(President Trump's proposed 2018 budget would give the Pentagon $56 billion and cut the same amount from mostly domestic programs. Below, we consider what America would be like if Trump got everything that he wants.)
Imagine what it would be like to wake up in Donald Trump’s America, if the federal budget proposed Thursday by his White House were fully enacted.
Whether you lived in cities or small towns, the new primary business of the federal government is preparing for war. The factories and businesses that make weapons and related technologies are humming. Nuclear weapons labs are busy again and even Nevada’s Yucca Mountain is being revived as a nuclear waste site. There’s renewed activity on military bases and surrounding areas, all due to one of the largest jumps in Pentagon spending in American history.
If you live near the Mexican border, you might know someone who has spoken to one of the newly hired Justice Department attorneys, whose job is speeding up the federal seizures of land on the border to build that new wall. It’s not up yet, but it’s coming. Meanwhile, you see fewer immigrants on the streets, as there are more federal police stopping and arresting people who lack visas. County jails, immigration courts and prisons are busier than ever.
Meanwhile, if you know someone who works in city or state government, they’re quick to tell you that the bonanza for defense contractors is actually crippling their ability to respond to emergencies. A quarter of the money to plan for any emergency, from natural disasters to terrorism, is gone. For cities, ports, public transit systems—rail, subway, bus—it’s all been cut, along with money to upgrade most of those facilities. Funding for food and shelter for the homeless is completely gone. Money for community policing, cops on the streets, has been cut back by a quarter. Meals on wheels for seniors has been similarly cut. And no more legal services for poor people, even if they are domestic violence victims, elderly, veterans... anyone.
Almost anybody who is out of work is also out of luck. Job training programs have been rolled back by more than a third, affecting people laid off, low-skill workers and troubled youths. Meanwhile, if you’re in business, a whole bunch of federal programs that tried to help small and medium sized firms find export markets abroad are gone. Also completely gone are the fed’s community-based lenders, which made loans to areas ignored by commercial banks—like inner cities and Indian reservations, or financed affordable housing projects. Minority business programs have also been zeroed out.
Local government and counties that depended on federal support for a slew of programs to improve living conditions for the poor are gone. No more money for helping to insulate homes. No more block grants to spruce up downtowns or for housing. No more grants to put in water and sewer systems. Funds to maintain existing public housing have also been cut by two-thirds. New money for big public transit projects, even with major local contributions, is frozen.
Public schools have also been affected, as the federal money that supplemented local taxes for traditional public schools has been given to privately run charter schools and vouchers for religious schools. Trump has also cut money for before-school, after-school and summer-school programs. He’s also eliminated a $1 billion college loan program for poor kids.
But the biggest shift keeps coming back to Trump’s obsession with the military. You knew he would go after the Environmental Protection Agency and anything to do with climate change, and he has. No other agency took bigger hits than the EPA. But his antipathy for science is astounding. He shut down ongoing programs studying and protecting lakes, rivers, shores and oceans. You knew he was going after Obamacare and that’s gotten stuck in Congress as too many people are realizing their costs will skyrocket and quality of care diminish. He has also taken billions out of research for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and HIV/AIDS. And he didn’t give anything to family planning.
Needless to say, there’s also no room for federal support of the arts, humanities, and keeping museums and historic sites open. His $56 billion in new military spending came from almost all domestic spending cuts. The arts, public broadcasting and environmental protection were among the first on the chopping block.
These scenarios are not idle speculation or hyperbole, but are from a 62-page analysis of Trump's proposed 2018 budget released by House Appropriations Committee Democrats late on Thursday.
Trump's budget will be reviewed by Congress, which ultimately will pass its own federal budget that it will send to the White House to be signed into law. So while it is very likely that Trump will not get anything near what he is proposing, it is still stunning to behold his dark vision for where he would take America if he had his way.
The president's vision, above all, is deeply dystopian. It would put the country on a wartime footing while gutting or cutting anything that seems to help the struggling or vulnerable.