During one of his signature campaign-like rallies this week, President Donald Trump claimed that his first two months in office were the most productive ever for a president. “It’s time for us to embrace our glorious national destiny,” Trump told a Nashville crowd.
But there’s nothing glorious to be said about the plans that Trump has rolled out for the country in recent days.
First came the daunting Congressional Budget Office report on Monday, which projected that if Congress approves the Trump-backed American Health Care Act — the House Republican plan for replacing Obamacare — 14 million people would lose their health insurance within a year. By 2026, 24 million fewer Americans would have health insurance than did under Obamacare.
Then the president was in Detroit proudly signaling that he had directed the Environmental Protection Agency to back away from new fuel-efficiency standards for cars, standards that were created to reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuel and lower carbon emissions.
Then on Thursday, Trump released his blueprint for the nation’s budget, a sweeping and ruthless assault on services and social programs. His plan calls for a 10 percent increase in military spending and deep cuts for just about everything else. The reductions range from 31 percent for the Environmental Protection Agency to 20 percent for the National Institutes of Health — the center of some of the leading medical research in the world — to a 13 percent reduction in funding for the Department of Education.
In addition, Trump’s spending plan calls for the elimination of all funding for about three dozen independent agencies and commissions including National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the largest source of funding for public radio and television. Locally, it also would mean deep cuts in a range of services from programs for the homeless and the disabled, to fish restoration efforts, to research at Novato’s Buck Institute for Research on Aging. All this to provide $54 billion in additional funding for a defense budget that already dwarfs that of the rest of the world. Even without this increase, military spending in the United States is nearly as much as the next 14 nations combined.
By comparison, the funding for these other programs amounts to little more than a rounding error. The budget for the National Endowment for the Arts, for example, is $148 million, equal to one one-hundredth of 1 percent of federal discretionary spending. And yet each $1 in NEA grant funds has been used to leverage another $7 from other public and private sources to put on more than 30,000 concerts, readings, music and stage performances and 3,000 exhibitions each year.
When President Lyndon B. Johnson created the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1965 he said “an advanced civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone, but must give full value and support to the other great branches of scholarly and cultural activity in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future.”
So how do these cuts make America great? The short answer is they don’t. They just make America uninformed, uninsured and uncertain about a future under the leadership of a man who considers all this “our glorious national destiny.”