Whenever a Republican becomes president and has to propose a budget, I fully expect he will want to allocate more money for defense (whether we need it or not); and I fully expect he will want to defund both Planned Parenthood and PBS/NPR. I will talk about why doing that is a really bad idea; but first, let me discuss one of the most cruel and callous assertions I've ever heard from any politician.
I was driving home from a meeting at work, and listening to the daily press briefing that Sean Spicer holds; the topic was President Trump's new budget proposal. A reporter questioned whether it's a good thing to be cutting funding for grants that support early childhood education (including making sure that poor kids get something to eat, rather than trying to learn while they are hungry) and Meals on Wheels (which brings much-needed food to the elderly and shut-ins). Spicer had turned the questions about the budget over to Mr. Trump's Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, and he basically said there was no good reason to waste taxpayer money on such things. When pressed further, he said that there is no evidence such programs produce results, and the administration just wants to fund programs that produce results.
Needless to say, I was not amused. In fact, first I was stunned, and then I was outraged. Please tell me: what is a better result than making sure children and the elderly aren't going hungry? And doesn't the Preamble to the Constitution speak about promoting the general welfare? I can't think of a better way for the government to help its citizens than by funding programs that prevent hunger (evidently not producing enough results to be continued); or programs that provide legal aid for the poor-- which are often utilized by victims of domestic violence (also cut in Mr. Trump's proposed budget); or programs that fund Pell Grants, so that poor and lower-class students can attend college (also scheduled to be cut); or how about eliminating aid to libraries and museums (yup, on the chopping block too). There are even cuts to programs that address public health emergencies-- in fact, there's a 20% decrease in the National Institute of Health's budget (and a $54 billion increase in defense spending). Those are priorities that truly make no sense to me-- finding a cure for Zika or a more effective treatment for breast cancer is less important than building up the military? Really?
Okay fine, I know what some of my conservative friends will say-- it's
not the government's job to do that; let private charities take care of
it. But charities alone cannot handle all of the people who are in need. As Mr. Trump acknowledges, the economy is great in some parts of the country, but in others, it is struggling, and his budget severely hurts the very people who voted for him. I understand wanting to cut back on wasteful spending; but I see NO evidence that programs dedicated to feeding the elderly or helping the poor to attend college are examples of waste. Rather, if we are to "promote the general welfare," giving tax breaks to the upper 1% while making the poor go without seems unnecessarily cruel.
And then there's PBS and NPR. Yes, I know many of my conservative friends insist these networks are (gasp) liberal, but the 40-45% of listeners and viewers who identify as Republicans yet are loyal fans of both PBS and NPR would disagree. Audience surveys repeatedly show that those who choose PBS and NPR come from both political parties, as well as many Independents. They all agree that these two networks have thorough and factual news coverage as well as some wonderful programs for folks of all ages. (Defunding Big Bird? How rude!)
As for Planned Parenthood, I understand that for some religious conservatives, any organization that performs abortions is morally objectionable (even though only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does is related to abortion). But most of what Planned Parenthood provides relates to contraception, as well as prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases. And no, contrary to a common conservative discourse, you can't just replace Planned Parenthood with some other clinic; many states are finding that few clinics are equipped to offer the care that Planned Parenthood provides. In fact, many rural areas have few if any women's health clinics, and even in bigger cities, the expertise of Planned Parenthood means women who go there for contraception or advice about family planning will find highly trained people who genuinely understand women's health. My question to those wanting to shut down Planned Parenthood and leave millions of poor and rural women with nothing is this: won't denying women access to contraception cause more, rather than fewer, abortions?
And here we are, ready to enact policies that are merciless, policies that will hurt the most vulnerable citizens. I must admit I am puzzled by what has happened to the Republican party: when I was growing up, Republicans were fiscally conservative, but they weren't overtly cruel. A party that defends denying meals to the elderly, or says that feeding hungry school children "doesn't work" has truly lost its way. I hope there are some Republicans with courage who will speak out against a budget that may make the military happy, but will be a disaster for nearly everyone else.