|Trump’s Policy Parade of Unnecessary Cruelty
By Robert Reich
The theme that unites Donald Trump’s major initiatives so far is their unnecessary cruelty.
His new budget, for example, comes down especially hard on the poor — imposing unprecedented cuts in low-income housing, job training, food assistance, legal services, help to distressed rural communities, nutrition for new mothers and their infants, funds to keep poor families warm, even Meals on Wheels.
These cuts come at a time when more American families are in poverty than ever before, including one in five children.
Why is Trump advocating this?
To pay for the biggest hike in military spending since the 1980s. Yet the U.S. already spends more on its military than the next seven biggest military budgets combined.
No new national emergency justifies additional military expenditures. In the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan similarly expanded the military, he said the Soviet Union was enlarging its military capacities and we had no choice but to catch up. But this is hardly the case now. No other nation is expanding its military might to this degree.
So Trump is determined to remove vital services upon which millions of poor Americans rely in order to pay for a military expansion we don’t need.
This is unnecessarily cruel.
Next comes the House Republican plan, which Trump enthusiastically supports, to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a system that will cause 14 million Americans to lose their health insurance next year, and 24 million by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
How does Trump justify this human hardship?
The plan barely makes a dent in the national debt. It cuts the federal budget deficit by only $337 billion over the next 10 years — a small fraction of the national debt.
The only apparent reason for this plan is to give $600 billion in tax breaks over the next decade to wealthy Americans by repealing the taxes on the rich that had financed the Affordable Care Act.
But this hardly justifies imposing such a burden on poor and low-income Americans. It’s not as if wealthy Americans need a $600 billion windfall. They’ve already accumulated more wealth than have America’s rich at any time in the nation’s history.
The plan is unnecessarily cruel.
Or consider Trump’s ban on Syrian refugees, and his reduction by half in the total number of refugees admitted to the United States. It comes just when the world is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
Why is Trump doing this? The ban does little or nothing to protect Americans from terrorism. Since 9/11, no one in the United States has been killed in a terrorist attack perpetrated by a Syrian, or by anyone from the six nations whose citizens are now banned from traveling to the United States. You have higher odds of being struck by lightning than dying from an immigrant terrorist attack.
The ban is unnecessarily cruel.
And finally, what about Trump’s dragnet roundup of undocumented immigrants? It’s helter-skelter — including people who have been productive members of our society for decades, and young people who have been here since they were toddlers.
Why has Trump unleashed immigration enforcement authorities this way?
There is no compelling justification. Undocumented immigrants aren’t taking jobs away from Americans. Unemployment is down to near record lows.
Undocumented immigrants aren’t committing a wave of crimes. In fact, contrary to what Trump has publicly alleged, they commit crimes at a lower rate than do people born in the United States. Besides, the overall rate of serious crime has been declining in the United States.
And it’s not because unauthorized immigrants have been flooding into the United States. In fact, we have a lower percentage of undocumented workers in the U.S. today than we did 10 years ago.
The roundup is unnecessarily cruel.
Actions that harm people may occasionally be necessary when a compelling national interest or emergency makes them morally justifiable. But there is no justification for any of Trump’s orgy of cruelty. To the contrary, these actions violate every ideal this nation has ever cherished.
We have a moral responsibility to stop them.