America the loser with ‘America First’

In selling the new administration’s astonishingly thin budget proposal last week, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that it “represents a president who is beholden to nobody but the voters.” “He is following through on his promises,” Mulvaney went on. “We did not consult with special interests on how to write this budget. We did not consult with lobbyists on how to write this budget. The president’s team wrote this budget and that’s what you’ll see in the numbers.”

But as a statement of intent, President Trump’s “America First” budget plan doesn’t seem to put Americans first. The $1.1 trillion proposal, which covers discretionary spending only, contains a $54 billion increase in defense spending while slashing and eliminating just about everything else. Slated for the chopping block are a raft of jobs in the federal bureaucracy as well as programs long the target of budget-busting Republicans, such as the National Endowment for the Arts. But so is the $20 million per year Nonprofit Security Grant Program — the Department of Homeland Security project funds security upgrades to such institutions as JCCs and Jewish day schools, which have recently been the target of multiple waves of bomb threats.

Put simply, it is a budget that is sure to hurt everyone — including Trump voters — and is another step by President Trump and his team to “deconstruct government.”

Reactions were swift, harsh and predictable: “This plan denies millions of Americans the opportunity to get ahead by slashing funding for education and jobs programs,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Budget and Appropriations committees, said in a statement emblematic of the opposition. “It abandons [president Trump’s] pledge to invest in job-creating infrastructure projects. It also leaves vulnerable Americans out in the cold — literally — by eliminating heating assistance for those who need it the most.”

Mulvaney described the proposal as a “hard power budget,” one that sees the military as the primary actor in statecraft, with diplomacy and other programs that build relations with other countries rendered less important. And consistent with Trump’s repeated expressions of concern about national security, Defense and Homeland Security are the only government departments awarded increases, along with Veterans Affairs.

It is not uncommon for a new administration to review the functions of government and to shift to new priorities. But even if there is merit to the “military first” approach of the Trump budget, the proposed wholesale slashing of fundamental social service and cultural government programs appears to be too much, too fast. Our parents taught us the importance of moderation, and we regularly preach it to our kids. We hope that Republicans in Congress keep that concept in mind as they work through the president’s budget.

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