In a series of recent posts I’ve been trying to sketch the dimensions and major features of the crisis facing the United States. The political/constitutional crisis, I’ve argued, is primarily a question of the legitimacy of the 2016 election: whether the Trump campaign cooperated with elements of the Russian government to influence voters, and whether since the election the Trump administration has tried to shut down legitimate inquiries (by the FBI, by Congressional committees) into the question of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.
There’s more to say about these matters, but today I’m struck by four other jaw-dropping matters that, absent the Russia connection crisis, would lead me to suspect this administration had departed from fundamental, long-standing commitments of the American Republic.
Budget Proposal. One is the budget proposal delivered to Congress by OMB Chief Mick Mulvaney. It proposes draconian cuts in many safety net provisions (including Medicaid) as well as for diplomacy, science, the arts. It proposes steep tax cuts for the wealthy. And it makes fantasy projections of economic growth to make it appear at all prudent. It has been attacked both liberals and conservatives. It has been derided by professional economists. I’m especially drawn to E. J. Dionne’s analysis (The Wider Trump Scandal) that calls attention to its lies and shattered campaign promises.
Health Care. The Congressional Budget Office has now released its scoring of the wealthcare bill (AHCA) passed by House Republicans. The CBO analysis shows 23 million more Americans without health insurance over the next decade, higher insurance rates for older Americans, and unaffordable premiums for those with pre-existing conditions (at least a third of us). This is no healthcare bill: it is a give-away tax cut for the rich that would deprive millions of health care coverage and add millions to the deficit.
Discrimination. In testimony before the Senate Education Committee yesterday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos aggressively pushed her initiatives for school choice: vouchers and charter schools. But she refused to give assurance to Senators from both parties that schools receiving federal funds would not be allowed to discriminate against students. This would return us to pre-1954, pre-Brown v. Topeka Board of Education civil rights standards.
Ethics. In separate but twinned stories yesterday, the Trump administration thumbed its nose at governmental ethics. Trump officials said they would not make any effort to track foreign revenues to Trump-owned businesses, this despite an earlier pledge — to comply with the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause — to donate any foreign-generated profits to the government. At the same time, Trump administration officials are refusing to comply with requests from the Office of Government Ethics for copies of all waivers given to Trump-appointees to allow them to serve in the administration despite having previously as lobbyists or industry attorneys. Early in his presidency, Trump issued an Executive Order that prohibited lobbyists and lawyers hired as political appointees from working for two years on particular government matters that involved their former clients. The EO provided that exceptions could be made via signed waivers. The Trump administration has signed many such waivers but now is refusing to show them to the Office of Government Ethics — or anyone else. Drain the swamp, indeed.
All in one week, while the Russia connection revelations continue to mount.