Americans, at least many of them, for whatever reason, simply do not seem that concerned about the findings unearthed by the twenty-two month investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into the possibility of Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The bottom-line? They just don’t perceive all the sturm and drang animating the beltway over Russia’s now-confirmed meddling and varying degrees of the Trump campaign’s “collusion” as having much to do with the day-to-day challenges they and their families face.
It’s not what we have come to call a “kitchen table issue.”
Indeed, Tim Ryan, the Democratic Representative from Ohio who has thrown his hat into the ring to run for the Democratic candidate for president, just last Friday morning reported as much from Iowa.
Calling into Morning Joe from the campaign trail, Ryan recounted how in the course of a two and a half hour conversation with Iowans, the report was simply “not a topic of conversation” until one Iowan pointed out the fact that the report had not been asked about.
Host Joe Scarborough affirmed Ryan’s experience, seconding that when he’s been out touring the country and meeting people, “The people in middle America aren’t talking about Russia. They aren’t talking about the Mueller report. They’re just talking about their jobs; they’re talking about their kids’ future; they’re talking about the kitchen table issues that you [Tim Ryan] focus so much on.”
Ryan elaborated that what he hears from voters are their concerns about what their next job will be, how they’ll pay their bills. They are concerned, he said, about their children’s health and wellness, about their not being crippled by student debt, and so forth.
These issues are indeed kitchen table issues.
And it precisely these important kitchen table issues that make what the Mueller report unearths the kitchen table issue of all kitchen table issues.
Why? Quite simply because the report details how our 45th president was elected, and that president has been quite influential in making decisions—and appointing decision-makers—who determine the policies that resolve these kitchen table issues for better or worse.
And how has this president, aided and abetted in his election to that office by Russia, sought to address these vital kitchen table issues so concerning to Iowans and, really, all Americans?
Well, let’s just take a quick peek at a few highlights from Trump’s 2020 proposed budget to see what his vision has in store for Americans should his wish list become a reality:
*The budget proposes extensive cuts to social security, Medicaid, and Medicare, despite Trump’s campaign promises that, unlike his many Republican opponents, he would not cut these programs.
*The budget, as I’ve detailed elsewhere in the pages of PoliticusUsa.com, also wishes for a brutal and deep cut of $7.1 billion in education spending.
These cuts would dramatically impact students’ ability to attend college and actually exacerbate, rather than relieve, the debilitating burden of ever-increasing student debt crippling not just individuals but the economy overall.
Consider the following:
*The cuts would eliminate Public Service Loan Forgiveness and subsidized student loans, and streamline income-driven repayment programs for student borrowers.
*It would cut the funding of the Federal Work-Study program for students by 55%.
*It would reduce spending on student loans by $207 billion over 10 years as a result of higher loan payments and the elimination of subsidized loans and Public Student Loan Forgiveness. The budget proposal also called for freezing the maximum Pell Grant award and eliminating the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, another need-based aid program.
When it comes to healthcare, let’s not forget that the Trump administration has supported litigation to eliminate the mandate that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions and, in fact, has attempted to invalidate the Affordable Care Act altogether, with no replacement program in sight.
The point here is a simple but vitally important one: who our president is has a lot to do with the policies that address Americans’ kitchen table issues, and the Mueller report tells us a lot about how our president is being chosen for us—and not so much by us.
Indeed, one fact that comes out in the Mueller report is that, according to Rick Gates, a colleague of chief campaign advisor Paul Manafort and one who also worked on Trump’s campaign, Manafort’s main work for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska was to place politicians friendly to Deripaska and Russia in key political offices around the globe.
And let’s remember Manafort finagled himself into the role of running Trump’s campaign, doing the work for free.
And for whose benefit? Certainly, the Mueller report indicates without equivocation that the Russians believed Trump presidency would benefit them.
And are we foolish enough to believe Putin and the Russians care about the healthy and secure futures of American workers? Of America’s children?
Americans are smarter than that.
But to figure all this out, Americans must be sitting at their kitchen tables talking about the Mueller report and our ability to pick our own president, one who will support Americans having access to healthcare, education, good jobs, clean drinking water, and overall viable futures.
This is why the Mueller report is the mother of all kitchen table issues.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A long-time progressive voice, he has published many academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.