Attending as press, alas, not as a member, I first crossed paths with the Patriotic Millionaires several years ago at one of their events in Washington. At a dinner they hosted afterwards, I had the added treat of Alan Grayson at my table, and was mighty impressed with both the group and with Grayson’s witty comments about naked influence-peddling on the Hill and Congressional hypocrisy. I can’t speak on the whole roster of the group, but those I met were not better-heeled because they started out as trust-funders. They’d combined their abilities with hard work and the businesses they ran represented a wide cross-section of the economy. Many started out as small business entrepreneurs. Usually not glamorous businesses, but clever ideas that bed-rocked well-run operations that after considerable effort had turned out decently well for them. Perhaps that fires their alarm at a deck stacked evermore against the little guy by the big money and complicit politicians taking in what in any sane society would be labeled as bribes. The group knows that as the playing field tilts, the opportunities they enjoyed diminish for others, and that bodes ill for America’s economic future.
The group relishes the label “traitors to their class.” The three-legged stool on which the group sits is formed of equal political representation, a guaranteed living wage for all working citizens and a fair tax system.
Trump’s outrageous budget proposal motivated this essay by Morris Pearl, a former managing director at BlackRock, Inc. and chair of the Patriotic Millionaires.
Budget for a Nightmare America
By Morris Pearl
“President Trump recently released his 2019 budget proposal, a plan that outlines a series of massive cuts to vital public programs in the ludicrously titled “A Budget for a Better America.”
While this is just a list of funding ideas that mean nothing without Congressional approval, it outlines Trump’s vision for our economic future — one that allows us already wealthy people to get even richer, at the expense of everyone else. The chief targets of the budget are a proposed $845 billion cut from Medicare over the next decade, reductions to welfare programs and Social Security, and sharp cuts to agencies that keep us safe like the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department.
Strangely, while the President can’t seem to find the money to fund these programs, he thinks the government coffers have more than enough to fund $8.6 billion in border wall funding and a nearly 5 percent increase to the Pentagon’s budget.
It’s no secret that Republicans have been trying to gut public services for years, so what makes this new plan particularly heinous? It’s not just the immediate spikes in healthcare costs or the loss of crucial welfare assistance. It’s not even the fact that slashing those vital public services that will leave the majority of our most vulnerable citizens in an even more precarious position long-term.
It’s the shameless hypocrisy that comes from the President claiming we don’t have the money to fund all these services when he just gave his friends (and himself) a massive $1.5 trillion tax cut barely over a year ago. You would be hard pressed to find anyone outside of the White House who believes that the country is better off with more tax cuts for millionaires and less funding for Medicare.
To add further insult to injury, Trump’s budget proposal is the largest in federal history, at a total budget of $4.75 trillion. There was clearly no real attempt to limit federal spending, and this budget is going to be dead on arrival in Congress, which leads to the question: what’s the point?
With no chance of this budget becoming law anytime soon, it’s likely, then, that this serves as a blueprint for Trump’s re-election promises. That future is the true danger of Trump’s budget. Even if this is just a posturing plan right now, one that’s completely unrooted in reality, it serves as the economic vision that Republicans will propose to voters in 2020, and one they will try to deliver if elected.
When someone tells you who they are, believe them. If Trump and his Republican counterparts in Congress say they want to cut Medicare, believe them. If they tell you that they want to continue giving tax breaks to the wealthy while that happens, believe them. And you should believe me when I say this vision is bad economics — bad for business, bad for workers, and even bad for us millionaire investors and business people, who depend on healthy and happy consumers and workers to drive growth.
Conservatives rely on the constant refrain that spending is out of control and that cuts are needed to rein it in and balance the budget. But as this budget shows, the cuts come from everywhere except the people and corporations that have the most to give back to the system that allowed us to rise in the first place. It exacerbates our existing inequality by slashing these services and giving us millionaires even more opportunity to avoid paying our fair share. A better America is one that invests its dollars in its own citizens and ensures an equality of opportunity that benefits us all. A budget designed by robber barons to benefit the few, at the expense of everyone else, will not deliver that dream.”
