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Tuesday, April 25, 2017 | Last updated: 2:11am




Criticize Trump’s budget cuts to necessary programs




From bigotry to general incompetence, President Donald Trump invites enough criticism on enough of his personal attributes to fill volumes and volumes of books — and commentary on his policies could easily fill a matching set. His proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year provides an itemized list of such criticisms, and some of these items warrant more critical attention than they have thus far received. Trump’s continued disregard for the concerns of marginalized groups is alarming and unacceptable, but not altogether surprising, as he has no observable stake in the well-being of these people and can therefore selfishly ignore them. The president’s stance on other issues, however, is slightly more surprising, as they hit a little closer to home and actually affect Trump and his groupies. As such, it is in Trump’s best interest to reconsider certain measures on his proposed budget, particularly those regarding the environment and education, because they will hurt everyone — privileged billionaire or not. Trump’s current agenda seems counterproductive to the point of being downright self-destructive. Opponents need not even teach Trump a bit of compassion or human decency, as they do in other situations, in order to persuade him against his environment- and education-related budget points; self-preservation should be enough to convince him to alter course, if he has the same instinct as even the most basic organism.

With a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, the federal government would eliminate more than 50 programs and kill about 3,200 jobs, according to a March 16 Washington Post report. This reduction in the EPA budget would also suspend funding for international climate-change programs, and proposed cuts to the U.S. State Department’s budget would terminate climate-change prevention programs and suspend already-pledged payments to United Nations climate-change programs, according to the same Washington Post report.

According to NASA, which cite five peer-reviewed scientific studies, 97 percent of active climate scientists agree not only that climate change is real, but also that human activities contribute to it. Despite this, many politicians on the right continue to resist efforts to curb this phenomenon; indeed, they support actions which actually worsen the situation, such as permitting the continuing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, as Trump did on Friday, according to a March 24 New York Times article.

When it comes to the reality of climate change, the standards for burden of proof are uneven: It seems that Republicans require 100 percent consensus from scientists before they will consider the validity of an observable fact; yet at the same time, only 51 percent of Congress need be in consensus in order to approve a budget that would endanger the planet and everyone on it.

According to the not-yet-crippled EPA, the hotter temperatures and more temperamental weather associated with climate change threaten human health, air and water quality, wildlife and even infrastructure. These facts are corroborated by the National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, among other organizations. The World Wildlife Fund details more thoroughly the effect on wildlife, listing tigers, snow leopards, Asian rhinos, orangutans, African elephants, polar bears and Adelie penguins as some of the many animals that will be negatively impacted by climate change. Now, expecting Trump to care more for these animals than he does for his fellow man may be a stretch, but the United States president does breathe air and drink water, doesn’t he?

If America’s leaders had hoped for 100 percent scientific consensus, they are guaranteed not to get it under Trump’s proposed budget — but not because of faulty science. According to the same Washington Post report, the Trump administration seeks to halve the funding for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, as well as end four NASA missions focused on understanding climate change. The proposed budget’s impact on these programs would effectively stem any research projects that may have convinced the remaining three percent of scientists.

In the end, Trump would have the American federal government spend nearly 10 times more on a border wall that only 39 percent of Americans view as important — according to a Jan. 6 Pew Research report — than he would on taking action to protect the planet, something that at least 75 percent of Americans would support, according to a March 21 New York Times article.

Trump’s plan for education finances does not look any better, as he intends to cut the Education Department’s budget by about 14 percent, according to the same Washington Post report. This includes cuts to teacher training, after-school and summer programs and financial aid programs for low-income and first-generation college students. Federal work study for college students would also be reduced, a measure that seems particularly hypocritical of Republicans, given their insistence that people — including students — should work for what they want, rather than accept “handouts.” An argument can be made for this mentality, but if students do not receive “handouts” or federal work study — a large proportion of the jobs available to students — how does Trump expect them to pay for the ever-increasing cost of necessary higher education? A small loan of one million dollars from one’s parents could help, but many students do not have that luxury.

All in all, Trump proposes to spend only $5 billion more on education for the whole country for an entire year than he plans to spend on his border wall.

Educational programs outside of the Education Department itself would not fare any better. The proposed budget would destroy most of NASA’s educational programs and eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that supports tens of thousands of libraries and museums across the country, according to the agency’s website.

Education is fundamental not only to democracy and a flourishing society, but also to a barely functional society. Even setting aside goals of progress for the time being, America needs a high-quality educational system to just function, to just survive. All productive contributions to society require some form of education. Crippling America’s educational system to pay for a stack of bricks that only a small percentage of Americans want seems shortsighted and detrimental to the country’s future — to say the least.

Realistically, people will have different positions on various policies. Overall, these disagreements are a natural part of informed citizenship and political participation, but protection of the environment and access to high-quality education, by virtue of affecting everyone, should be issues of bipartisan agreement.

As April and the budget-resolution vote approach, Americans and the politicians who supposedly represent them must scrutinize Trump’s more quietly sinister provisions — hopefully without shutting the government down, again.


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