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One recent Saturday, Martin Dreiling, an architect in Healdsburg and an assistant scout master of Boy Scout Troop 21, took his Scouts on what he called a “government hike.” Similar to a nature hike, they were encouraged to see things they often overlook in our surroundings. But in this case, they focused on human-made contributions.

“I showed them everything from panic hardware (a type of door opening mechanism that allows users to exit quickly in an emergency) to fresh drinking water, to gutters, to City Hall, the library and the plaza where free speech is possible,” he said in an email. He also pointed to the sky noting how even the color and quality of the air would be different without certain laws.

“I spent hours explaining why we had so much government, about how every rule, every act, every piece of public reality was a response to someone’s desire for good,” he said. “ I told them that the things they hear that make government sound crazy aren’t crazy when you find out why it is and who it’s for.”

That “who” is often us.

“They were blown away, excited, wide-eyed and somehow changed,” he said. “It never occurred to them how hard people work at civilization.”

Later that night, he was having dinner with some other families when one of his Scouts told the parents about the outing. “We hiked around and saw how government was everywhere,” he said.

“I know,” one parent replied. “Isn’t it awful.”

The number of things that divide us as a nation are almost too many to count anymore. But this is the deepest and widest gap of all — our fundamental belief in whether government is awful or it isn’t.

There seems to be little middle ground anymore.

The rhetoric of our new president, who uses words like “catastrophic” to describe government programs and “carnage” to describe the state of our country, has certainly contributed to this divide. In fact, his entire campaign and first 50 days in office have been built on the idea that government is bloated, ineffective and irrelevant. Never was this more evident than in the ruthless budget “blueprint” he rolled out on Thursday.

Trying to explain the damage from this budget outline is like describing the debris from a tornado. It’s impossible to cover it all.

But here are some pieces: Nearly one-third of the EPA’s budget would be gone, undoing many of our most valuable environmental protections. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants and programs that support coastal and marine management, research and education would disappear as well. The same fate awaits many programs that help to take care of children, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Summer and before- and after-school programs would likely disappear. Programs that low- and middle-income students count on to pay for college would be wiped out as well. Three dozen independent agencies and commissions including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be knocked to their foundations.

Even the most hard-boiled advocates of reduced government understand that change to many of these programs requires a scalpel not a meat cleaver. In Trump’s plan, America gets the cleaver.

But the damage would be more extensive than just these numbers. These cuts have ripple effects.

Many of these federal dollars are used to leverage other money, often local public and private funds, creating partnerships that make these programs work. According to the latest National Endowment for the Arts figures, for example, every $1 in NEA grants leverages up to $9 in private and public funds, resulting in $500 million in matching support in 2016. This helps provide arts programs all across the country.

As Dana Gioia, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts — and a Santa Rosa resident — pointed out in a recent opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, “The arts in America wouldn’t be destroyed if the NEA ceased to exist. But music, dance, theater, literature and visual arts would become less widely available, especially in schools, rural areas and poorer communities.”

And we all would be lesser for it.

Making the most out of tax dollars is nothing new. Several years ago, Sonoma County launched a program based on the premise that it’s cheaper to build strong children than to repair broken adults. In other words, it’s a more efficient use of tax dollars to invest in early childhood programs that, for example, keep kids out of gangs than dealing with the ramifications of them joining one later. This “upstream investment” policy led to a wholesale shift in the county investing in social programs that have proven results.

But programs like these would be at risk if federal funding is eliminated. Call it Trump’s “downstream disinvestment plan.” It comes with a flushing sound.

Yes, there are plenty of examples out there of wasteful government spending. But the solution is to spend funds more wisely, not cut it all or give it to the military, which essentially is what Trump’s plan proposes. In terms of military spending, the United States already allocates more to national defense than any other county in the world. Our military budget is equal to roughly the next 14 countries combined. Do we really need to decimates Meals on Wheels, Shakespeare in the Park and thousands of other programs in order to give Department of Defense another $54 billion?

I know there are many people out there who wholeheartedly support these draconian cuts. But it’s also true that many of the people who claim that government is awful will be the first to complain when the pothole out in front of their house is not fixed, when the lawn at the local park is not mowed, when graffiti is not removed quickly from the local school and when the quality of their water, air, food and lives goes down.

I’m all for having a talk about how to reduce government spending. But that discussion should begin with a basic appreciation of what we have and a reminder of how we got where we are — the kind of reminder that comes from one of Martin Dreiling’s hikes.

In the end, I would prefer to see the world through his eyes than those of someone who sees the same thing and calls it “carnage.” The tragedy, of course, is if Trump gets his way with this budget, his description may finally be accurate. Sad.

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