Trump is the real thing. His budget proposal, now made public, is perfectly expected, an increase of 10% for military spending, 7%, homeland security, 6%, veterans, and the largest cuts, -31% EPA, -29% State department and development agencies, -21% agriculture. This of course tells us little about the deformation of government allocations and still less about overall purpose. On its face, we see militarism crushing down government’s welfare functions, and this should be a clue as to what’s at stake.
As NYT reports, “The proposal would also eliminate funding [I stress, eliminate] for nearly 20 smaller independent agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Legal Services Corporation, which finances legal aid groups.” The list (more below) is instructive. The reason is given to be, avoiding deficits while increasing the defense budget necessitates pruning the tree. The preeminence of defense requires nothing less, if the Homeland is to remain safe. Trump is the ultimate protector of American democracy and freedom.
At a minimum, from recent polls, 40% of the American public buys in—totally and completely, as the response to Trump’s speeches make clear, with probably another 20% on the borderline, sharing the nativist biases and xenophobic fears. This leaves a scant 40% as an opposition force (and even there, a Democratic party weak, patriotism-saturated, hardly confrontational with standards of contemporary political discourse, as on defense per se, the Cold War, toleration of dissent). In this case, predisposition to fascism, a uniform political-cultural trend since the end of World War Two, renders Trump practicable, intelligible, and for a near-majority of the public desirable. Fascism as a top-down affair cannot succeed without the underlying groundwork of receptivity.
Nevertheless, Trump has crossed the Rubicon, a recipient of history in America but also self-propelled in taking over. A healthy America never would have tolerated his advancement and acquiescence in his ideas. For they are harsh, repulsive to a democratic sensibility and belief-system, one-dimensional in the veneration of stripped-down national power combined with, and meaningless without, unrestrained capitalism, achievable by whatever means. That alone qualifies for consideration of fascism, not simply the militarist cum monopoly capital core of society, but the underlying means for achievement, the interpenetration of government and business as the polity’s defining mode.
America since 1945 has overstressed expansion, both geopolitical and market-oriented, as much co-responsible for the inception of the Cold War as the Soviet Union, and with the Korean War (which came remarkably early, 1950), its leading architect and beneficiary, so that by Vietnam, anticommunism, the operative catchword all those years, had been fully actualized as the move for unilateral dominance. This has not changed, the impulse only intensified in the interim. Perhaps instability and under-performance are integral to advanced capitalism, yet something more sinister is involved, a self-fulfilling motivation—a preservation-instinct (?)—which transcends economic ambitions and political fears, directed to a hardening personality structure contemptuous of, even frightened of—human needs and feelings. This corresponds to the requisite mindset sanctioning attitudes toward war, fortress-building, intolerance, and setting America straight on the course of global counterrevolution, none of which would be existing, possible, acceptable under an authentic expression of political-economic freedom.
I would like to look here at the proposed budget, for it indicates my thesis: beyond militarism and capitalism, but deriving from their consequent integration in today’s America, there is an eradicative disposition, absolutistic in character, to eliminate all traces of presumed softness (as defined by a growing majority, including, regrettably, the working class) from American life, that which pertains to peace, reduction of class differences thereby approaching a condition of equality, realization of respect for the individual, at bottom, an ethos of caring through meeting the health needs, as a matter of right, of society’s members, broadly interpreted beyond decent jobs and housing to the environmental well-being, protection, replenishment of the planet.
America is in the forefront of its desecration. My concern is not the big-ticket items, which are transparent to all, starting with the military, encouragement of capital accumulation, and the weakening of EPA, but the microscopic items, which are a telling guide to the settling mood of antihuman deep-seated conviction. Even the meager list thus far: why eliminate NEA or NEH unless the intuitive fear of reaching a true flourishing human identity has taken hold? I once more than a half-century ago wrote an essay for Agricultural History entitled “Fear of Man.” Add to that “Woman,” as at bottom the fear of human emancipation from the thralldom of institutionalized repression, glaringly evident in the machinery of foreign and domestic policy, and you have the picture: a vindictiveness toward anyone or anything not only threatening but also questioning the established verities, imperialism and extreme wealth-differentiation.
