Minnesota, whether represented by Democrats or Republicans, has long held certain values even if their methods differed: clean air and water, safe roads, good schools, affordable health care and a strong safety net.
President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposal would make all those things harder, taking away much of the partnership the state has developed with the federal government over the years in achieving those aims.
It is a budget that is just as heedless of the deficit as Congress was earlier, when it used higher spending to strike a delicate balance between military and domestic programs. But unlike Congress, Trump rejects much of the domestic spending, with a budget that would hack away at the nation’s safety net, sucking trillions of dollars from Medicaid, Medicare, food assistance to the poor and other social programs over the coming decade.
It proposes deep cuts in environmental protection and the “soft-diplomacy” work of the State Department that can stave off war. Its education proposals go after the flagship public universities that are economic engines for states and the students who attend them.
Despite the proposed cuts, the budget also would add $2 trillion to the national debt by 2020. That violates a principle long espoused by the Star Tribune Editorial Board — that saddling future generations with even more debt is unfair and shortsighted. To do so while increasing the misery level among those most in need is unconscionable.
Many of those who supported Trump trusted him when, as a candidate, he promised crowds of ordinary citizens that “I’m going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not.” He promised “no cuts” to Medicare and Medicaid, and even chastised Republicans proposing such cuts as “wrong.”
Now the real vision emerges. It is one in which corporations and those with the highest incomes enjoy deep tax cuts even as others fight to hold onto an ever-shrinking safety net. Hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans depend on food assistance, in cities and rural areas alike, mostly families with young children, the disabled and seniors. At least a third work but make too little to buy all their food on their own. It is folly to think this state could afford to fill every hole left by the absence of federal funding.
Under Trump’s plan, even the simple dignity of choosing one’s groceries would be denied. He would cut food assistance by nearly a third over 10 years and offer prepackaged bundles of canned and processed foods. Fresh milk, vegetables, fruit and meat would be luxuries under this plan.
The one big area of spending for Trump remains the military — even though the U.S. already spends more on defense than the next eight largest-spending nations combined. There is little doubt that the military needs some additional resources — particularly for those who have already served and are continually shorted on the services needed to readjust to civilian life.
Trump also finally unveiled his infrastructure plan, which has some elements worth pursuing but mostly is a sham wrapped in illusion. That’s because he backs it up with so little money: $200 billion on a $1.5 trillion proposal. (He is, however, proposing to throw in a fourth of his salary — about $100,000.)
As a candidate, Trump was the builder who would lay down a shiny network of updated roads, bridges, rails, airports and waterways that would make this nation the envy of the world. The reality is that already-struggling states and local governments would have to front most of the costs. That may be one slim area where Minnesota, expecting another surplus this year, might be able to leverage federal funds to update its own aging infrastructure. Not every state will be in a position to do so.
The nation deserves a fairer and more responsible budget from its president, one that speaks to long-standing efforts to provide equal opportunities for Americans to pursue the best this country has to offer.