A Kindler, Gentler Budget Than You Realized
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it’s a guns versus butter world out there, and we’re about to get a lot more guns.
Sean Braswell’s satire series Augmented Reality embellishes news and current events, giving reality a more interesting look and feel.
Donald Trump’s first budget as president, which cuts a range of government programs and services, from Meals on Wheels to the National Endowment for the Arts, has been labeled “cruel,” “harsh” and even “an assault on the American Dream.” But is the “hard power” budget really that hard-hearted?
We imagined sitting down with Mick Mulvaney, the former South Carolina congressman turned White House budget chief, who explained what the Trump budget really accomplishes, the wasteful services it curtails and the “alternative” services that Americans can expect to be provided in their place. (The interview has been edited for moral clarity).
You said in your White House briefing last week that this is an “America First” budget. What did you mean by that?
Mick Mulvaney: It’s fairly straightforward. We had an “America First” candidate, so now you have an “America First” budget. In fact, we wrote it using the president’s own words. We went through his campaign speeches, his tweets, and we turned those statements into numbers. Everything in this budget came directly out of Donald Trump’s mouth on the campaign trail.
Even the total bullshit?
Especially the total bullshit. That was core to his campaign, and is essential to putting America first.
The president wants to send a message to our elderly that this is a strong-power administration.…
You’ve been called hard-hearted for cutting programs for low-income seniors that help them eat and pay their heating and power bills. Is that fair?
There’s no question this is a … hard-power budget. It is not a soft-power budget. And that was done intentionally. The president very clearly wants to send a message to our elderly that this is a strong-power administration, and if senior shut-ins want to eat and stay warm, then they need to do something more productive with their time — like start a defense contracting firm.
And does this end to soft power apply to America’s schoolchildren as well, including services for feeding hungry ones?
These are food programs, right? They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed. Guess what? You feed them, and they’re hungry again a few hours later. The programs are supposed to be fighting hunger, and we can’t prove that’s happening.
You want to eliminate a grant program that helps reclaim lands damaged by coal mining. This seems to show a lack of compassion for the very coal miners and their families whom the president promised he’d help.
No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s probably one of the most compassionate things we can do.
Cut programs that revitalize their communities?
You’re focusing on only half of the equation, right? You’re focusing on the beneficiaries of the program. We’re trying to focus on the folks who give us the money in the first place. In this case, the reclamation funds come from fees paid by active coal mine operators. And I think it’s fairly compassionate to say to these operators, “Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore.”
You’ve also proposed eliminating the Legal Services Corp., which provides free legal aid to poor people.
It’s a costly, duplicative program. Hey, I’ll save taxpayers $366 million with one piece of advice to beneficiaries: Don’t break the law, and you won’t need legal advice. Easy.
What about the proposal to end the Minority Business Development Agency?
Also duplicative. We’ve already got a minority development agency. It’s called the military. Let me also just say here: You’ve been focusing on everything we’re eliminating, but every one of these programs you mention is being replaced — just like Obamacare — with something better. You say we’re cutting services, but we’re providing, uh, call them “alternative services.”
Really. Give me an example.
Sure. Take the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses states for the cost of incarcerating criminal immigrants. Well, the president pledged we’re gonna remove those “bad hombres” from the United States, and that’s what we’re doing. So states won’t need to incarcerate them. They’ll be on the other side of that wall in an alternative prison: Mexico.
Speaking of the wall …
Look, we can’t estimate the cost of that yet. It depends on the kind of wall that you want to build. You could do steel, you could do concrete. Some places could be see-through; in other places, an invisible wall might be desired. But the cost doesn’t matter. That’s going on the Mexican budget.
Finally, one of the few new programs you propose is called “Make America Say ‘Merry Christmas’ Again.” What is that?
As I said, if the president said it on the campaign, it’s in the budget, and he promised that if elected, “We’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
But not all Americans are Christian, or celebrate Christmas.
Again, you’re focusing on only half of the equation, right?