Trump’s 2018 Budget: We need urgently to defend our institutions

Tomorrow our most cherished institutions will come under severe attack when the Trump administration is scheduled to unveil its 2018 (and future) budget proposals. As Timothy Snyder says in his book On Tyranny, “History does not repeat, but it does instruct.  We tend to assume that institution will automatically maintain themselves against even the most direct attacks. Such was the view of many reasonable people [with the rise of Nazis] in 1933. The mistake is to assume that rulers who come to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions – even when that is exactly what they announced they will do.”

Democrats and some Republicans have already expressed opposition to some of Trump’s proposals. However, with a Republican congress, we cannot stand idly by.

A draft version, according to the NY Times, indicates proposed cuts from the 2018 budget of $58.6 billion from 14 departments in order to add $4.4 billion to Veterans Affairs (probably worthwhile), $2.8 billion to Homeland Security (unnecessary) and a stupefying $52.3 billion to Defense, for a total of $59.5 billion. It sacrifices programs we hold dear to the altar of defense.

More significantly tomorrow’s budget will add in long-term cuts to entitlements. Safety nets are being ripped apart. Early reports include $800 billion in cuts to Medicaidchanges to anti-poverty programs and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and much more.

All politics are local. New Jerseyans have much at stake. Here are examples of some proposals that will hurt us: drastic Medicaid cuts, eliminating loan and grant programs for water and sewage systems, eliminating all funding for the Clean Power Plan, eliminating grants and programs for coastal and marine management, eliminating funding for before- and after-school and summer programs, eliminating the Community Development Block Grant Program, and eliminating the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The need is not so much to attack Trump, as to defend these institutions, to make clear why they are needed and to insist that they be funded appropriately. So choose one or more institutions you care about and let your voice be heard.

Stand out. Timothy Snyder adds, “Remember Rosa Parks. The moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.” New Jerseyans have been doing just that as they protest actions of their legislators. With Trump’s budget proposals the need to protect our institutions is now even more urgent.

Snyder’s book is a small format, short 120 pages, unafraid to make connections between the past and the present: “Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century.” It is well-worth reading.

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