In the final year of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us all that budgets are moral documents. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Though he was speaking about the Vietnam War era, his words are as powerful today — perhaps more so — as they were in 1967-68.
Republicans are embracing the Trump-Bannon-Ryan “hard power” budget, a $54 billion increase in military spending paid for with cuts to nearly every domestic department and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The proposal demonstrates what the Republican leadership believes is most critical to achieve in our society and around the world. Nothing, after all, gets the old conservative juices flowing like another military engagement or slashing after-school programs for children.
Contrary to any distancing behavior by congressional Republicans from their White House leaders and allies, the American electorate is seeing a rapid coalescence around an alt-right agenda. Trump threatens Republicans that 2018 will be tough for them if they do not toe his hard-power line in major policy areas. These fellows certainly are not concerned about programs of social uplift. This is hard power.
Without regard for the intense suffering taking place around the globe thanks to hard power — dropping bombs, failing to assist refugees, allowing masses of people to starve and thirst for water — the new American nationalism seems to be leaning toward showing that we, too, can be fiercely protectionist on behalf of our oligarchy, both domestically and with our foreign policy. The Republican regime’s admiration for Russian-style leadership playing out here launches the most massive redistribution of wealth in American history. Vladimir Putin must be very proud to see his style imitated in America.
Hard power. At any cost.
It seems that giving massive tax breaks to the wealthy is part of that display of rock-hard power; under the guise of repealing the Affordable Care Act, 20 million people could be tossed off health insurance. Imagine for a moment the incredible power of improving and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans. Now that would be the kind of power Americans could believe in — now and in 2018 and beyond. Hard power? Hmmm. Not so much.
We so hoped our leaders would be more thoughtful when it came to our families and communities. When 20 million people see their health access go away, including many Americans between 50 and 65 years of age, voters will remember the hard power folks. While the tweeter in chief may want to say otherwise, whoever protects and uplifts Americans hungry for a just and moral budget, one that reflects strength and human decency, will prevail in 2018. So far, that does not appear to be Republicans.
It takes strength and true power, not hard power, to confront injustice in all of its forms. This regime has not demonstrated the courage required to lead. Bullies rarely do.
Donna Smith is the executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.
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