Marc Tucker: Trump’s Budget Takes from the Poor to Give to the Rich

Marc Tucker says that Trump’s budget will not make America great again. It is a reverse Robin Hood plan, taking from the poor and giving to the rich.

“The first reaction is all gut. The budget, on its face, would represent a gigantic redistribution of resources from the poor to the rich. To say that that is morally bankrupt is to understate the case. There is no rational argument for such a policy.

“The administration makes three cases for its proposals. The first is that tax breaks for the rich while robbing the poor to pay for the tax cuts will generate so much growth that the taxes on the increased income will more than pay for the tax relief. That argument has been advanced again and again despite a continuing lack of evidence that it has ever actually worked out that way. If you want to see the most visible and colossal evidence for the failure of this theory, you have only to look at Kansas, which has been virtually bankrupted by Governor Sam Brownback’s determination to go down this rat hole.

“The second is that all the administration is doing is giving freeloaders an incentive to work. That may be a masterpiece of propaganda, but not a masterpiece of reasoning. Someone has to explain to me how taking away financial support to go to college from low-income high school graduates is going to give these “freeloaders” an incentive to work. I want to know how giant cuts to the National Institutes of Health research budget on life-saving drugs is giving freeloaders an incentive to work.

“The third and last argument this administration has advanced for this budget is that the evidence that the programs they plan to terminate work is either weak or nonexistent. Without conceding the strength of their evidence that they do not work—the evidence is at worst mixed—let’s just look at the logic of the argument. Almost all of these programs are intended to help vulnerable populations. Surely, if they do not work, the responsibility of government is to replace them with stronger programs intended to accomplish the same objective. Replacing them with nothing but “choice” suggests that the administration does not care what the question was as long as the answer is choice, which is the very definition of policy made on the basis not of evidence but of ideology.

“When I say ideology, I am referring to the belief that something is true despite all the evidence to the contrary. Does the President’s Budget Director Mick Mulvaney actually believe, despite decades of evidence to the contrary and the counsel of most economists from both parties, that giant tax cuts will pay for themselves? Or could it be that ideology is not really the problem here, that greed is the problem? Are we looking at the result of a political system that has been captured in part by the very rich, people who spend their time on the golf course telling each other that it is really they who produce economic growth and are entitled to its benefits and who now happen to have the political power to enforce those views on the rest of us? Or is it both?

“That is my gut speaking, my gut honing in on the gigantic injustice that would be wreaked on the nation if this budget were in fact to become the United States government budget. And then I relax a little bit. It will not happen, I say to myself. Ronald Reagan offered a budget like this to the Congress and the Congress virtually ignored it. So it won’t happen this time either, I say to myself…

“The truth is that the administration’s budget will make enormous cuts in exactly the kind of research and development that is the key to our economic future, will cripple the universities that have driven the development of our best technologies decade after decade, will kneecap the disadvantaged students on whom the future of all of us now depends. My whole argument hinges on the idea that our people are our future and our future depends on giving our people, all of them, a world-class education and training to match. And what is the administration’s strategy for that? It is to cut the education and job training budget to ribbons and offer us choice as its sole strategy for improving student achievement. Choice well done can help at the margins, but what I just described is not a weight that choice can bear.

“The budget is a prism that casts a shining beam on who we are as a nation, what we believe in and what kind of nation we want to be. I would argue that the budget we need is neither the budget the administration has offered nor the budget we have. The Democrats will have to acknowledge that the imperative is not to keep all the social programs we have and start adding more (yes, it is true that some are not working as well as they should and it is also true that some are there not to provide needed services but to earn political support) and the Republicans will have to give up tax reduction as the holy grail of national politics (even if that costs them the open pockets of some of their richest contributors). The question we all have to ask is, in a very constrained economic environment, how much can we afford to spend on the current needs of our people while making the investments we have to make now to enjoy broadly shared prosperity tomorrow?”

from novemoore


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