Donald Trump’s budget is in, and to begin to understand how appalling it is, it might help to know that Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney has explained that the budget was put together in part by looking at Trump’s speeches for guidance. We know about the $54 billion defense spending increase—now we’re finding out about the cuts to help cover that massive, unnecessary ballooning of military spending. The Trump budget would completely eliminate funding for 19 agencies, including the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Chemical Safety Board, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Legal Services Corporation.
Mulvaney has some very special logic on these cuts:
“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,” Mulvaney said Thursday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Jo e.” “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.”
Coal miners’ kids and low-income kids in Detroit don’t need no edumacashunal programmin’, am I right? Except that, as it turns out, “68% of all kids age two to eight watched PBS during the 2015-'16 season” and “PBS stations reach more kids age two to five, more moms with young children and more children from low-income families than any other kids TV network. And, speaking of Detroit, Detroit’s public television station’s “reach to African-American households and its black viewership exceeds that of white audiences,” while West Virginia Public Broadcasting announced in December that it was adding a channel to run children’s programming 24 hours a day. If you’re still laboring under the misapprehension that public television is some kind of coastal liberal affectation, consider that Idaho Public Television has the highest per capita viewership in the United States.
If Mulvaney is so concerned about what he can and can’t ask coal miners in West Virginia to pay for, the slashing of the Appalachian Regional Commission is interesting, considering that it exists to “Invest in entrepreneurial and business development strategies that strengthen Appalachia's economy,” “Increase the education, knowledge, skills, and health of residents to work and succeed in Appalachia,” and “Invest in critical infrastructure—especially broadband; transportation, including the Appalachian Development Highway System; and water/wastewater systems.”
But defense! Mulvaney and Trump are perfectly comfortable asking coal miners and single moms to pay to fund the military not just at current levels but to increase that budget by $54 billion, an amount that would fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for 121 years or the Legal Services Corporation—which helps low-income people get civil legal aid—for 140 years.
Just about the only thing the Trump budget would help a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit do is go to war—and by the time Trump is done, that might be their only option.