WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is an aberration, an outrage, a threat to the nation’s very soul. But most of all it’s a great big fraud.
Voters who thought President Donald Trump would at least try to fulfill his populist, America-first campaign promises were cynically and cruelly deceived. Trump placates these supporters with rhetoric, distracts them with cultural warfare and encourages them to seek refuge in cultural chauvinism. What he doesn’t do for them is deliver.
The most recent evidence of Trump’s dishonesty comes in the budget and infrastructure plans the administration released Monday. Both are half smoke-and-mirrors, half traditional Republican economic policy. Forgive the redundancy.
Remember how the president promised a $1 trillion program to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, airports and railroads? Well, he claims to be doing even more – $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending over the next decade. But the promise comes with little or no new federal money, which means it barely qualifies as an idle wish.
Trump says he wants to spend just $200 billion over 10 years on infrastructure, with cities and states providing the rest. But mayors and governors don’t have $1.3 trillion lying around; ask them, if you don’t believe me. And since the $200 billion is supposed to come from savings elsewhere in the budget, Trump effectively plans to give with one hand and take away with the other.
Anyone who expected projects on the scale of Hoover Dam or the interstate highway system should realize that Trump will never come through, because he has no idea how. If he were really the pharaonic builder he brags of being, don’t you think he’d have an actual plan rather than a vague, underfunded set of hopes? Many voters perhaps did not realize that the Trump Organization’s business model had little to do with actual construction and everything to do with branding. The president’s very good at that. But you can’t take an outdated port and brand it into being deep enough to accommodate the newest supertankers.
Trump campaigned as the purported champion of a working class that was being robbed blind by dastardly elites. He has governed, however, as robber-in-chief.
The tax bill that Republicans passed and Trump signed into law delivers the lion’s share of its benefits to corporations and the rich. The president hopes that middle-class taxpayers will be so transfixed by seeing a little more in their paychecks that they fail to notice how other costs, such as health care, are rising because of his policies.
Trump has changed GOP dogma in one regard: The party no longer even pretends to stand for fiscal responsibility. Republicans are apparently wild-eyed Keynesians now, cutting taxes and boosting spending in an attempt to stimulate the economy. Trump anticipates ballooning the national debt by $7 trillion over the next decade.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, a supposed champion of small government and balanced budgets, goes along like a little mouse.
Trump drew loud cheers at his campaign rallies when he complained about the high cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying all that money would be better spent at home. But the deal he signed last week will increase defense spending by $195 billion over the next two years, and his budget director suggested the military could get even more.
So is there more money for everybody? No, not for programs that provide important support to Trump’s base. The president pledged to maintain or strengthen the social safety net, but – sit down, you won’t believe this – he lied.
His budget cuts $554 billion in Medicare spending over 10 years, which is of concern to anyone over 65. It cuts up to $250 billion in Medicaid spending, which has implications for anybody who has a loved one in a nursing home. Trump wants to cut $214 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, a vital source of help for the working poor.
The idea of Donald Trump as some sort of Man of the People was laughable from the start – a boastful plutocrat who lives in a gold-plated aerie above Fifth Avenue, claiming lunch-bucket solidarity with factory workers and coal miners. He sold it, though, largely by cementing a racial and cultural kinship and shamelessly misrepresenting his intentions.
Trump tells little lies all the time. But this is the Big Lie that must be constantly exposed between now and the November election: Trump is worsening the society’s bias in favor of the wealthy – and laughing at the chumps who put him in office.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.