If you’re a progressive at 25, congratulations — you definitely have a heart and care about other people. But an often-quoted political saying claims that if you’re not a conservative when you’re older, you don’t have a brain.
There’s a way to test that theory, and all it takes is looking at President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal. If you buy into even a quarter of his mean-spirited fiscal attacks on the poor, elderly and disabled, you lack both a heart and a brain. You’re despicable.
Like any presidential budget, what Trump sent to Congress last week was effectively a message about how he would like to govern, not a blueprint that will get rubber-stamped by his fellow Republicans. Given the harsh negative reaction some of them gave to his recommendations, it seems his daily embarrassing missteps, blunders and gaffes have more federal lawmakers jumping off his bandwagon every day. His sharply declining approval ratings are another indication that many Americans are having buyer’s remorse.
Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget was mostly dead on arrival because it relies on his projection of 3 percent annual economic growth, which is seen as totally unrealistic by virtually all economists. But there are still pieces for progressives and moderates to worry about. After campaign-trail promises that he wouldn’t cut Medicaid, the only way the poor can receive health insurance, he now wants to slice it by $880 million over the next decade.
That’s contingent, of course, on the “Trumpcare” health plan passing the Senate. The geniuses behind this monstrosity believe that taking health insurance away from an estimated 23 million people over the next decade is the way to jumpstart the system and supposedly offer better care at cheaper prices. It won’t do either, but conservatives don’t really care as long as they wipe out Obamacare.
Progressives of all ages have the smarts to know that taking away a family’s food stamps while giving huge tax breaks to the ultra-rich so they can become even wealthier isn’t just bad for the country. It’s a clear sign that not only have some of our leaders lost all compassion, they also think the rest of the country is brain-dead and heartless enough to agree with them.
The list of outrages in Trump’s budget is long, and includes $1.7 trillion in cuts to social “safety net” and entitlement programs through 2026. Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, astutely told the Washington Post the president’s proposal amounts to “Robin-Hood-in-reverse policies in an unprecedented scale.”
Trump’s budget includes dangerous federal funding cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Social Security Disability Insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Habitat for Humanity, subsidized school lunches and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, among many others.
I’m going to devote special attention to the cuts Trump wants to make to food stamp assistance, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. His budget would slash $191 billion over 10 years, about a quarter of its funding. It would give states the ability to enforce tougher work requirements than are now imposed at the federal level.
Having watched state lawmakers salivating over the prospect of adding work requirements to be eligible for Medicaid expansion, which they killed anyway, I can imagine how quickly the Republican-led Wyoming Legislature would rush to punish people who have the audacity to be poor and hungry.
Food stamps, which have been called America’s safety net of last resort, allow people of limited means to obtain food through government-issued debit cards or other cash-like vouchers. It’s how our nation ensures that poor people don’t starve to death, and it’s been in the crosshairs of conservatives since the program was created.
I share an office with a Casper food bank, Poverty Resistance, which gives me a perspective on how much anti-poverty programs can help people in dire need of nutritious food. Every day I see people line up to get the limited amount of food the pantry can afford to dispense. Most are extremely thankful for what they get, and some even cry when they see volunteers and workers who care enough to help them when they are desperate and hungry.
Without sufficient SNAP funding, it will put more pressure on food banks to feed an increasing number of people struggling to survive. When the food banks are overwhelmed, what’s next? Maybe Trump will pay for government-printed signs they can carry and beg for handouts. That ought to save some extra money to pay for more corporate tax breaks.
Delegation shows no desire to break with Trump
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) told The Washington Post, “Parents … should not have to choose between food for their tables, gas for their cars, and shoes for their kids.”
Unfortunately, we don’t have someone like Tester representing us in Washington, D.C. We have a delegation — GOP Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Rep. Liz Cheney — that has shown no desire to break ranks with Trump.
Enzi is now in the driver’s seat of the Senate Budget Committee. He will carry considerably more weight than he did as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Enzi will have more power to change the national political landscape than any Wyoming politicians since Rep. Dick Cheney and Sen. Alan Simpson served in the 1980s.
What he will do with it is hardly a mystery. Enzi has been steering increasingly to the right in recent years, especially when he was briefly challenged by the more war-hawkish neocon Liz Cheney in the 2014 GOP primary, before she dropped out of the race. He went on to win a fourth term in a breeze; Cheney had to wait two years to be elected to the U.S. House.
According to the political website FiveThirtyEight, in the four months Trump has been president, Enzi has supported his positions 100 percent of the time.
Enzi would like to see much more spent on the military, which Trump’s budget grants a 10 percent increase. The senator is a hard-liner on illegal immigration, so he’s likely to vote for Trump’s foolhardy wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Enzi also favors getting rid of many federal environmental protection regulations and reducing EPA funding.
I realize that Enzi is voting the way most of his constituents want him to, since Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton was more than 46 percent in Wyoming. But I fully expect many state voters to break ranks with Trump as more damaging evidence against his campaign’s relationship with Russia is disclosed, the coal industry doesn’t experience the renaissance he promised, and more residents are left in the lurch by his punitive health-care proposals.
Enzi has voted in favor of food stamp cuts before, but he did make a hopeful statement after Trump’s budget was released. “The President’s budget is a suggestion,” Enzi told The Hill. “We will take a close look at his budget, but Congress is mandated by the Constitution with key spending responsibilities and will ultimately decide what the nation’s fiscal priorities will be.”
As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Enzi has an enormous responsibility to see how his work affects the most vulnerable of our population. He should get out of his office and visit some of the social programs in Wyoming and other states that would be left in tatters or completely eliminated by Trump’s budget. If Enzi does, the Poverty Resistance food bank in Casper would be a good place to start.