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Michigan comes out a loser in Trump budget

Mar 17, 2017

Michigan voted for Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election. But you would never know that from the budget he sent to Congress. You might think instead that we were a hostile nation at war with the United States, which therefore deserves to have its economy and its environment destroyed.

This is a more anti-Michigan budget than I could have imagined. It would not cut, but instead completely eliminate, funding to clean up and restore the Great Lakes and their environment. It would also slash funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The President might just as well have said that he was in favor of expanding the growing “dead zone” in Lake Erie and making the lake an aquarium for Asian carp.

Additionally, this budget would completely end other programs that have a major impact on Michigan, including Community Development Block Grants and energy assistance programs for the poor. It massively slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.

And the list goes on. Programs to fund alternative fuel vehicles and make homes more energy-efficient are zeroed out, as are funds for minority businesses and anything having to do with fighting the effects of climate change.

Funding for the National Endowments for both the Arts and the Humanities would be eliminated, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the list goes on and on.

There would instead be vast increases in funding for the Defense Department and that most Orwellian-sounding of agencies, the Department of Homeland Security. Those defending this budget are telling Michigan not to worry.

We could, after all, see some benefit from the massive increase in Pentagon spending and maybe snare a few jobs because of the vast number of new border patrol agents this would create.

And since President Trump hinted that he doesn’t much believe in required fuel efficiency standards, maybe the auto companies will become much more profitable.

Yes, I know that’s absurd. But the theater of the absurd is what we live in these days.

The real problem with this budget is the same problem with the Trump administration: they are simply of a different species. 

This is nothing like any government in our lifetimes. It has contempt for and little interest in programs and institutions that have been formed with bipartisan consensus over the last century.

This is a budget clearly designed to create a national security state that is gearing up for isolationism and war.

What’s amazing is the weakness of the opposition. America may not have understood what it was voting for four months ago, but it certainly wasn’t voting for this. Not only did Trump’s main opponent get nearly three million more votes, but all told, more than 11 million more people voted against this president than for him.

Democrats ought to be putting together a shadow cabinet and offering a detailed alternative budget. We need a strong bipartisan coalition of Republicans and Democrats to save the Great Lakes.

What we are getting instead is mainly unfocused whimpering. What the Trump administration is proposing amounts to change so radical it would vastly alter life as we know it.

Our elected representatives do have the power to stop most of this. It’s now up to us to let them know what we expect.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, the University of Michigan.