Mike Rose: Keepin’ Up with the Trumps, One Budget Cut at a Time

Mike Rose of UCLA, a much-published author, wrote this post before Congress shredded and tossed away his proposed budget cuts. But it nonetheless remains timely as a reminder of what Trump wants to do, hopes to do, and will continue to press for.

Keepin’ Up With the Trumps

One Budget Cut at a Time

The Trump administration recently released its proposed budget, and it contained cuts to a long and wide list of programs and initiatives. A budget is not only an economic document but also a moral document, a statement of values. There are the predictable GOP targets: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The National Endowment for the Arts, and so on. But let us look at four less visible programs targeted for elimination, programs that directly affect the less fortunate, some of whom looked to Donald Trump to improve their lives.
​The Delta Regional Authority and The Appalachian Regional Commission are two wide-ranging agencies that foster economic and workforce development, infrastructure improvement, and education and health programs. The Delta Regional Authority will lose $45 million in federal funding; The Appalachian Regional Commission will lose three times that amount. Both of these agencies cover parts of the country that are in great need—and that voted for Mr. Trump in strong numbers.

​The Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program is targeted toward students with disabilities or limited English proficiency, many of whom come from low-income backgrounds. The cut here is $190 million.

​The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has a small budget of $3.5 million and coordinates federal and state agencies that deal with homelessness and also serves to connect local agencies with available resources. It is on the chopping block.

***

​Now consider another set of numbers, beginning with the much-discussed price tag for President Trump’s frequent trips to his Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago. On the campaign trail, candidate Trump repeatedly said to great applause that once elected he wouldn’t be taking vacations or playing all that golf that Obama plays. He would stay in the White House “making deals.” But since assuming the presidency, Mr. Trump has, to date, gone to Mar-a-Lago seven times. While two of those visits involved meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, others have not been for affairs of state. The Secret Service does not make available the costs for security, but estimates range from $1 million to $3 million per trip. These estimates do not include a number of associated costs, such as $60,000 in overtime pay each day for the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Department. President Obama spent around $97 million on travel during his two terms in office. Reports by CNN and The Hill suggest that President Trump could spend close to that amount in his first year alone. The president’s trips to Mar-a-Lago or to Trump Tower and his New Jersey country club—all lavishly developed—could over several years provide the budget for both the Delta Regional Authority and The Appalachian Regional Commission, agencies committed to fostering economic development in regions that desperately need it.

​If the President is vacating the White House, the First Lady is avoiding it altogether. Melania Trump has said that she maintains residence at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue because she wants to keep her son, Barron, in his current school. The cost for protecting Trump Tower is $500,000 per day, according to The Guardian. I could not determine how much of this cost is for New York police officers versus Secret Service personnel, nor could I find, for comparison, the yearly cost of protection for President Obama’s two daughters to attend Sidwell Friends School in D.C . Over one year, the cost for the First Lady and her son to stay in New York could be as much as $183 million, which is just about the budget for Striving Readers. Tax payers are subsidizing the education of one child with every academic resource and option imaginable while equivalent tax payer dollars are stripped from thousands of children who have few if any options.

​Another expense associated with Donald Trump is the tax-payer supported cost for security for Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. whenever they travel for Trump family business. Again, the Secret Service does not release expenditures, but The Washington Post, CBS, and The Guardian were able to get some figures. A trip to Dubai to open a Trump-branded golf course resulted in a $16,000 hotel bill for Secret Service agents and a trip to a Trump-branded condominium in Uruguay resulted in a $88,320 hotel bill for Secret Service agents and other federal employees. These expenses are only for lodging (and possibly food); they do not include salaries, travel, equipment, and other expenses. The two Trump sons are the managers of the Trump estate, so these trips will occur with some frequency and have nothing to do with the United States government and do not benefit taxpayers in any way. It wouldn’t take many of Donald Jr. and Eric’s business trips to promote luxury properties to supplant the budget cut for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, an agency helping people who have no property at all.​

***

​The conservative commentator Kevin Williamson has a point when he writes in National Review that the criticism about presidential travel expenses—Bush’s, Obama’s, or Trump’s—is overdone and overwrought, for the problem lies in the presidential entourage itself, which is “bloated and monarchical” and, in the scheme of things, travel “is small beans in the context of federal spending.” OK, fair enough—though it should be said that what is small beans to one person is a whole bean field to another. Still, when travel and residential spending hits the levels it is hitting now, beyond the bloated norm with no sign of abating, and when that spending is connected to a president who pledged his allegiance to the Little Guy, and when that same president’s budget includes substantial cuts to programs to aid the less fortunate, well… then the excesses are worthy of condemnation, for they represent not just a case of very bad optics, to use that tiresome buzzword, but a case of moral blindness.

I’ll close with a question that kept coming to mind as I was writing this post, a question from another time and place in our history and from quite a different context: The Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954. It was the Cold War and Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy had been conducting increasingly assaultive and unprincipled investigations on the infiltration of communists into various government departments and agencies, including the U.S. Army. After a particularly nasty exchange, Joseph Welch, the lead counsel for the Army, asked McCarthy in exasperation, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” I certainly thought of that question many times as candidate Trump insulted everyone from Mexican immigrants to a reporter with a disability. But the question seems fitting here as well, perhaps even more so, posed to President Trump and the entire Trump enterprise: Where is the decency here? At long last, where is your decency?

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