From Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” to Donald Trump’s “Detroit single mom,” the unmarried mother remains a constant fascination to Republicans wielding budget-cutting scalpels.
Whereas Reagan was propagating a stereotype of the fraudulent abuser of public largesse when he popularized the term in 1976, framing welfare policy thereafter, Trump’s budget blueprint purportedly is aimed at helping single mothers (in Detroit, for some reason) by building a better military.
If you’re having trouble connecting the dots, welcome to the fracas.
The budget, which includes massive cuts to spending in the arts, sciences (including medical research) and diplomacy — mostly in the interest of increasing military spending by $54 billion and subsidizing that blasted wall — was designed by asking: Can we ask the single mother in Detroit to pay for this?
This is how White House budget director Mick Mulvaney explained the administration’s calculations on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Apparently cognizant of diversity’s fealty to both sexes (not to be confused with genders), Mulvaney also mentioned coal miners (with apologies to Barbara Burns, noted groundbreaking female miner).
“One of the questions we asked was, can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?” Mulvaney queried. “The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
Are there really no single mothers in Detroit listening to NPR’s “Fresh Air”? Or whose kids watch “Sesame Street”? Although the CPB receives $450 million annually in federal funds, much of that money is distributed to local television and radio stations and producers. NPR, long an object of GOP contempt, probably will be fine thanks to donor support, but not so the local shows, which often are educational and/or public safety-oriented.
The end objective, Mulvaney said, is to keep Trump’s campaign promises while not increasing the budget deficit. Among those promises: Build the wall (delete: I will make Mexico pay for that wall), and beef up national security.
And, of course, the ultimate goal in whittling away programs that serve the poor or protect the environment is to Make America “Great” Again. As Inigo Montoya said in “The Princess Bride,” “You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Before we parse the meaning of the word “great,” a few facts: The proposed budget, which is really just a collection of bad ideas or suggestions, doesn’t stand a chance of congressional approval as is. To pass the Senate, over which Republicans hold a relatively slim majority (52-48), it would require Democratic support. The blueprint’s strong emphasis on defense and security, notwithstanding cuts in airport policing, at the expense of domestic programs is a no-go.
Although many Republicans also oppose some of the more draconian cuts, others want yet more defense spending. Both Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and John McCain, R-Ariz., chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, respectively, want $640 billion rather than the measly $603 billion proposed.
Given Trump’s commitment to a military buildup — and the formerly silent Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent remarks that military action may be necessary to end North Korea’s nuclear games — investing in defense might not be a bad gamble.
But hope for a cancer cure might be. The National Institutes of Health — the nation’s premier research institution — is threatened with losing about 20 percent of its budget. And bets on climate-related concerns would be long shots. Among many related cuts, the budget would eliminate four NASA missions, including the Deep Space Climate Observatory, which monitors climate change from its position a million miles from Earth. Collect information that might suggest the need for environmental regulations? LOL.
By tragic coincidence, we learned the day before Trump’s budget was released that vast portions of Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, one of Earth’s largest organisms, are dead from overheated seawater caused by greenhouse gases emitted via the burning of fossil fuels.
But never mind. Greatness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder — and Trump’s idea of both tends toward reactionary excessiveness unburdened by history’s future judgment. Besides, what do NASA missions have to do with coal miners or single moms?
Not one thing, other than a future for all those fatherless children in Detroit — and the coal miner’s daughter, who probably needs essential social services more than she does that blasted wall.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.