Let’s look closer at this nihilistic (denial of any objective ground of moral truths, destruction as desirable for its own sake, definitions offered by Webster’s Collegiate) mindset, as it translates into Trump’s proposed budget, the hatred of human potentiality wherever humankind, and here America in particular, becomes awakened, realized, or even begins to rear its head. EPA is easy in the account: elimination of one-fifth of the agency’s personnel, funding for the Clean Power Act, and climate change research. What kind of small mind tears apart what is beneficial to society, down to research? On State and development programs, we see in The Times chart and explanation, an attack on the UN: “Climate change initiatives … would lose all their U.S. funding,” other programs manhandled, as meanwhile “Israel’s $3.1 billion in annual military aid would be untouched.”
And so on (again, NYT throughout for information). Agriculture—I stress the vicious cutting out of humanly-deserving programs, here a reduction in the National Forest System and elimination of “loan and grant programs for water and sewage systems.” Next, Labor: scaling back “on a number of job training programs, including those aimed at helping seniors, disadvantaged young people and unemployed Americans.” Justice: budget cutting (-$4B), “even as he [Trump] steps up border enforcement, hires more immigration judges and slightly increases the F.B. I. budget.” Here things become grizzly from any democratic standpoint, Health and Human Services: “eliminating $4.2 billion in community service programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program,” and cuts of 18% to the National Institutes of Health, in both of these cases, needing a mad Dr. Frankenstein with sharpened scalpel to ferret out such cuts.
Commerce, like the others, fares poorly: “The budget eliminates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s grants and programs for coastal and marine management, research and education and eliminates the Minority Business and Development Agency, which supports minority-owned businesses.” Education: emphasis on school-choice programs, “while eliminating funding for before- and after-school and summer programs,” along with eliminating “the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant” for college students “with the greatest need for financial aid,” a further instance, if one were needed, for contempt shown the poor—and designed to make them remain that way. Transportation: initiating “privatization of the nation’s air traffic control operations,” as well as reducing subsidies to Amtrak.
The list is long and suggests a thoroughness leaving little untouched that benefits the public, a merciless dissection on Trump’s part (I use him as responsible, but much of this is scraping the barrel of reactionary figures, in every case favorable administrators, appointed for that reason, and expected to follow in the same vein as the butchering of social welfare continues). Thus, pointedly, Housing and Urban Development: “The budget would eliminate the Community Development Block Grant Program, which funds local improvement efforts and anti-poverty programs, and cut funding for rental assistance and homeownership programs and affordable housing initiatives.” Interior, simplicity itself: “increase funding for programs that drill for oil and gas on public lands and cut funding for programs such as the National Heritage Areas and the National Wildlife Refuge Fund.”
All to increase funding for the military? Of course, but also, as the examples testify, the urge to despoil, ruin, pillage, liberate the darkness of vitriol built-up through the institutional influence and development of war, intervention, militarism, and the fragmentation of human feeling (alienation) associated with capitalism. Energy: some budget cutting, but “an increase of $1.4 billion, or 11 percent, to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is focused on managing the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal.” (Hardly a peaceful pursuit.) In addition, “the budget would cut or eliminate programs to support research of breakthrough clean energy technology….” Treasury: the IRS would be “the main target,” although I should have liked more coverage to taxation and fiscal policies. Veterans Affairs: a hefty 6% increase, as in extending the Veterans Choice Program (choosing options outside V.A. facilities).
And finally, Homeland Security and Defense. The former is cut-and-dried: $2.6B for “border security and technology, including the early stages of a wall between the United States and Mexico.” There would be a budget set aside for more Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel. Also, “another $1,5 billion would go toward supporting the detention and removal of illegal immigrants.” And the latter, faced with a budgetary increase of $52.3B, The Times throws up its arms in despair of accurately enumerating, the increase being still left vague by Trump. What is not vague, however, is the drift of policy making. In every case, America is internally stripped down, impoverished of its national heritage. To say, this is all for the sake of budget balancing (the better to serve military needs) is only partially true; what we are witnessing as well is a punitive thirst, the urge to punish, even among large portions of the population struggling in present economic circumstances, and wholly in defiance of their objective class interests, i.e., punishment for being a free people.