Mick Mulvaney: Trickle Downer of the Week

(AP/Andrew Harnik)

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about President Donald Trump's budget proposal for the coming fiscal year during a daily press briefing at the White House. 

Everyone knew that Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, is a Tea Party darling and notorious budget deficit hawk. But in recent days, he’s exceeded expectations and proven himself to be one of the most radical members of the cabinet (and given this cabinet, that’s no small achievement). As he works to sell Trump’s draconian budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks, he’s pushing the limits of just how callous and illogical a politician can be in service of advancing trickle-down economics.

He made a lot of hay last week in a press conference on Trump’s “skinny budget” proposal that calls for deep cuts to social service programs while bolstering military spending. Mulvaney justified proposed cuts to federal programs that provide food after school to low-income kids by saying there is “no demonstrable evidence” that they improve school performance. Responding to a question about cuts to the Meals on Wheels program that delivers food to senior citizens, Mulvaney said, “Meals on Wheels sounds great” but “we’re not going to spend [money] on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver promises that we’ve made to people.” He said that gutting domestic spending in favor of defense spending “is one of the most compassionate things we can do.”

As he explained on Morning Joe last Thursday, the White House’s approach is completely rational. “When you start looking at places that we reduce spending, one of the questions we asked was, can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”

This rationale, though, is completely ludicrous. Not only does the United States spend more on its military than any other country (by a long shot), but Trump’s proposed budget cuts take direct aim at the very people Mulvaney purports to have in mind.

As Eric Levitz wrote for New York magazine:

Trump’s proposal cuts many programs that are more intuitively valuable to coal miners in West Virginia—and single mothers in Detroit—than a 10 percent increase in defense spending. The president’s budget cuts funding for early-childhood education, public housing, transit, food assistance, and job training—all programs that disproportionately benefit single mothers in cities with low median incomes. And it also abolishes the Appalachian Regional Commission and Rural Business-Cooperative Service, while shrinking the Labor Department—all moves that disadvantage coal miners.

Mulvaney hasn’t retreated, even after being widely lambasted for his cruelty-masquerading-as-budget-wonkery.

Talking on Face the Nation this past Sunday, Trump’s budget chief defended the Republican health-care plan that is projected to boot 24 million people off health insurance by lamenting that universal coverage is only attainable through authoritarian means. He claimed that “The only way to get truly universal care is to throw people in jail if they don’t have it.”

On Meet the Press, Mulvaney promised that Trump will soon unveil a plan to eliminate budget deficits within a decade—and implied that, to do so, the White House will go after mandatory spending programs, which would theoretically include Social Security and Medicare. "It is a very complicated budget process when your entitlements, your mandatory spending is driving most of your budget deficit," he said. "So over the course of the next decade, we'll have to look at the mandatory spending side in order to figure out a way to make changes to the way we spend money."

The one thing Mulvaney hasn’t mentioned is that the severe budget cuts to relieve coal miners and single mothers of burdensome programs like PBS are a pretty clear attempt not only to dramatically reduce the federal government’s footprint on American society, but also to secure huge tax cuts for the rich and corporate America.

As it stands now, Trump’s tax plan is a massive giveaway to the top one percent of taxpayers, who would see a 14.1 percent after-tax gain in income. About 51 percent of the total tax cuts would go to the wealthy, while the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers—those who’d be impacted most by domestic spending cuts—would see less than 10 percent of the cuts. Meanwhile, the Republicans’ repeal of Obamacare would also deliver major tax cuts to the ultra-rich while increasing healthcare costs and taking away coverage for tens of millions of Americans.

What’s particularly brazen about Mulvaney is just how far he’s willing to go to try to establish a sense of morality for an intrinsically immoral ideology. For that, Mick Mulvaney is our Trickle Downer of the Week. 

Tax Cuts for the rich. Deregulation for the powerful. Wage suppression for everyone else. These are the tenets of trickle-down economics, the conservatives’ age-old strategy for advantaging the interests of the rich and powerful over those of the middle class and poor. The articles in Trickle-Downers are devoted, first, to exposing and refuting these lies, but equally, to reminding Americans that these claims aren’t made because they are true. Rather, they are made because they are the most effective way elites have found to bully, confuse and intimidate middle- and working-class voters. Trickle-down claims are not real economics. They are negotiating strategies. Here at the Prospect, we hope to help you win that negotiation.

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