White House

Juan Williams: Tell me, Trump voters, what thrilling message do you get from the president's budget?

Juan Williams

Editor's note: The following column originally appeared in The Hill newspaper and on TheHill.com.

 

Here is my question for Trump voters: What do you hear the president saying with his new budget?  

My guess is that you don’t want to hear that giant sucking sound as he takes your money — dollars from hard working people — to cut taxes for the rich.

The Trump administration would say that characterization is fake news.

They say their budget is written from the perspective of salt of the earth people who think taxes are too high.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump made statements that I considered outrageous, offensive and often factually wrong. But his supporters loved it. Even with falling support, the president still has 81 percent approval among Republican voters, according to the latest Fox News poll.

And Trump’s base delights in mocking journalists for not hearing what they hear in Trump’s words. They laugh at critics who fact-check his every mistake and exaggeration.

They laugh even harder at Hillary Clinton when she argues that Trump’s budget “shows an unimaginable level of cruelty and lack of imagination and disdain for the struggles of millions of Americans, including millions of children.”

So tell me, Trump voters, what thrilling message are you getting from a president whose budget reduces funding for programs that benefit you? I refer to cuts to programs to feed children; help student with school loans; and to help seniors and the disabled get to the doctor.

Last week, an analysis from The Atlantic magazine concluded that core Trump backers — older, white voters without a college education — will be hurt by this budget. Those are the blue-collar voters in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa who made the electoral college map turn red across the Midwest for Trump.

These same voters “represent a majority of those receiving benefits” from federal government programs such as food stamps and Social Security Disability payments, Ron Brownstein wrote in The Atlantic. And those programs are “targeted for large cutbacks” in the Trump budget.

Trump’s budget comes as the Congressional Budget Office announces that the House GOP plan to replace ObamaCare will leave 23 million more people without health insurance by 2026.

Even some Republicans don’t like what they hear.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the conservative Majority Whip, said the budget was “basically dead on arrival.”

The voters that elected Trump or “brought [him] to the dance are the populists out there in the Midwest and South who rely on these programs that he’s talking about reducing,” William Hoagland, a former budget aide to Senate Republicans who is now at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told the New York Times.

The only get up-and-holler I hear in the Trump argument is anti-immigrant, racist, hateful rage.

Trump is playing on white working class resentment against racially diverse young people, immigrants and minorities — people who are falsely and callously characterized as lazy, undeserving bums who lie to get a Social Security disability check, an unemployment check or to qualify for food stamps.

“We want to measure compassion, true compassion, by the number of people we help to get off those programs,” said Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, in arguing for people to stop talking about how many programs exist or how many people are being helped by those programs.

But what about deserving Trump voters who will lose benefits?

Mulvaney only expressed concern for people who complain they’ve paid high taxes but still see poor people.

There is no denying the near-record number of people getting disability payments. There is no denying that the record number of people who qualified for food stamps after the 2008 recession has stayed high nine years later, even as the unemployment rate has fallen below five percent.

And the Trump argument then logically rewards people with high paying jobs, investments and savings by cutting corporate taxes, income taxes and taxes on inheritance.

But wait a minute.

What happened to Trump’s campaign promise to look out for the little guy instead of the ‘too big to fail’ crowd on Wall Street?

The Trump budget cuts Medicaid by a whopping $610 billion over the next decade. According to the AARP, Medicaid is the primary means of support for 65 percent of people in nursing homes. The program pays for 45 percent of total nursing home bills.

Trump won voters aged 65 and older by 52 percent to Clinton’s 45 percent.

More specifically, he won white voters aged 65 and older by 58 percent to Clinton’s 39 percent.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Wisconsin has 1.046 million people enrolled in either Medicaid or CHIP. Michigan has 2.34 million people enrolled in those programs. Pennsylvania has 2.927 million.

Trump won each of those states by less than one percentage point. His aggregate margin across all three was around 77,000 votes.

The Trump budget also hacks away at the farm insurance programs that rural farmers in the Midwest use to staying in business during bad crop years.  

2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, a multimillionaire, suffered during his campaign when a video surfaced of him complaining that 47 percent of Americans were too poor to pay taxes and therefore likely to vote against his tax cut plan.

It did not help matters that the tape was revealed months after the Romney family sought permits to install a car elevator in their new seaside California mansion.

As conservatives have been quick to point out for decades, the top one percent of wage earners pay about 50 percent of all federal income taxes.

The bottom sixty percent of wage earners pay barely two percent of federal income taxes.

This Trump budget comes from a songbook written for the top one percent. They have every reason to sing along. But how can 81 percent of Republicans approve of this?

 

Juan Williams currently serves as a co-host of FOX News Channel's (FNC) "The Five" (weekdays, 5-6PM/ET) and also appears as a political analyst on "FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace" and "Special Report with Bret Baier."