The Woman’s March on January 21, 2017 cheered me up tremendously. Many of us are alarmed, as we should be, and our voices were heard. So what’s next?
There are two agendas that we must address. In some cases, there is overlap. To be blunt, there is the Republican agenda, and there is the Donald Trump agenda. Both are dangerous, and both are, in some ways, on opposing sides.
The Trump Agenda
Trump’s agenda, as much as anyone can tell, involves these primary points:
- American protectionism: punishing countries and businesses who are “not fair” to the U.S. Whatever that means.
- Curtailing immigration of Muslims and nonwhites
- Yes, the “wall” or border fence
- Funding infrastructure spending in America by giving huge tax cuts to corporations, who will then be free to impose tolls and other fees
- Increasing the military state: channeling more military-grade weaponry to police departments and overlooking or flat-out ignoring civil-rights violations by police (it’s reasonable to suggest that as a corollary, the surveillance state will also be increased)
- Ignoring civil rights issues altogether (in the name of “safety”)
- Infringing on civil rights of some groups (see: Hispanics, Muslims, possibly LGBTQ and Jews)
- Increasing executive authority
- Suppressing dissent as much as possible
- Aiding and reinforcing right-wing, nationalist agendas in other countries, in collusion with Russia (see: Steve Bannon)
- Putting a right-wing extremist on the Supreme Court (see: William Pryor, Jr)
- Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (see: Republican agenda, below)
- Increasing military spending and potentially allying with Russia (where? why?)
- Abandon any pretense of helping or protecting our traditional allies in Europe (see: NATO comments, Vladimir Putin)
- Reduce or eliminate federal support for education, placing a heavy burden on money-strapped states (see: Republican agenda. Also, Greek-style austerity may be coming to a state near you.)
- Cut taxes, mostly for corporations and the higher brackets (see: Republican agenda since forever)
- Completely dismantle any regulations that protect our environment or guard against climate change (see also: Republican agenda) and eliminate agencies such as:
- Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
- Office of Fossil Energy, which seeks to reduce CO emissions
- Eliminating spending that does not serve the military state:
- National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities
(combined funding is less than .002% of the budget)
- PBS and NPR (to be privatized)
- Minority Business Development Agency and similar trade agencies
- Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
- Violence Against Women grants
- Legal Services Corporation
- Reduced funding for the Civil Rights and Environment and Natural Resources divisions
- National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities
Much of this is bad enough. His penchant for authoritarian figures is already well documented. How much authority can he steal in the U.S.? That remains to be seen, although it was disturbing to watch Trump supporters boo Chuck Schumer for saying things like:
Whatever our race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether we are immigrant or native-born, whether we live with disabilities or do not, in wealth or in poverty, we are all exceptional in our commonly held, yet fierce devotion to our country, and in our willingness to sacrifice our time, energy, and even our lives to making it a more perfect union.
Today, we celebrate one of democracy’s core attributes, the peaceful transfer of power. And every day, we stand up for core democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution — the rule of law, equal protection for all under law, the freedom of speech, press, religion — the things that make America America.
Our institutions are fragile. They depend on the buy-in of the American public. It would seem that some of the American public does not agree. That’s not good.
The Republican Agenda
The GOP is positively giddy with glee that they have unfettered power now. Their silence and general lack of spine on matters Trumpian can be directly attributed to the fact that they need him to make sweeping changes to the very fabric of America, none of them good.
Some of the bullets above, as noted, are the same for Republicans in Congress, with a few differences, as noted below:
- Repealing the Affordable Care Act
Not so keen on replacing, though. What they propose is universal access, not coverage. Those with the wherewithal can continue their use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and they may raise the amount that you can put in during a year, but remember: that still comes out of your pretax income. It’s your money. Also, while the ACA specifies certain coverage that insurance must provide, their replacement will not. There will also be no limit on deductibles. So yes, your premiums might be cheaper, but your out-of-pocket expenses could be astronomical. And if you have a preexisting condition? Their answer is “high-risk pools,” which have already been proven to not work.
- Kill Medicare and replace it with “vouchers,” which let you purchase your own insurance in the same unregulated market that the rest of the country has to suffer from.
- Kill Social Security, suck up the money we all paid into it (they’ve already stolen, er, “borrowed,” a good deal, which is how they claim it’s insolvent), and give you… well, nothing. Happy retirement!
- Kill SNAP benefits (food stamps), which, if you qualify gives a household of four $649 per month. Which is why, by the end of the month, a lot of people and children are hungry.
- Kill WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) benefits, because you shouldn’t have an abortion, but so what if you want to feed your baby. (Note: I haven’t seen an actual proposal to do this, but given that they want to kill everything else… they will if they can.)
- Reduce veteran’s benefits and possibly kill the VA (“vouchers” and “HSAs,” you know)
- Open up everything to drilling and fracking, and ban local attempts to prevent them from doing so.
- Cut funding for Planned Parenthood, because women’s health is unimportant.
- Either a) Treat Russia as the global threat it is and back our western allies, or b) Follow Trump’s lead because they want to get reelected in two years (dependent on the person). I expect more of “b.”
- Go along with all “discretionary” spending cuts that Trump/Pence propose, as long as it doesn’t affect the military budget, which is God.
- As for civil rights, well… the GOP hasn’t been a fan of those in a long time.
While there is a fair bit of overlap in these agendas, Donald Trump has said he would preserve Medicare and Social Security. So there are areas of conflict. One thing to watch for: the Republicans in Congress may try to do what they want anyway, and blame Trump. They could easily throw him under the bus if it suits them. We’ll see.
Donald Trump spoke of the “American carnage.” And it’s true that many people and places have lost their jobs and means of making a living. The great depression (which was not caused by Obama) of 2008 have made things worse for the average American. So I get the desire for a change. But the changes I’ve listed will decimate the social safety net, which millions of Americans need in order to live, not because they’re lazy or stupid, but because it’s incredibly difficult to get ahead in the economy that has evolved. The phrase “the working poor” is apt because many poor people work two or three jobs, without benefits, just to get by. They are not lazy. And yet their children are hungry. This is not right. Automation is increasing, and more jobs will be lost. That’s a fact.
A better use of our tax money would be a Universal Basic Income, which some developed countries are experimenting with. It would provide a basic income for every adult citizen, enough to live on. Obviously, every citizen is also free to earn more as well, to increase their standard of living. I believe most people who could do so would. (Remember, some people are disabled or infirm and cannot work.) But obviously, at this point in time, the U.S. is not going to do that.
What we can do as we resist these wretched agendas is to educate people about the pain that is about to be inflicted on them. (Democrats: you’ve done a terrible job of this.) Liberals and progressives and even former Republicans have taken to the streets, but Trump voters will suffer with the rest of us, too. We cannot let Congress inflict this kind of pain on our country. We must stay in the streets, run for office, do whatever it takes. If we continue to hobble science and education, if we give into authoritarian voices because “safety” sounds good, this country will cease to be a world leader. It will cease to be a place of new ideas. It will likely even cease to be.