Thursday, January 26, 2017

Death by a Thousand Cuts: Is Trump Demolishing the Federal Government to Please Corporate America?

by Nomad

President Trump may call it downsizing but a look at just some of the programs and agencies that face cuts (or outright dismantling) makes one wonder what will be spared.

The Heritage Foundation Budget

Trump transition staffers say they've earmarked ways to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years and cutting jobs is a big part of the plan, The Hill reported. The cutback blueprint report was hand-delivered last year from the powerful conservative think tank and advocacy group the Heritage Foundation.Trump's budget cuts closely mirror a document (titled “Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017”)

The article in The Hill cited unnamed sources from inside President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team. According to that report, two Trump transition staffers are charged with presenting the possible cuts to the White House Budget Office. The Hill said.
 Russ Vought, a former aide to Vice President-elect Mike Pence and the former executive director of the RSC, and John Gray, who previously worked for Pence, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) when Ryan headed the House Budget Committee.
Both Vought and Gray worked for the Heritage Foundation, once the intellectual backbone and now the bane of the GOP. Right Wing Watch has quite an archive on the Heritage Foundation. Weeks after the election, the watchdog group reported on a new initiative designed to "roll back the power of the federal government’s regulatory agencies." 
Now with former Heritage rank and file in charged of the budget, the rolling back has presidential approval.   

Leaked Heritage documents last year gave an eye-opening insight on how the organization operates. The leak, according to Gawker, contained..
"hundreds of emails and thousands of pages of internal fundraising reports documenting how the foundation navigated the flood of conservative conspiracy-mongering that followed Obama’s election in 2008, and how its staffers discussed the increasingly bizarre ideologies of its donor class with puzzlement and occasional derision."
In other words, just the kind of group that Trump would trust.

It's one to thing to propose cuts but as every budget-minded conservative members of Congress would tell you, you can't always get what you want. Many- if not, most- of the proposed cuts are likely to be the subject of fierce debates from opposition.

That includes agency heads and even Trump's own cabinet members who will see their department budgets (and their power) whittled away.

Skinny Budget Hit List

Here is a list of some of the areas we should expect to cut under the so-called "skinny-budget."

  • The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services would be eliminated. In operation since 1994,  COPS funds the research and development of guides, tools, and training, and provides technical assistance to police departments implementing community policing principles.
  • Also on the chopping block would be grants from the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW). OVW was formed by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994. It is mandated to work to combat and reduce violence against women in many different areas, including on college campuses and in people's homes.[1] The OVW also serves to administer justice and strengthen services for victims of domestic violencedating violencesexual assault, and stalking. Cutbacks for grants will undoubtedly render the OVW incapable of fulfilling that mandate.
  • Cuts to the Legal Services Corporation at the Department of Justice is expected to see its budget cut as well. Created in 1974 with bipartisan congressional sponsorship and the support of the Nixon administration, the LSC has sought to "ensure equal access to justice under the law for all Americans by providing civil legal assistance to those who otherwise would be unable to afford it."
  • Funding would be cut for the Justice Department's Civil Rights and Environment and Natural Resources divisions (ENRD). Don't the name fool you. The mandate of the ENRD "is to enforce civil and criminal environmental laws and programs protecting the health and environment of the United States, and to defend suits challenging those laws and programs." Great news for polluting industries who put profits over the environment.   

Kissing the Humanities Goodbye

(Chart courtesy of Washington Post)
Government funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will be cut entirely. This independent federal agency of the U.S. government was established by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965.

Since that time, the Endowment for the Humanities has been dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. It has, some would say, kept American culture and tradition alive for the next generations. Gone.

Take a deep breath. 
We need to stop here for a second for a bit of background in order to appreciate the tragic irony. In 2009, Obama nominated former Republican Congressman from Iowa, Jim Leach to chair the NEH.
Between November 2009 and May 2011, Leach conducted the American "Civility Tour" to call attention to the need to restore reason and civility back into politics, a goal that in his words was "central to the humanities." Leach visited each of the 50 states, speaking at venues ranging from university and museum lecture halls to hospitals for veterans, to support the return of non-emotive, civil exchange and rational consideration of other viewpoints.
It's no surprise that President Trump's hackles were raised. Bringing back civility to politics was clearly not a high priority in the 2016 Republican campaign.

Bye Bye Big Bird

Back to the firing squad. According to insiders, there will be other painful changes.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CBP) would be privatized. Among other things, privatization is likely to affect the quality and impartiality of the news on PBS and NPR, the last publicly-owned news organizations in the US.  This private, nonprofit organization was created back in 1967.
CPB’s mission is to ensure universal access to non-commercial, high-quality content and telecommunications services. It does so by distributing more than 70% of its funding to nearly 1,500 locally owned public radio and television stations.
Big Bird will now be selling McDonald's Happy Meals to children instead of teaching the alphabet or providing messages on being a good neighbor. Your local public radio station may soon sound a lot more like Fox News under Trump.

What will become of popular PBS shows like Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, NOVA, PBS Newshour, Masterpiece is anybody's guess. 
Since the mid-2000s, Roper polls commissioned by PBS have consistently placed the service as the most-trusted national institution in the United States.
If President Trump has his way, corporations will rule the roost and call the shots.

So Long, Green Enerygy and Climate Change Initiatives

Moving on, we find other slashing going on at the Department of Energy where funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research would revert to pre-Obama levels. As writer put it:
After all the strides America’s hard science community had finally made in turning renewable energies into a reality, the Trump administration is just going to wave away hard-fought advances with a “Fuck it.”
Much to the delight of dirty energy providers, other cuts would put an end all government support of green energy. For example,

  • The Office of Electricity and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, would be scrapped.
  • The Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, The Hill said.
Across the board, climate change initiatives would very likely to be either abandoned or see drastically reduced support.   
That ought to take nobody by surprise. 
Trump infamously tweeted that global warming is a “hoax,” and has selected Myron Ebell of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, an outspoken climate skeptic, to lead his EPA transition team. Trump also made specific (and ambiguous) promises about energy and climate on his Web site and on the campaign trail, such as canceling funding for the United Nations Green Climate Fund and lifting restrictions on fossil fuel development.

Third World Development? Bah, Humbug

In addition, the Hill report also said that funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) would see reduced financial support. That's an institution you've probably never heard of.
It is the government's finance institution for Third World and developing nations mobilizing private capital to help address critical development challenges.

Things like Project Salvador, a 70 megawatt-peak photovoltaic power plant in Chile. This $200 million project, which couldn't have been built without OPIC's 70% financing. In another project, OPIC has committed to provide $1.5 billion to develop energy projects in Africa over the next five years, in support of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative to double the number of people on the continent who have access to electricity.
Under Trump, this project and many other development projects will probably be abandoned. When that happens, the image of the US as a good neighbor and a trusted partner will undoubtedly take a hit in quite a few needy nations.  
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As depressing as all this slashing and chopping might sound to you and me, there are quite a lot of corporations who think this is budget is worth the billions they have given in political contributions. They have every reason to believe this is the final victory in the battle for corporate ownership of the government.

The only question is whether or not the American public will approve of President Trump's radical plans.