The last Republican president, George W. Bush, branded himself a compassionate conservative. In many ways Bush certainly did not live up to that principle, but he at least knew to pay lip service to the notion that conservatives should care for the needy while also tending to the free market and national defense.
Now, even that pretense of compassion has gone out the window. Based on his actions so far, and in particular his budget released this week, President Trump seems to be practicing a different ideology: unabashedly cruel conservatism.
There's no other way to describe Trump's domestic policies. Monday gave us the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimate on the effect of Trump's signature policy proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare. The report stated that 14 million more people would be uninsured in 2018, compared to the current plan, and 24 million more by 2026. (And that's actually lower than the White House's own estimate.) To put that in perspective, that's roughly equivalent to pulling insurance from as many people as live in the entire states of Florida and Colorado, combined, over the coming decade.
This is a perfect example of Trump and his political party knowingly pushing cruelty, and not even trying to hide it. Tens of millions of people will face the reality of knowing they're one sickness or injury away from economic devastation, or of deciding they'll live with being sick or injured because they can't afford health care.
Even worse, we know, based on a Massachusetts study following the state's expansion of health insurance in the early 2000s, that for every 830 people covered by health insurance, one fewer person dies each year. Simple math tells us that as a result of Trumpcare, more than 31,000 more people will die each year by 2026. There's no other word for that than cruel.
If that weren't enough for one week, Thursday brought us the proposed Trump budget. Here are some of the lowlights:
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
Trump's budget would eliminate this program, which provides help to low-income Americans to pay their heating bills; it helped nearly seven million people in 2014. The result would be that more Americans would suffer in the winter, possibly foregoing other essentials, such as food, in order to stay warm.
Meals on Wheels
As part of the complete elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program, the budget would ax funding for Meals on Wheels. It's hard to imagine a less controversial, more obviously beneficial organization than this one. It delivers food to homebound seniors. So they can eat. Which allows them to live.
Various housing-assistance programs would be slashed or eliminated entirely, including Habitat for Humanity, YouthBuild, homeless assistance and fair-housing planning. More broadly, the budget includes a $6 billion decrease in funding to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which spends 75 percent of its budget on helping families with their rent.
The list goes on and on, and affects health, weatherization, arts, business development, after-school programs, literacy and more. The brunt of almost all of these cuts falls on the neediest members of society.
In other words, the Trump administration is proudly adopting blatant cruelty toward Americans who need help the most as the driving force behind its budget. It is pushing policies that everyone knows will result in death, hunger, homelessness and distress.
Every member of Congress who votes for these policies, clearly knowing their devastating effects, is endorsing bald-faced, unnecessary cruelty. Don't let them get away with it.