It is a mean-spirited budget. A budget that would make sense if humans were chimpanzees, and not the hyper-social animal they are*. Not all of Trump's proposed budget will see the light of day. But it is still a political statement, and that does count for a lot. The fact that Breitbart is now shaping the core of American ideology is demoralizing. And what this ideology hates above all are poor people.
If you read Geoff Mann's new book In the Long Run We Are All Dead, you will find an excellent history and analysis of "dishonoring poverty," which is necessary because poverty in a rich country like the US is not natural but politically imposed. You are not poor because of who you are as a person, or things you have done (not worked hard enough, not saved enough, drank or hit the pipe too much). You are poor because political-economic policies, enforced by laws, made you that way. This fact is not new to many political economists. And it has been known since the end of the 18th century. It is how the "poverty amidst plenty" paradox is possible. Because poverty can be eliminated without much difficulty, the goal of those on the right has been to make it so bad that it looks natural and can only be solved with brute force, like weeds on a lawn. The police and prisons are on the right side of this budget.
But many of Trump's supporters are on its wrong side because they are poor.
The Washington Post offers a detailed analysis of the poverty-related programs that are threatened by Trump's budget, and many of these programs assist people in the rural areas and small towns that voted for Trump. Washington Post:
“This is a budget that pulled the rug out from working families and hurts the very people who President Trump promised to stand up for in rural America and in small towns,” said Melissa Boteach, vice president of the poverty to prosperity program at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington.
The White House budget cuts will fall hardest on the rural and small town communities that Trump won, where one in three people are living paycheck to paycheck — a rate that is 24 percent higher than in urban counties, according to a new analysis by the center.
Also, some of these cuts will make rural areas even more isolated by cutting funding to their money-losing airports.
The budget dishonors scientists as much as it dishonors the poor. It wants deep funding cuts in medical research. This is bad news because, as economist Mariana Mazzucato points out in her book Entrepreneurial State, pharmaceutical corporations do not really make new drugs. They either spend their profits on stock buybacks or imitating popular and patented drugs. Pharmaceutical corporations are instead mostly "knowledge brokers" of innovations generated by state funding. NBC says this in the plainest terms:
One example of the discoveries the NIH and NIH-funded researchers make: Finding the cancer-killing properties of trees, or sea sponges, and developing them into compounds that are then licensed to pharmaceutical companies to develop. Companies rarely do such basic, risky research.
But the budget also reflects the worldview of investors, which, due to a liquidity preference, is limited to a circle of light that does not extend far from the present. Investors want to make their money now, not tomorrow. Here’s the health cost that Trump’s budget will impose on the public in the future or the purpose of making a quick buck today:
"The predicted cost is $1.1 trillion," Houser told NBC News. "If we don't figure out how to slow stop or reverse these trends, we are going to pay way more," he added. "You can save $6 billion today and spend $1 trillion down the road."
* I discuss the nature of human sociality in my longish e-flux essay Black Mirror Body.