In most American homes the adults make decisions about how to spend the family income. How they spend that money speaks volumes about their values and priorities. There are some families that place the highest priority on their children’s education and contribute to a college fund regularly. There are others who feel that an annual family vacation is most important. There are yet others that see the purchase of material goods; cars, TVs, clothes, as their priority. There are some who value buying a season ticket to a favorite sports team above all else. We all have our own values and life experiences that guide us in these decisions. But whatever we choose speaks to who we are and what is most important to us.
Just as how we choose to spend our family income speaks to our values, the annual budget presented by the president to congress speaks to his priorities. It is a window into his values and beliefs. It is an aspirational statement for our nation. It is a statement of how he views the citizens of this country and how he views this country’s place in the world. The budget is a reflection of the level of compassion and empathy the president and his leadership have for those who have chosen him to lead. While there have often been competing ideologies regarding the role of government and the responsibility of the individual, the 20th century ended with general agreement among most that the government should provide a safety net for those who find themselves in need. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, disability benefits and food stamps have been a reflection of that consensus. The importance of these programs has become particularly apparent during the past decade with the dislocation and unemployment caused by the 2008 economic crisis and the transition of our economy from industrial to a service and information-based economy. This transition combined with the aging of our population has created strains and challenges to our safety net. While there has been talk for some time in the Republican Party that adjustments need to be made to the entitlement programs to make them more affordable, there has rarely been accusations about “welfare queens” and abuses of the system. Most agree that the majority of those who utilize the system do so honestly.
However, that consensus is quickly fading. In its place we have seen a budget presented by this president that lacks compassion or empathy. It takes Steve Bannon’s destruction of the “administrative state” to heart and reduces funding to almost every government department other than Defense and Homeland Security. It doesn’t acknowledge that there are millions, through no fault of their own, who need government support to eat and receive healthcare and have a roof over their heads. It doesn’t acknowledge that there is, in fact, an environmental crises, or that public education needs to be improved if we as a nation are going to be able to compete in tomorrow’s world. The EPA is losing funding and will not be able to protect our natural resources. The Department of Energy is losing funding and will not be able to aggressively develop alternative energy methods. In short, this budget reflects a president who cares little about those in need, and a great deal about those who have much. He takes from those in need in order to provide larger tax cuts to the wealthy. He adds to the defense budget to protect our nation’s assets, but ignores its greatest assets, its citizens.
The budget proves what we already know about this president. He cares little about anything but himself. His narcissism is reflected in his budget. His lack of healthy values, compassion and empathy are his guideposts. He is soulless.