The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
The drastic cuts in Donald Trump’s budget to social safety net programs, medical research, infrastructure development, job-training programs, education, and environmental protection among others are a devastating blow to the lives of millions of people. The vulnerable in our country (many of whom voted for Trump) are hit first and hardest. Programs that are already struggling with limited funds are eviscerated in the name of enriching the wealthiest Americans.
None of this is moral and even more than the cuts funding the ideology behind this budget is an assault on American values and Christian teaching.
Among the many hurt by Trump’s budget proposal are the disabled on several fronts as Jason Easley reported:
The Trump budget targets the disabled not just through Social Security Disability, Medicaid, and food stamp cuts. The Trump budget also slashes specific programs for independent living, limb loss, traumatic brain injury, and paralysis, among many others.
While Mick Mulvaney tries to defend these and other cuts on the grounds of “compassion” and “effective use of tax-payer dollars”, what he and the whole Trump Administration continue to hide is that this budget is a body slam of devastating cuts to the poor and vulnerable while providing even more wealth to the most affluent of Americans. As Jason Easley put it:
What Trump’s budget doesn’t make clear is that it is an economic policy that is designed to hurt working class people and enrich the wealthiest Americans. The White House keeps trying to hide this fact by framing their budget as compassion towards the taxpayers, but it isn’t an act of compassion towards all taxpayers. This act of White House “kindness” benefits the wealthiest Americans.
Budgets are moral documents. Budgets must not only add up economically; they must add up morally as well. The proposed Trump Budget fails on both accounts, notwithstanding a $2 trillion accounting error of double dipping and fantasy math.
As a moral document a budget shows the values and the priorities of those who write it by how money is allocated. In the case of our country’s budget, the allocation of funds into particular policies and programs reflects the priorities and principles of the people who propose and defend it.
When the lives of those who live with a disability are harmed by unnecessary cuts to enrich the wealthy, it is an immoral act of cruelty that denies the dignity and worth of disabled Americans.
When children are put in danger of drinking poisoned water because of a lack of infrastructure development and environmental regulation, it is an immoral act of injustice against a most vulnerable population.
When programs that benefit working families are cut to give tax breaks to the wealthy, it is an immoral assault on the American values of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.
Though this insidious budget proposal is said to be dead on arrival in the Congress, the ideology underlying it is alive and well. However, this ideology is in direct conflict not only with our deepest shared values as Americans of the equality and dignity of all people, but with the Scriptures many Trump supporters say they live by.
Whether from Republicans in Congress or the American on the street there is a willingness to provide charitable help to those in need who are deemed worthy of it, but don’t waste time and energy with structural and systemic issues like living wages or the cycle of poverty and violence the entraps people in a life they cannot escape on their own.
Yet, when even this charitable help is made conditional it no longer reflects the values of our country or the teachings in the Bible.
Jesus never said help those who help themselves or who deserve it. Instead his said things like: “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thives break in and steal” (Matthew 6.19). And in the Gospel of Luke Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah and applies the words to himself.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4.18-19)
Jesus fed whole multitudes of people without questioning their worthiness of this grand gesture. This was as much about meeting peoples’ immediate hunger needs as it was about manifesting the abundant grace and power of God. This is a story to overcome small minded scarcity thinking that is pervasive in our world today and show that there is plenty for all to have their fill. In fact the greatest obstacle to solving the hunger epidemic in our country and throughout the world is the political will to make the changes necessary for a more just distribution of resources and development of sustainable agriculture.
Jesus healed the blind and the lame, liberated the captive, and restored people to life in community. Donald Trump’s immoral budget proposals do the opposite of all of these things.
It is a farce to think that Trump’s budget proposal is defensible on grounds of compassion and kindness when in reality it is a body blow of cuts to the vulnerable in our society and beyond for the purpose of giving more money to the already affluent. While Republican may be running scared from this proposal they are not giving up on the ideology that undergirds it.
Senator Chuck Shumer remarked on the Senate floor, “The document is stunning in its cruelty – it takes a sledgehammer to the middle class and the working poor while lavishing tax breaks on the wealthy.”
Such stunning cruelty is not what this country was founded on or what continues to make it great. And whether from the perspective of our deepest shared American values or the teachings of the Bible this budget and the underling ideology epically fail the test of morality.