The Budget Proposal Republicans Hate to Hate

04 April 2017.

“The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage & whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy — then go back to the office & sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.”

Hunter S. Thompson wrote that 45 years ago, but it seems to fit our own time even more than it does the presidential election between George McGovern and Richard Nixon. It could also serve as a decent preface to the budget proposal Trump unveiled a few weeks ago.

The negative reaction to that plan, with its draconian cuts in discretionary programs to pay for the Mexico wall and defense-spending surge — signature Trump promises — was almost immediate, and not just from Democrats. There was an actual bipartisan rejection of key provisions in the budget plan, and some slow-burn gasps from the various corners of Trumpland, where hitherto obscure federal programs, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, Corporation for National & Community Service, and various others, actually impact real people’s daily lives in positive ways.

Despite the heavy cloud cover of the Russia probe and the Obamacare repeal whiff (among other important matters, like Trump’s failure to throw out a pitch on opening day of the American pastime), there’s been steady coverage of the many ways, large and small, the Trump budget would adversely affect the very Americans who put him into office.

Apparently, that redistribution of federal dollars from blue states to red states that liberals occasionally point out really does take place, and it turns out that a lot of people who reliably vote Republican actually depend on many of the programs on the chopping block. If the Trump budget were magically passed tomorrow, the pain would be felt a lot more in Trumpland than the rest of the country. If anyone wondered when Trump would start disappointing his core supporters, they can say it started roughly two months into his term.

But wait. There’s more. It also turns out that a lot of those cuts are non-starters even among Republicans in Congress. Non-starter is strong language for an elected official. It means there’s not much room for negotiation — none, in fact. It turns out that some Republicans in Congress don’t actually hate some of that HUD spending back home, or Superfund cleanups, or federal money for cancer research,or even the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (?!), nearly as much as you would’ve guessed by listening to pretty much everything they’ve ever said since first running in a GOP primary.

It’s quite a shock, and you can bet that more than a few Congressional Republicans are mightily pissed at Trump for forcing them to come out of the closet as tax and spend liberals.

I’ll try not to gloat too much here and just say how thankful I am to Trump that he bought into the GOP small-government rhetoric so strongly that he proposed a broadly unacceptable budget that’s perfectly aligned with standard-issue GOP rhetoric. In just this one way, I do find it refreshing to have a political novice as president. He gave the Republicans exactly what they never wanted: a budget they should love but that they actually hate.

Not that I expect any of them to revise their rhetoric. After all, their patron saint is Ronald Reagan, who famously said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” It’s just kind of nice to watch them have to scurry around protecting those many ways in which government actually is the solution to the problem, while making it look like they still hate the idea of Big Government intrusion into our precious personal freedom.

And maybe a few of them will remember the full text of what Reagan actually said: “In the present crisis, government is not the solution, etc. [emphasis mine].” He wasn’t saying that government is always the problem.

That phrase, in the present crisis, is often forgotten, but it’s hardly unimportant. So perhaps we should stand with the interests of red-state Trump voters who would be hit hard if the Trump budget became a reality, and update Reagan’s 36-year-old statement to say this instead:In the present crisis, Trump’s not the solution to our problem; Trump is the problem. That may be something that more and more Congressional Republicans are realizing every day.