I admit it. I shirked. I spent yesterday in willful blindness, refusing to look at the details of Trump’s proposed budget. I knew it would be bad. Monstrous, even. I decided, for just a few hours, to spare myself the details.
When I finally looked, what I saw was worse–so much worse–that I had even anticipated. As Kveller editor Sarah Seltzer outlined, under this terrifying vision of the future, so much of what we hold dear (the arts, the humanities, the sciences, support for the elderly, people not dying of cold or starvation–yeah, even that) would be eliminated. Rest assured though, the guns and the walls and the death machines would be bigger and stronger than ever. Because to offset all the cuts, defense spending would be increased to be greater than that of the next 24 countries combined. Combined. Not a typo. (Take a minute to let that sink in.)
I’m sick writing this. You should be sick reading it. As a Jew. As a parent. As a human being.
It gets worse. Here, from the mouth of Mike Mulvaney, the Director of Management and Budget (at a press conference yesterday), is the explanation as to why the military gets bigger, and PBS gets gone:
“When you start looking at places that we reduce spending, one of the questions we asked was can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
The ignorance and hypocrisy would be breath-taking if the budget itself hadn’t already issued a sucker-punch to the gut. I don’t even know where to start. Perhaps by asking why it is OK to demand that the working poor pay for entirely unnecessary increased military spending? By the insane math that somehow imagines that the incredibly tiny savings of slashing CPB is somehow equivalent to the several orders of magnitude of increase in the budget for so-called “defense?”
Or perhaps it’s the idea that “a coal miner” or “a single mom in Detroit” (and yeah, we know what this code for) don’t want or need public broadcasting? Aside from anything else, the children’s programming on PBS was designed for families who couldn’t afford additional daycare or cultural enrichment for their kids. People like, say, a rural coal miner far away from urban museums and other institutions. The irony is rich, especially when programs that provide food and shelter and even heat for that same family are also on the chopping block.
The assumption that a coal miner wouldn’t want to pay for PBS, couldn’t be asked to continue to pay for it, by some unclear moral calculus that makes military spending an OK burden but educational and cultural programming an unnecessary one, is not just infuriating but heartbreaking. And wrong.
And inaccurate. Because it’s unlikely, in fact, that low income folks have much money going towards Public Broadcasting. But, given the size of the military budget, this much is true: the coal miner in West Virginia and the single mom in Detroit will indeed be paying for that. While their kids have no afterschool care and no educational programming, the elderly in their community will have no visitors or meal deliveries and may die in their beds, and if they can’t afford their heating bills, there will be no federal program to turn to.
I’m not a coal miner in West Virginia, nor a single mom in Detroit. But I am a mom, and a human being. And I say that actually, you can and must continue to ask me to pay my fair share for Public Broadcasting, and so many other programs that benefit this entire country.
And please do not couch this cruel, selfish, and immoral budget in terms of faux-concern for the very people it hurts most.