Not surprisingly, activists are daunted by the lightning-paced dismantling of civil rights and social justice that President Trump has authorized in two months in office.
Trump’s orders on immigration, private prisons, state’s laws on marijuana legalization, use of neutral bathrooms by transgender youth, and so many more are indeed deeply troubling. But perhaps the biggest concern is the proposed increased militarism, which will without a doubt come at the expense of social services and foreign aid.
Although the specifics are yet to be released, Trump has pledged to expand the military while cutting the budgets of various other federal agencies. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump pledged to oversee “one of the greatest military buildups in American history,” and recent proposals show his inclination to increase defense and security spending by $54 billion while cutting roughly the same amount elsewhere. Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon said last week that one of the main goals of the administration was the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” In conversations since taking office and on the campaign trail, Trump has pledged not to touch entitlement programs like Social Security, which means dramatic reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the State Department, food stamps, Department of Justice-administered Violence Against Women (VAWA) grants, and more.
Trump claims that such cuts reflect the nation’s priorities, but it seems as though that statement is part of the alternative-fact universe the president loves to critique. Foreign aid represents approximately one percent of federal outlays, while funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which the administration says should be privatized) and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities make up .02 percent of federal spending. So, the cuts Trump has mentioned are not nearly enough to recoup the $54 billion he wants to spend on the military. Clearly, more programs and initiatives are on the chopping block.
Claiming that he intends to build a military bigger and stronger than ever before, Trump said, “Hopefully we’ll never have to use it, but nobody’s going to mess with us, folks. Nobody.” His blowhard rhetoric while he defunds programs that assist our allies does nothing to convince those who despise the U.S. that we are changing our ways. Rather, as is evidenced by the increase in hate crimes reported after the election, this tough-guy mentality merely serves to embolden the lunatic fringe and to stifle dialogue and collaboration.
Cuts to the federal VAWA grants have been recommended by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which sees them as a misuse of federal funds despite evidence that domestic violence decreased 64 percent after the VAWA was first enacted in 1994. Similarly, cuts to the EPA will result in further environmental damage by corporations yet zero accountability for it. Cuts to the arts and humanities will do nothing to create a more accepting and peaceful world. Reducing funds for food stamps means that even more Americans, the vast majority of whom are working long hours for little pay, will struggle to feed their families. More children will go to school hungry, unable to learn because their tummies rumble. All this while the U.S. already has a military bigger than the next 15 countries combined.
We must resist this militarization with all our might. Our tax dollars are at work here, and as such, the public should say what we want to prioritize. Please tell your elected officials that you want more money devoted to a peaceful and more just world, rather than one in which those with the most military might prevail.
Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.