- Gillian Farrell
Donald Trump wants to cut funds for Meals on Wheels. There really is no more to be said about the man. In case anyone doesn't know, Meals on Wheels is a program that delivers food to people who are housebound. Mostly the elderly, but also the ill and infirm. It's a loose affiliation—almost an umbrella name—for about 5,000 individual local programs, primarily run and staffed by volunteers. Visits by volunteers mean more than the delivery of a meal. It's human contact. Some companionship. A safety check.
Some fast facts. About 2,400,000 seniors got 219,400,000 meals from the organization. Most of their money comes from individuals and private organizations. That's not accounting for the fact that most of the labor is free. Volunteers usually use their own vehicles. So that's free, too. Along with the fuel and maintenance. Only about three percent comes from the government.
Federal money does not go directly to Meals On Wheels. It goes to a program called Community Development Block Grant (CDGB), started in 1978 by President Gerald Ford, that gives funds to local and state governments. They allocate it, within guidelines and with reporting requirements, to benefit low and middle income communities. Administration spokespersons may try to use this technicality as a way to walk back the fact that they're cutting money to feed seniors. But Trump's budget cuts the entire program. Zip. Zap. Gone. Funding for Meals on Wheels included.
If Grandma is too feeble to get out of house and down to the Trump Grill, "nestled in the corner of the Atrium in Midtown New York City's world-renowned Trump Tower," and doesn't have enough money for the "classic American cuisine in an elegant and relaxed setting"—come on, the "You're Fired," an oversized Bloody Mary on the brunch menu only costs $18—then let her stay home with a can of cat food.
The budget proposal also cuts funding for PBS and NPR. All of it.
It eliminates all money for the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and a whole host of smaller programs.
It makes major cuts to the departments of education, the EPA, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, the State Department, Labor Department, Commerce, Agriculture, and the Interior.
Former South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney, now Trump's budget director, has been making the rounds to pimp this tawdry, malicious, and mean rag of a document.
Here's his pitch: "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." Not asking them for money is "one of the most compassionate things we can do."
Ah, the duplicity.
In theory, all payroll taxes go to the programs for which they're assessed, Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance.
All the other stuff that the government does gets paid for by other sources of revenue, primarily the federal income tax.
All the tax cuts from Reagan to Obama have included reductions for the middle and the bottom—how else to sell them?—as well as for the top. The result is that people in the bottom 60 percent of income levels do not pay any federal income tax. In fact, they likely get money from the government. It is easy to fall into the "lucky duckies" fallacy. It's even easier to drop the two qualifying words, "federal" and "income" in order to say that rich people pay an inordinate share of the word left over, "taxes." The reality is that the tax cuts have actually been tax shifts. When payroll, state, and local taxes, and various others, are added up, most Americans—except those at the very bottom and very top—pay a bit over 40 percent in taxes.
Yes, we all pay taxes. Most of us pay the same percentage.
But nearly half of us do not pay federal income taxes. If the single mom in Detroit that Mulvaney is so concerned about lives up to her caricature, she is certainly not paying federal income tax. Coal miners make between $30,000 and $65,000 annually. Even at the top end, they likely do not pay any federal income tax.
The programs that Mulvaney wants to cut are paid for almost entirely by the federal income tax. Which the single mom and the coal miner do not pay. So his concern, his compassion, his reasoning, his pitch is either a flat out deception or the poison fruit of monumental ignorance.
How does America makes its money?
Arts and culture produce nearly $700 billion; movies and TV alone account for $15.9 billion. That's more than transportation, travel, and tourism, or agriculture. It produced a trade surplus of $16.3 billion (2014 figures).
You want economic growth, invest in science. "In 2010, about $26.6 billion in National Institutes of Health research led to $69 billion in economic activity and supported 485,000 jobs. The $3.8 billion taxpayers invested in the Human Genome Project helped create and drive $796 billion in economic activity." (From an op-ed in the New York Times on October 29, 2012, written by Neal F. Lane, former director of the National Science Foundation.)
Do we think America will become "great again" (or if you think it's already great, even greater) with coal mining jobs? By physically assembling smart phones? Increasing the levels of permitted pollution? Or through education? With healthier children. By investing in the arts—already a big winner—in education, and in science which will invent the future.
The Trump budget is not just dumb. Its premises and justifications are not just deceptive. Their choices to invest and disinvest are destructive—of our present and our future; of our people and our economy. It's double dumb. Triple dumb: Dumb, dumber, dumbest.