Would you believe it? The shutdown ate Donald Trump’s homework. Thanks to the 35-day government closure that could have been avoided 35 days before it began with the same deal that finally ended it, the 2020 budget proposal by the White House will miss its mandated February 4 deadline for submission. According to one administration official, the new document “could be delayed by several weeks or more” because “[the ] is still reviewing budget submissions from Cabinet agencies.”
It’s just amazing how the consequences pile right up when the president of the United States deliberately throws the lives of millions into turmoil, risking their safety in the air and at the dinner table over a plan so bad it gave André Maginot the giggles, and he’s been dead for 87 years.
The latest shutdown victim isn’t one most of us are likely to fret about, however. Fret? Ha. It’s the one and only reason I have to be glad about the whole fiasco: One less kick in the head next week. John Bolton and Elliot Abrams are slow-walking a coup in Venezuela, Trump thinks the historic cold in Chicago debunks climate change (he called it “Global Waming”), the utterly unwatchable State of the Union address is back on again, and the fa-chrissakes 2020 presidential race is already underway with more than 600 days to go before the vote.
The last thing I need to hear is former television money ghoul and current White House National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow breaking down the filthy details of how thoroughly this administration wants to gut the social safety net, again. I almost don’t have to read it, because I already know what’s in it. So does anyone who has been watching this parade of shameless greed for the last two years.
Kudlow was happy enough to provide a broad view of the administration’s carnivorous fiscal intentions for 2020 on the Fox Business Network. The short version of the budget that doesn’t exist yet, according to Kudlow, has the White House asking for least 5 percent cuts in domestic spending across the board. Translating from Weaselspeak to English, Kudlow was telling us that they’re coming for your Medicaid and food assistance, probably, if they can get it, and that’s just for openers.
As the details are scarce due to the aforementioned dog, we must look to history for guidance. The Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal was a genuine masterpiece of cruelty. “President Trump’s 2018 budget contains the largest dollar cuts to programs for low- and moderate-income people proposed by any President’s budget in the modern era,” wrote The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at the time. “The plan would cut these programs by an estimated $2.5 trillion over the next decade. About two-thirds (66 percent) of the budget’s cuts would come from these programs, which help low- and moderate-income families afford the basics or improve their upward mobility.”
Up for cuts in that pestiferous 2018 White House budget, to the tune of multiple billions, were core programs like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the Social Services Block Grant, Supplemental Security Income, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The SNAP program alone provides food assistance to more than 40 million people. Trump and his crew couldn’t care less.
Trump’s 2019 budget proposal was a similarly wretched bit of business. “The plan would continue to markedly increase military spending and set aside money for a wall along the US-Mexico border,” reported The Washington Post at the time. “It seeks to authorize $4.4 trillion in spending for 2019, up 10 percent from the amount of money the government spent in 2017. The plan also calls for major cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and other social programs — reductions that conservatives have long sought.” Funny to see the border wall mentioned in a year-old article, like some time capsule from conservative hell.
Both the 2018 and 2019 budget proposals were, from beginning to end, viciously unprecedented pieces of work straight out of the fever swamp of Grover Norquist’s wildest dreams. The 2019 proposal, however, was colored by the financial bomb Trump and the Republican Congress dropped on the country in December of 2017: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which eviscerated the federal mandate in the ACA and followed through with many of the worst promises made in the offered budget blueprints. The 2019 budget proposal still reached for the brass ring, but was slightly more tepid about it, because why not? They got what they came for with the tax cut.
That $1.5 trillion giveaway, by the way, permanently ended the fiction Republicans love to promulgate about how they’re all for fixing the federal debt and addressing the budget deficit. That facile nonsense went poof when the GOP’s biggest donors called their pet congresspeople and ordered them to loot the Treasury via tax cut, or be shut off from the campaign finance spigot. The GOP Congress did as it was told, going so far as to cheer when this royal screwing became law, but it definitely made for some dicey math going forward.
So here we are, waiting for another punch in the face from the White House that has been delayed by the last punch in the face by the White House. Things are a little different this time, though, and one wonders if the holdup has less to do with the effects of the shutdown and more to do with the fact that Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats are lying in wait for this thing like a panther in a tree.
Things are different now, see, and not just because congressional Republicans can no longer simply rubber-stamp whatever vomit bucket gets passed to them by the Trump administration. Fighting newcomer Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and longtime fiscal champion Sen. Elizabeth Warren have lobbed some rhetorical grenades into the frog pond of runaway smash-and-grab capitalism, and if the nervous multibillionaires who clustered at Davos are any indication, the whole conversation might be on the verge of some historically substantial changes.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez wants to tax those earning more than $10 million at 70 percent to fund the Green New Deal. Senator Warren — and I’ll bet this one sends a chill up the occipital of every estate-bound billionaire in the country — “would impose a 2% tax on Americans whose net worth exceeds $50 million, with an additional 1% levy on billionaires,” according to a CNN report. This would represent an enormous new revenue stream, all to be extracted at long last from the privileged few who have been running through the raindrops ever since Ronald Reagan cursed us with the long fraud of trickle-down economics.
According to none other than Fox News, some 85 percent of Democrats approve of higher taxes for multimillionaires. This is not terribly surprising. What is surprising is the 54 percent of Republicans who also approve of such a tax hike in the very same Fox poll. That’s not nothing, and represents the kind of bipartisan coalition that makes the Davos people want to run up a tree and hide.
At some point, the Trump administration will cough up its latest budgetary ode to deliberate misery. Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Warren have already seeded the ground with a far superior crop of ideas, while Speaker Pelosi and the newly muscular House Democratic majority are sharpening their carving knives. And, of course, there is always Bernie. I am loath to wax optimistic in such fearfully dreary times, but I will be watching this unfold with both eyes. You should, too.