What is the political vision behind Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget? Wicked, cruel and ugly

It's worse than we could have imagined — Trump's budget is a sociopathic assault on the vast majority of Americans

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published May 27, 2017 11:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump; Rubble.   (AP/Rick Wilking/<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/g/nouskrabs'>nouskrabs</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>/Salon)
Donald Trump; Rubble. (AP/Rick Wilking/nouskrabs via Shutterstock/Salon)

President Donald Trump's proposed 2018 federal budget is monstrous and barbaric. It was not released to the public. It escaped.

Despite the administration's denials and evasions, Trump's proposed budget is a wish list of wanton cruelty hiding behind a mask of "compassionate conservatism." That cruelty is directed toward anyone who is not rich, white and male.

[salon_video id="14772444"]

When viewed on the broadest level, this budget is an act of political sociopathy that is bereft of any human decency or empathy.

Its specific horrors include the fact that Trump and the Republican Party want to steal food from the hungry, deny shelter to the elderly and poor, deprive the sick and needy of medicine and other health care and take schooling away from children and young people in order to give hundreds of billions of dollars to the rich and the powerful.

Ultimately, a country's budget is a type of moral accounting. A budget is also a statement of political values and philosophy. If evaluated on those terms, what is the political ideology and worldview being offered by Donald Trump and the Republican Party?

Government is a tool for confronting problems that individual people cannot effectively resolve on their own. Trump and the Republican Party believe that government should be extremely limited -- with the exception of the military and police and financial protections for the rich and corporations. Trump's proposed budget channels Steve Bannon's wicked dream of destroying the state: "I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment."

Political systems reflect basic assumptions about human nature. Donald Trump and the Republican Party believe that human beings should have no social obligations to one another beyond their own small tribe and kin group. As conservatives, they also believe in a type of crude social Darwinism where the strong flourish while the weak are left to suffer and eventually perish. Trump's 2018 federal budget uses government (or the lack thereof) to accelerate this outcome by further tearing apart the social safety net and redistributing resources upward to the very rich.

Politics has been described as a question of who gets what, when and how. Trump and the Republicans want to transfer resources and money away from the poor, the elderly, children, the sick, nonwhites, immigrants and women to give hundreds of billions, if not trillions, to the very richest Americans and corporations. The very richest 0.1 percent of Americans -- roughly 350,000 people -- already own 90 percent of the individual wealth in the United States. And corporations in the United States are now considered "persons" under the law, making money a type of protected speech. Corporations use this power to wield almost unchecked power over almost every aspect of society. Many of America's largest corporations do not pay any taxes and are subsidized by public tax dollars in their "too big to fail" gangster capitalism. Trump's proposed budget reinforces and strengthens this dynamic.

Politics can also be understood as the study of the affluent and the influential. Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget (and the Republican Party's policies in general) reward the rich and the powerful and punish the poor and the working classes. This budget assumes that the masses of people who are hurt and disempowered by it will not resist. It is a plutocratic and anti-democratic document.

A healthy democracy nurtures and protects the commons, meaning public lands, roads, resources and spaces, as well as goods and services that should be wholly and equally owned and enjoyed by all members of society. Donald Trump and the Republican Party consider the very concept of "public goods" and the commons to be enemies of their extreme right-wing agenda. All aspects of American social and political life are to be privatized and dictated by the predatory and destructive rules of "the market." To that end, Trump's budget will sell off public lands and resources to the highest corporate bidder, privatize air traffic safety and other infrastructure, and end environmental rules and regulations. Donald Trump even proposes allowing thousands of wild horses to be killed in order to "save" the federal government $10 million a year.

Trump's 2018 budget reflects his plutocratic, authoritarian and fascist values. It surrenders even more power to corporations; gives more money to an already bloated military-industrial complex; curtails public education and the arts; expands policing, mass incarceration and the surveillance state; and (in theory) funds the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump's budget also awards public money to himself, his family, his businesses and his political allies through changes in the tax code such as ending the estate tax and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Conservatives are obsessed with "negative liberty." They view government as the enemy and reject most arguments that individual freedom and the good life can be encouraged and protected by the state. Liberals and progressives offer a different vision. They believe in "positive liberty" and in the idea that under democracy the government must protect and nurture human freedom and dignity. In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a Second Bill of Rights that would have included:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad
  • The right of every family to a decent home
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment
  • The right to a good education

Donald Trump and the Republican Party view such a humane society as anathema to their political goals.

What of practical politics? Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget has been pronounced as "dead on arrival" by many voices in Congress and the corporate news media. This conclusion is premature. Republicans in Congress can feign disapproval at this cruel and monstrous budget while cherry-picking the parts they like best. In essence, the Republican Party will separate the bad from the truly horrific and then champion themselves as being "reasonable" for doing so. As they often are, Democrats will likely be outflanked by this dishonest and cunning (albeit obvious) maneuver. 

What about Donald Trump's voters? The "white working-class" voters in Rust Belt America who gave Trump the White House (along with assistance from Vladimir Putin and Russia's spies) will be severely hurt by his 2018 federal budget. The butcher's bill has come due again -- with a usurious amount of interest. Trump's voters will be made to suffer. This is their reward for supporting him.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump read his voters fables that convinced them he could "make America great again." They were hoodwinked. In reality, Trump was reading from a cookbook and his "working-class" supporters -- blinded by racism, sexism and nativism -- did not realize that they would be served up as one of the main courses.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

MORE FROM Chauncey DeVega