It’s no secret, the Republican Party has been attacking the mainstream media and the federal bureaucracy for decades. Still, no president has waged that battle with more ferocity than Donald Trump. After the 2016 election, he admitted to journalist Leslie Stahl that he “demeans” and “discredits” the press so the public won’t believe the negative stories reporters write about him. And he frequently calls the media “the enemy of the people”. Perhaps that’s because the journalists who he apparently despises frequently show his incompetence, like they did in warning about the coronavirus threat.
Trump’s efforts to hollow out the executive branch of government, however, are probably more damaging than his attacks on the press. His budget proposals for the past four years have included double digit percentage cuts to numerous federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Congress didn’t agree with most of these reductions but Trump used other means to shrink the government. He simply didn’t fill numerous important positions and he eliminated or weakened critical functions like the National Security Council’s pandemic preparation organization.
Yet, Trump is simply following the example set by the Republican-controlled U.S. House during President Obama’s administration. They recommended transitioning Medicare into a premium support program, giving states a block grant to manage Medicaid and, of course, repealing Obamacare. Their plan has always been to transfer responsibility for health care, education and numerous other programs to the states. The Republican budget for fiscal year 2015 would have restricted the executive branch to hiring only one federal employee for every three that left the government. For several decades, the GOP has been totally focused on downgrading or eliminating federal agencies and cutting taxes.
Well, I don’t need to rehash the failure of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that ballooned federal deficits instead of supercharging the economy as Republicans promised. It is worth noting, however, that many of the corporations now seeking government aid from the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief program, wasted their tax cut largess on massive stock buyback programs instead of investing in their businesses.
As for the other longstanding GOP policy of limited government, the ongoing pandemic highlights its fallacies. Trump’s swiss cheese administration wasn’t prepared to support the needs of the nation’s heroic medical care providers. So, Trump told state governors they were responsible for acquiring the supplies necessary for hospitals to handle the exponentially growing coronavirus cases. Then the Federal Emergency Management Agency inexplicably began competing with them. As a result, prices increased dramatically and medical supplies that had been ordered by states – like Michigan and Colorado – were sometimes confiscated by FEMA.
I can’t decide if Trump is simply implementing a longstanding conservative desire to delegate federal functions to the states or if he is attempting to put the onus on them so he can blame governors for his failures. Either way, things don’t seem to be working well for him or his advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
While the president was dragging feet on ordering automakers to manufacture ventilators, Kushner claimed that the federal stockpile was “supposed to be our stockpile” and not one that states could use. Someone needs to remind this clueless, pandemic neophyte a-hole that tax dollars from the states pay for all that stuff, not to mention the cushy perks he enjoys as a White House advisor.
To make matters worse though, Trump is using the federal medical stockpile for political purposes. Reports indicate that many states – both red and blue – were receiving only a fraction of their requests for stockpile supplies, while requisitions by Florida – a key swing state – had been fully filled and Trump-friendly Kentucky and Oklahoma received more than they had ordered.
When Trump tweeted on Friday that he was sending 100 ventilators to Colorado at the request of Republican Cory Gardner, that state’s vulnerable Senator, the Denver Post accused Trump of using medical supplies to boost Gardner’s campaign. Colorado’s democratic governor, Jared Polis, then revealed that FEMA had cancelled Colorado’s order for 500 ventilators, which that agency subsequently purchased.
Regardless, here’s why the limited federal government – delegate to states – ideology is totally ludicrous; most states lack an economy and tax base that could adequately fund the programs Republicans would transfer to them. California is the exception; its 40 million citizens drive an economy larger than all but four countries. Federal tax dollars that its residents pay significantly exceed the federal benefits they receive. So, Congress uses the extra tax dollars from California to support health care and education programs for poorer – mostly Republican – states like Kentucky.
The current pandemic is just another example of how the conservative ideology of Republicans frequently inflicts great hardship on the nation. The terrible inequality that exists in America today had its roots in the trickle-down economic policies of President Ronald Reagan; the Great Recession resulted in substantial part from the regulatory laxity of President George W. Bush’s administration; and the coronavirus death toll and economic fallout are being exacerbated by President Donald Trump’s unconscionable delayed response and his shifting of responsibilities to the states.
As the coronavirus crisis worsened, most Americans desperately called for more leadership from the top of the federal government – but all they’ve gotten from Trump is the typical Republican response to health care and other issues, “Dude – you’re on your own”.
PS – The GOP plan for health care consists of a first aid kit with a band-aid, an aspirin and a prayer book. Same for gun violence.