Caligula vs. conservatism: The ‘values’ of the president’s budget

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If you want to know a nation’s values, just look at its budget. There really is no better measure of our values than how we spend our money. And the president’s proposed FY20 budget tells quite a tale of his values.

It’s nothing new for Republicans and Democrats to have different fiscal views. But, the president’s record $4.75 trillion budget proposal goes beyond partisan differences to defy both conservative notions of fiscal responsibility and liberal desires for a society that actually cares about people and the planet on which we live.

The redeeming quality of conservative fiscal philosophy (even if it’s ignored by Republicans) is its aversion to deficit spending. But, the president’s proposal adds $1 trillion to the national debt every year for at least the next four years. That’s not just antithetical to conservatism. It’s irresponsible and dangerous.

I’ve already written about the flawed tax policies — handouts to corporations and the wealthy — that fuel those deficits. But, compounding it at a glaring level in the budget proposal are the president’s two favorite golden calves: the wall and the military.

The president wants $8.6 billion for his wall, while further restricting legal immigration. Why? The only justification is a ginned-up and latently racist “emergency” that even the Republican-controlled Senate has rejected.

And then we have a proposed $750 billion in military spending. That’s a roughly 27 percent increase over the FY17 defense budget.

To put that in perspective, even if we go back to our 2017 budget, the U.S. spends more than the next seven nations combined, and more than twice the military budgets of Russia and China combined, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Combined NATO spending in 2015 was more than 17 times that of Russia, according to a March, 2018 Rand Corporation report.

Looking at those grotesque disparities in military spending, our natural response has been to increase spending another 27 percent. That, my friends, is MAGAnomics.

I’m not saying we don’t need a strong military. But, how else could we have spent just a portion of the treasure, let alone the blood, we’ve poured into 17 years of continuous war?

The $160 billion we’ve proposed to increase military spending since 2017 exceeds by almost 17 percent the total inflation-adjusted cost of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II. How much safer would we be in the long run if we balanced military adventurism with prudent engagement and investment?

Based on calculations from the National Priorities Project, for one quarter of what we’ve spent since 2001 in Afghanistan alone, the United States instead could have funded for 10 years the costs of: outfitting 5 million homes for solar energy; health care for 2 million adults, 3 million children and 691,000 veterans; 800,000 Head Start spots; 128,000 infrastructure jobs and 96,000 clean energy jobs.

Instead, our president has proposed slashing $2.7 trillion in domestic spending to offset his golden calves and his handouts to bloated, morally bankrupt plutocrats.

The largest cut is by almost a third to the Environmental Protection Agency. That shouldn’t be a surprise from a president who has an aversion to science, surrounds himself with climate change deniers and has gone as far as banning in official memos use of the terms “evidence-based,” “science-based” and “climate change.”

Nor should we be surprised the president is slashing the EPA budget after the National Climate Assessment presented the uncomfortable but undeniable truth that climate change poses an actual emergency to our nation, our economy and humanity as a whole.

Perhaps most egregious in the president’s program-slashing is a 10-year proposal to cut $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, $845 billion from Medicare and $26 billion from Social Security. Also, just for good measure, he wants to cut $220 billion over the next decade on SNAP and more than $20 billion from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

At the end of gutting core agencies and defunding safety nets for the most at-risk Americans, we still end up with more than $1 trillion a year in deficit spending. And, it’s all to fuel unnecessary increases in military spending, a false border emergency and — more so than anything else — corporate welfare and handouts to the president’s ultra-rich cronies.

Fortunately, with a Democratic House, it’s unlikely the president’s budget will be enacted without serious changes.

But, the budget proposal still outlines the president’s outlook for America. It’s a vision that utterly lacks vision, born of an ego that needs a wall and a larger military for self-aggrandizement, and a philosophy that places no importance on Americans in need, the planet on which we all live and our sustainability as a nation.

So, what does our budget say about our values? That will depend on what Congress does to this fetid carcass of fiscal irresponsibility and moral repugnance during the approval process. But, if it looks anything like the current draft, our budget will look more like Caligula than conservatism.

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