America First, Except the Poor

Here is your weekly briefing in American politics:

Let’s begin with the week’s big number: 54 billion

On Thursday, March 16 the Trump administration released its plan for the 2018 federal budget, calling for a $54 billion increase in defense spending. The dramatic increase, coupled with $2.6 billion reserved for a new southern border wall, would be offset by slashed funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Health, State, Education, Labor and Agriculture.

Here’s a breakdown of the cuts from Trump’s largest target, the EPA:

       -The elimination of over 20% of the staff at the Environmental Protection Agency, amounting to a loss of 3,200 jobs

       -The elimination of funding for the Clean Power Plan, the series of regulations implemented to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants

       -The elimination of funding for environmental research and global climate change initiatives

In other Trump related news:

       -The first two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax returns were revealed, showing he paid $35 million on earnings of $125 million.

       -Trump’s wiretap claim was forcefully rejected this week by leaders of his own party after the Department of Justice failed to provide evidence supporting the President’s claim.

       -A federal judge in Hawaii blocked Trump’s revived travel ban, freezing the order nationwide. Here is Trump reacting to the judge’s ruling:

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill:

       -The nonpartisan CBO, an agency set up to determine the potential cost of legislation, projects the Republican health care plan will leave 24 million fewer people with insurance, while cutting $600 billion in taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans and slashing an additional $600 million in taxes for insurance company CEOs.

       -The House will vote on the Obamacare replacement bill this week, despite objections to the law from both moderate and conservative Republicans.

       -Senate Republicans are facing a bill passed by the House making it legal to hunt hibernating bears and denning wolves on Alaska’s 20 million acre wildlife reserve.

       -Republicans have introduced (another) bill criminalizing abortion.

       -A nude photo and cyber-harassment scandal rocked the Marines, leaving commanders unable to answer basic questions of accountability in front of Congress. Watch Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand excoriate the Marine Corps General:

“Where is the accountability for failure?”

Red America Abroad:

       -Voters went to the polls to elect a new Prime Minister in the Netherlands on Wednesday, March 15 and handily rejected the “Dutch Trump,” the face of Europe’s right wing populist movement Geert Wilders.

       -During German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington on Friday, March 17, Trump attempted to justify his own wiretap claims by referencing the 2013 revelations that the NSA had been spying on Merkel’s cellphone. He then refused to shake the Chancellor’s hand.

       -The US threatened to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council if its concerns over member states were not addressed.

       -Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatened preemptive war against North Korea while cancelling a meeting with South Korean diplomats.

Analysis:

Trump’s budget and the nonpartisan analysis of the GOP health care bill reveal in the clearest terms to date who stands to benefit from Trump’s domestic policy agenda. In true conservative orthodoxy, Trump’s vision amounts to tax savings for the rich amid vicious reductions in services for the poor. In Trump’s America, afterschool programs for low-income kids must be sacrificed to pay for tax cuts for insurance company executives. The budget’s approval depends on the cooperation of Congress, who seem increasingly hesitant to appease a President whose political capital is quickly diminishing.

The German chancellor descended on a capital in crisis. Trump’s unapologetic defense of his unproven wiretap allegations is preventing Republicans from unifying around his agenda and provoking US allies. Trump’s meeting with Angela Merkel was an embarrassing display of statesmanship, one that projected weakness and American self-indulgence at a time when the US-German alliance faces immense strain as the bedrock of European unity and the bulwark against Russian aggression. Trump’s flippancy towards US allies not only reflects a crisis of confidence at home, but an unprecedented shift in American geopolitical objectives.

The framework of Trump’s foreign policy is beginning to take shape. His dramatic increase in defense spending, paid for by the reduction in State Department funding, reveals a clear emphasis on the hard power of military dominance over the soft power of diplomacy. Foreign policy experts unanimously denounced the shift as harmful to American national security, citing the weakening of our ability to deploy resources towards foreign aid, development programs and international organizations such as the UN and the World Bank. The worldview presented by Trump’s budget is one that hopes to maintain America’s international influence while scaling back its commitment to helping other countries address global challenges.


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