Editorials

Trump meets the pope while his budget threatens the least of us

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney holds up a copy of President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 federal budget as he speaks to members of the media in the Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney holds up a copy of President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 federal budget as he speaks to members of the media in the Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Associated Press

Blessed are the poor, a great leader once suggested. Suffice it to say that leader was not President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, as Trump prepared to meet Pope Francis – conveniently far from the suspicions gathering at his White House – his tea party budget director Mick Mulvaney released the proposed 2018 budget that showed just what “love thy neighbor” means, in dollars and cents, to The Donald.

Put it this way: It’s a good thing the poor are blessed. If Trump’s budget were to pass, there wouldn’t be a prayer for the least of us.

As expected, given the preview provided earlier this year by the so-called “skinny budget,” Trump’s $4.1 trillion proposal would spend heavily on the military and shred the safety net, leaving tens of millions of people without health coverage, food stamps and other benefits that have sustained low-income Americans in hard times.

His proposal, which includes all of the unconscionable health care cuts to the poor that the House Republicans’ American Health Care Act put forward, would halve Medicaid, suck nearly $200 billion out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, deny child tax credits to undocumented parents even if their children are citizens, and whack the earned income tax credit, which Ronald Reagan championed.

It’s a good thing the poor are blessed. If Trump’s budget were to pass, there wouldn’t be a prayer for the least of us.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, aka what’s left of welfare, would be cut even further. Social Security Disability Insurance, which supports the poorest disabled and elderly people, would be cut by more than $72 billion.

School lunches, Head Start, legal aid, Meals on Wheels, nursing home care, public housing, student aid, mental health care, rural health, job training, low-income energy assistance – all would be ravaged. Many of the cuts would be especially harsh in states that were vital to Trump’s election.

Even the air poor people breathe and the water they drink would be worsened: The plan would ax funds for Environmental Protection Agency programs that help improve air quality in the Central Valley and water infrastructure along the Mexican border. And that’s just the California environmental impact.

Mulvaney spun the proposal as a way to put taxpayers before goldbricks, and claimed the resulting growth would be so massive, it would balance the budget within a decade. Like so much that comes out of this administration, the pitch was a lie based on lies.

Caring for the most vulnerable members of a society is not only a moral duty, but enlightened self-interest; anyone who as ever actually needed food stamps, or housing assistance, or help for a disabled loved one knows that hard times can happen to anyone.

Congress determines the budget, and voters decide who stays in Congress. Though U.S. Sen. John McCain and others declared the White House plan dead on arrival, Californians should note that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had only supportive words for the “strong, conservative budget” that would devastate his hard-luck constituents in Bakersfield.

It is unlikely that even a papal audience will miraculously make Trump a responsible leader, but holding the line on American values shouldn’t be too tall an order.

Hurting the poor to indulge the ideological whims of conservative think tanks and rich, bored campaign donors is not only grotesquely undemocratic, but foolish. And, quite possibly, a sin.

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