Op-ed: Skinny but overweight

  • By Bob Franken
  • Wednesday, March 22, 2017 10:51am
  • Opinion

It’s called a “skinny budget,” because it’s just a president’s blueprint for where the federal money goes, and it doesn’t get into details. Those will be fleshed out later. Actually, this one is anorexic, containing the usual bullet points that Donald Trump always prefers rather than getting tangled in the weeds of messy specifics. That would require concentration, which has definitely never been The Donald’s strong suit. However, even these budgetary bullet points target the entire notion that the United States has a kindhearted government.

The money largely affirms the idea that this is a nation in a defensive crouch. There are huge increases for our armed forces and homeland security, including that wall that has become Trump’s trademark. Somebody has to pay for all that, plus the tax cuts for the super-rich he envisions, and that would be the non-super-rich. Just like always. The programs that will be gutted feed the poor and elderly, and address the extensive hunger in children that is a shame on America. In the past, the funding has gone to support education, and protect against fouling our nation’s and the world’s environment.

It is a concoction whose recipe compiled by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney whose rationalization for abandoning the malnourished, for instance, twists the normal language into tangles of meaninglessness and, might I add, meanness. We have gotten used to the Orwellian absurdities from the Trumpsters, but try this on for size, as Mulvaney is facile about the absence of compassion in this budget. He feels too “compassionate” toward the taxpayers “to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore.’”

To pay for the Meals on Wheels program, that is a lifeline for the shut-in elderly and disabled. Or the program that would be cut that provides out-of-school meals to the children who would otherwise not eat: “We can’t do that anymore. We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good.”

This is a budget proposal that sounds good to the fat cats who will become obese. Everybody else who relies on the federal government not just for nutrition, but for consumer protection against predator banks and corporations, for basic medical research that can save millions of lives by potentially curing or eradicating killer diseases, and even for the arts, which define our culture, well, see you around.

It brings to mind the Billie Holiday musical standard “God Bless the Child”:

“Them that’s got shall get / Them that’s not shall lose.”

The millions of “Them that’s nots” who voted for Trump are now being forced to understand that the Robin Hood they passionately supported was really a Hood Robin, who robs from the poor to give to the rich. They have stuck by their man through all the irresponsible and incendiary charges that have sprung from the Twitter fingers he can’t control that are embarrassing lies, which he won’t retract because he never retracts anything. They have stayed with him through all the over-his-head embarrassments, all the indications that he had improper relations with this nation’s Russian adversaries, through the slipperiness of his business dealings and refusal to release his tax records. Now they must decide whether the change he represented was a fraud. When they are among the 20 million-plus who will lose their insurance and health, while the rich and powerful have everything that ails them miraculously cured, at some point they will have to make up their mind whether their establishment-disrupting champion is a savior or strictly a flimflam man.

You have to hand it to Trump: Whether he’s president of the United States or some other kind of entertainer, he controls the spotlight. But his reality show is turning into harsh reality. A fair question is: Will the cruelty of his “skinny budget” so weigh down the nation that we can’t recover.

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