by Kate Harveston
What is the purpose of government?
Ask somebody this question and you’ll learn quite a bit about how that person thinks. There are lots of valid answers, but folks all across the political spectrum ought to be able to agree on one critical point at least — government is for protecting people who can’t protect themselves.
Donald Trump has been president of America basically five months now — and he’s made it pretty clear what he thinks of government. Most recently, he’s done this by revealing the toxic contents of his budget. Here are some of the hardest-hitting highlights:
• Trump’s budget plan would bump up defense spending by $54 billion, increasing the amount we spend on wars. Meanwhile, he’s cutting taxes, so there’s no way to pay for that, never mind the devastation that money will wreak in perpetual war zones around the world.
• Trump’s so-called “tax relief” for families whose regular expenses include childcare would see little or no benefit under this tax plan. Interesting to note when you look at the fact that struggling working families were some of the most enthusiastic Trump supporters.
• People who live in high-tax states would pay more under Trump’s tax plan, which eliminates certain key itemized deductions. This places a disproportionate burden on low-income earners.
• In 2005, Mr. Trump paid about $31 million in what’s known as an alternative minimum tax. His plan would eliminate that pesky tax, which is only a “problem” for just under five million wealthy Americans.
Ethically speaking, this isn’t a tax plan — it’s a coup. It is a set of rules made by people for whom government is an inconvenience, rather than by people for whom a healthy and well-funded government is literally a matter of life and death.
It’s Robin Hood in reverse, and it’s not merely wrong — it’s potentially catastrophic.
Ethics Aside, How Does the Math Look?
It looks — questionable. And that’s putting it lightly.
Politico minced the fewest words, calling President Trump’s tax proposal a “new level of deception.” Every American president, to one degree or another, cherry-picks numbers to make their proposals look more attractive or their existing policies more successful. But Donald Trump’s tax plans make some gigantic assumptions that blow holes in the very idea that his team did any kind of thoughtful analysis on how this proposal could possibly work in the real world.
Feel free to jump in and get the whole scoop, but here are the CliffsNotes. The Trump budget contains accounting errors to the tune of trillions of dollars:
• It conveniently sweeps under the rug a $5.5 trillion addition to the national debt — that’s nearly $20,000 for every American citizen currently living. It’s also enough to fund the EPA for 700 years, per Politico.
• It contains another mathematical error of $2 trillion by assuming the positive effects of this tax plan will already have been realized. Translation, some of the money is literally counted twice — once to pay for the tax cuts and again to reduce the federal deficit.
• The Budget Director and the Treasury Secretary are saying very different things about how the math works, leading some to ask: “How can this document even be taken seriously?”
So … What’s Trump’s Government for, Exactly?
In the beginning of this piece, we asked you to think about what government is for. You probably don’t help make Washington fiscal policy, but this is still an important question for each of us to answer.
So how has Trump answered it, if an American president’s budget serves as a glimpse into their political philosophy? Let’s recap:
• Trump wants to deliver staggering tax cuts for himself and folks just like him in the name of “job creation.” This is called trickle-down economics, and there’s little evidence it has worked since Reagan handed the idea down from the mountaintop all those years ago.
• Trump wants gigantic spending increases for our military, which already has an operating budget larger than the next eight developed countries combined. This, while rolling back lunch subsidies and worsening food quality for hungry school kids.
• Trump is more concerned with making deals, wars and profits than he is with improving the quality of human life in the world — a fact made evident by his decision to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia than any U.S. president has ever sold to anybody. This will almost certainly make worse a years-long war in Yemen in which the Saudis are deeply involved. We could be sending food to help end Yemeni hunger. Instead, we’re sending guns and bombs.
Options for Fighting This Plan
So what do we little people do? What options are left to us as our share of the tax burden rises ever higher and we’re forced to take part in a machine that uses tax revenue to kill folks abroad to line the pockets of oligarchs back home? How do you even fix a system as broken as this?
It’s not easy — but it begins with making our voices heard. Write to and call your elected officials — it’s getting easier and easier if you have the right tools literally close at hand — incessantly. Show up for town hall meetings as often as you can. There’s no reason to expect that representatives will show up to hear your grievances, but even town halls held with cardboard effigies of these MIA Trump abettors still sends a message — and raises awareness of what’s happening to our government and our country.
Remember: this isn’t normal and we cannot carry on as though it is.
Keep on Fighting
Finally: don’t despair. Trump’s plans for this country are horrible and actively throw people under the bus who need our compassion, support and love the most. But while it might be a public and grotesque exhibition of a broken political ethos and an even more broken moral code, people everywhere are awake and alert to it in a way we’ve never been before.
Unless we get complacent, things can only improve from here. The attention being paid to Trump’s budget is a very good thing — it means people are standing up for the things they find important.
This budget is a shot across the bow of Western Democracy itself, and even some Congressional Republicans don’t want to touch it, despite how closely it resembles traditional GOP scripture. That’s a good thing, too — it means that the GOP is either getting worried about the optics of defending the indefensible or that The Truth About Trump is sinking in at last.
That truth is this: when he doesn’t rely on assumptions or faulty math to govern, Trump relies on bluster — and when that fails, he’s got nothing to stand on. Putting laughable math and hideous ethics into writing — into budget proposal form — makes these things concrete in a way that all of the political rhetoric in the world can’t.
We can see in black and white the hardship economic elitism is wreaking not just in America but across a globe that needs decisive and compassionate leadership more than ever before. And awareness is the first step toward real change.
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer with a passion for social change and human rights. Kate holds a bachelor’s degree in English and minored in Criminal Justice. She enjoys all things related to law, politics, and the written word. If you like her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.
Copyright 2017 The Moderate Voice