You’ve probably heard the hideous news about Trump’s budget, which basically aspires to blow up the federal debt, big league – with a draconian combo of huge tax cuts for high-end people, the evisceration of domestic programs for low-end people, and a stratospheric spike in miltary spending for the know-nothing commander in chief.
Trump leaves the dirty details to his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, a former tea-partying congressional right-winger. Mulvaney now wields enormous power over the lives of people who rely on crucial services like Meals on Wheels, legal aid, after-school programs, rural health programs, child nutrution assisance, mass transit, clean air, clean water, and a lot more stuff that’s been targeted for big cuts or outright elimination.
Not to mention Mulvaney’s plotted assaults on the life of the mind — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — all of which are targeted for death in order to support what he calls “a hard-power budget.”
Mulvaney talks about all this in a new interview, and I particularly love the part where he’s asked to reconcile Trump’s hard-power budget — which would splash oceans of red ink on the federal ledger and seriously worsen the debt — with Trump’s campaign promise to magically erase the debt. Mulvaney’s response: “It’s fairly safe to assume that was hyperbole.”
I also love the part where he was asked to reconcile Trump’s campaign promise to help the downtrodden citizens of Appalachia with the Trump budget provision that kills off the Appalachian Regional Commission — an agency that’s officially tasked with bettering “the education, knowledge, skills, and health of residents.” Mulvaney’s response: “He probably didn’t know what the Appalachian Regional Commission did.”
There’s a lot more in the interview — like his claim that everyone in Trump’s White House gets along great, take that for what it’s worth — but frankly, I’m still bugged by something Mulvaney said a month ago. He was talking about all the domestic programs he was lusting to cut, and said this:
“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 … to pay for these programs?”
What a fascinating new concept! I had no idea that it was OK for a subset of taxpayers to reject the federal programs they deem unworthy of their money.
And by the way, what is up with Trump’s deification of coal miners? What’s next, a new memorial in Washington, the Tomb of the Unknown Coal Miner? Enough already. I’m not trying to demean their worth, but the latest labor stats show that their nationwide numbers have shrunk to 50,300. And your average Kentucky coal miner makes so little money that he reportedly gets a tax refund anyway — so it’s doubly inane for Mulvaney to annoint coal miners as our budget tastemasters.
But since Mulvaney thinks we should craft our priorities through the prism of coal miners, I think anyone should be allowed to play this game. If coal miners can choose which programs they’d (supposedly) refuse to fund, why not us? For instance:
Maybe a Meals on Wheels customer should refuse to pay for Trump’s weekly treks to Mar-a-Lago, each of which reportedly costs taxpayers around $3 million. (A Trump tweet from 2011: “Obama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars – Unbelievable!”)
Or maybe a teacher in an after-school program should refuse to pay for Trump’s border wall, with its first-phase taxpayer tab of $3 billion. (With the potential to hit $30 billion.)
Or maybe an arts patron should refuse to put a dime into the bloated military budget – slated for a $52-billion hike – especially when there’s so much waste. (John McCain recently released a report which warns that part our naval fleet, the Littoral Combat Ships, have “no proven combat capability.” Those 26 ships have cost the taxpayer $12 billion.)
Or maybe a child nutrition specialist should refuse to put a penny into Trump’s nationwide “deportation force,” which could cost well over $1 billion if Trump’s call for 15,000 additional agents is heeded.
You get my point. But the hitch is, no taxpayer has the right to refuse.
Henry David Thoreau, the author and transcendental thinker, was briefly jailed in 1846 because he wouldn’t pay his taxes — he didn’t like the fact that the government was tolerating slavery and waging a war with Mexico — and he later argued (in vain) for the right of refusal: “If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.”
Thoreau would sure hate Trump’s budget. I even wonder whether Mulvaney’s coal miners will be happy with a budget that ratchets up the State’s capacity to commit violence — at the expense of the social programs that they actually need.
And hey, here’s an idea: Maybe we should simply refuse this week to file our tax returns, protesting Trump’s adamant refusal to release his. Although I wouldn’t bet money on the success of that peaceable revolution.