This is a frightening time. Having only been president for a few days, Donald Trump has turned bigotry into policy and attacked basic tenets of American democracy. Even more frightening, many respected Republican politicians are supporting and enabling President Trump, and dropping their masks of respectability in the process. The Trump agenda is not possible without collaborators in Congress, which is why it is terrifying to see what these politicians look like without their masks.
In case this sounds overblown, let’s do a brief and highly abridged recap of the Trump administration so far. President Trump has begun to implement the Muslim ban he promised during the campaign by banning immigration from several countries. President Trump’s government has denied immigrants access to legal counsel in defiance of court orders, and pressured some to sign away their Green Cards. The Trump family has brazenly used the Office of the President for personal profit. President Trump has elevated white nationalist Steve Bannon to a position of enormous power in domestic policy, and given Bannon an unprecedented role for a political advisor in national security. And there is much more.
Many Republican politicians are vocal supporters of President Trump’s early actions. Many more are content to let Trump do what he wants if it helps them maintain power. A few Republicans have stood up to Trump, and they should be commended.
None of this should be forgotten. The politicians enabling President Trump are as much of a threat to American democracy as Trump himself. They do not belong near positions of power. Thanks to Trump, we know who they are.
No politician wore his mask better than Paul Ryan. But not anymore. Paul Ryan supports Trump’s anti-immigrant executive order. Paul Ryan shows no interest in Trump’s kleptocracy. Paul Ryan even embraces Steve Bannon. While some have accused Ryan of lacking the courage to stand up to Trump, Jonathan Chait argues persuasively that Ryan is in fact standing for his highest principle. It’s just that Ryan’s highest principle is to reduce taxes for the wealthy, in exchange for which Ryan is willing to accept the ugliest parts of Trump’s agenda. Whatever the reason, Paul Ryan is taking off his mask for President Trump.
When President Trump loses, and I think he will, his enablers cannot be allowed to put their masks back on as if nothing happened. If Paul Ryan has something to say about politics, he can go write for Breitbart where he belongs.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers. (Wikimedia Commons)
It’s unfortunate that discussions about federal spending are often filled with generic talk about overall spending levels, “non-defense discretionary spending,” and “sequestration.” Ultimately, what matters is funding for specific programs and agencies, such as Americorps, the National Institutes of Health, and VA hospitals. In that sense, it’s good to see the debate get more specific this week, with the House Appropriations Committee approving spending levels for each of the twelve appropriations bills that will fund the government in fiscal year 2014.
The Ryan Budget, which was passed by House Republicans, calls for deep across-the-board cuts in domestic spending. Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) followed that blueprint in his allocations for the twelve appropriations bills.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. (Wikimedia Commons)
The Ryan Budget makes enormous cuts to critical safety net programs that help low-income families access health care and put food on the table. Its author, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), claims that these programs will become more efficient, by transferring control over them from the federal government to the states. This belief in the power of giving states flexibility is central to the Ryan Budget. If the states fail to dramatically improve program efficiency, then the Ryan Budget would shred the social safety net.
Given the stakes, one would expect the Ryan Budget to be deeply committed to the idea of giving states flexibility. However, the budget only supports that concept when it is being used to justify deep spending cuts. The Ryan Budget actually takes a dim view towards programs where states already have flexibility, and is especially critical of decisions by the Obama Administration to delegate more authority to the states.
I haz a sad. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
The Washington Post reports that pressure is dropping to reach a budget deal to cut the deficit, complete with a picture of Paul Ryan having a sad. The pressure to cut the deficit is dropping because the deficit is already being cut. The economy is improving, which means more tax revenue and lower spending on safety net programs. Also, Congress already enacted large tax increases and spending cuts when it passed legislation to raise the debt ceiling in 2011 and avert the “fiscal cliff” at the end of 2012.
While cutting the deficit further is not an urgent priority, reaching a budget deal should be. That’s because a portion of the spending cuts already enacted by Congress is “sequestration,” an across-the-board cut that is causing problems throughout the country. Republicans oppose the cuts to military spending, and Democrats are primarily concerned about the cuts in domestic programs. Neither side likes sequestration. It was included in the debt ceiling package to encourage a future budget deal that would replace the across-the-board cuts.