $3 million in regional development and planning programs for West Virginia. Numerous other grants ranging from around $1 million to as much as $7 million or so to help small towns in depressed counties develop tourism, build rail links, expand airports, fund local health departments, erect city parks and amphitheaters, construct access roads, improve water systems…
In other words, socialism of every evil variety you can name.
I should note that Barack Obama, the man who supposedly hates West Virginians proposed a 5.5 percent increase in his 2016 budget in the ARC’s development budget. It’s Donald Trump, toasted like Caesar there, who’s proposing to do away entirely with the agency that in 2015 spent $7 million making water-system improvements and without whose help over these last five decades that poor state’s poor towns and counties would be in far worse shape than they are.
That’s just Appalachia. Trump’s budget is going to hit Trump’s voters everywhere, and hard. As long as he keeps braying about foreigners and stuff, it’ll take people a while to notice. But they will. One thing I agree with Trump on: These people aren’t dumb. He’ll soon learn that.