While I can’t imagine Trump’s budget flying much faster than a lead balloon, it’s a gift to opponents seeking Exhibit A on the hypocrisy of Trump’s campaign claims of helping those in the country who are hurting. How rotten the proposal is was underscored by Pulitzer-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, editor of DCReport.org. Interviewed on Democracy Now!
…this budget is budget lessons I learned, as Donald Trump learned, from dictator Kim. So, the first thing you do is you take care of your military. You pour every dollar you can into a military that is bigger than you need. And that’s your number one goal, to make sure that you have loyalty and stay in power.
Then what you do is you take the disabled and the poor on Medicare, and you cut close to a trillion dollars over the next 10 years out of care for them. You take SNAP, which provides nutrition to pregnant women, children and elderly people and the disabled. “Hey, let’s slash that!”
Education. There were all these students who were ripped off by for-profit colleges that cost four or five times what a community college did, and gave you a lousy education, and some of them went broke. “Make them pay every penny!” They, in fact, say it isn’t fair unless these students pay it back. So they’re taking the side of the bankers against the students.
Housing. Let’s cut money for housing, people who are disabled, people who are on aids, people who are poor. We’re going to cut that. And to New York and New Jersey, by saying, “We are not going to fund the replacement of the 110-year-old tunnel,” through which thousands of commuters and people traveling up and down the East Coast travel every day, tunnels owned by the federal government’s Amtrak —
…what’s important here… is a budget is a statement of values. And Donald Trump has revealed his values. He has the values of a dictator. That’s why I said budget lessons from dictator Kim. And all of his claims about “I love the cops,” and then he took away their ability to take as a tax deduction buying uniforms and guns and dry cleaning and paying union dues; “I love the students,” and he wants to take away the subsidized loans and make people who got for-profit college educations that failed — colleges that failed — to make them pay. Donald Trump has no regard for anyone but himself. And so long as we treat him as if he’s a serious person who has real policies, we’re going to get nowhere. What we need to do is mock him and make fun of him. He’s not very smart, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Johnston also mentioned some of the disturbing reality of Trump’s tax cut:
“…the economy is already slowing down. And 10 years into this market, which began under President Obama, you would expect it, at this point, to begin to slow down. So, we only saw 20,000 jobs last month. You know, Trump goes around talking about “I have the biggest employment in American history.” That’s not the measure. Job growth is a good measure. Job growth has been about 20 percent lower under Trump than under Obama since the economy turned around. Tax revenues in the last 90-day period were 2 percent lower, which goes right to the heart of how this tax cut for the rich is not paying for itself. And, you know, little-known fact: Donald Trump’s tax law gave 8-year loans at zero interest to all the multinational companies that had siphoned profits out of the country, and it also gave them a discount. So, I’ve written about how Apple alone — just Apple — will turn a $120 billion profit off the Trump tax law, $120 billion.”
If the Democrats play their cards right, they can use Ice Pick Donald’s budget to help sink him in 2020, and to take the Republican Senate down with him. Consider how this budget will play in the critical counties in the states Trump flipped, where exasperated voters who voted for Obama twice, hardly racist deplorables, stood Trump up as their default middle finger to the Washington establishment. These are voters in areas where, in the immortal words of Wall Street’s Manchurian Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, people “foamed the runway for the banks.” These are areas where good jobs rusted out, leaving people scrambling in futile efforts to stay even, where affordable educational opportunities for their children faded away. These are communities where families shoulder disproportionate tragedies from America’s endless wars, and from the pharmaceutical assaults of opioids.
In many of these communities Bernie outperformed both Hillary and Trump in the 2016 primaries. For these citizens, Bernie’s well-articulated and steady message will continue to resonate.