The bleats have been long and loud in California since President Trump’s administration released its first proposed budget, one that won’t be finalized for several months.
This budget can be read many ways, including these: As an initial negotiating position from the author of “The Art of the Deal.” As revenge for California depriving the president of the popular vote victory he so ardently craved. As a prototypical Republican attack on federal spending the party has long opposed in fields from health care to sanctuary cities. It may be all of those and more.
But this spending plan should not have surprised anyone in California public affairs. Presidents often suggest cuts or additions to federal spending even when they know the items will not fly. This can take public attention away from others they deem truly important. It can represent some first moves toward compromise.
And presidents have always favored states that favor them and punished those that don’t. So California fared well under Presidents Clinton and Obama. Just ask the tens of thousands of homeowners who collected large sums from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after the 1994 Northridge earthquake under Clinton or the health insurance clients who got premium subsidies under Obama.
But California had problems securing grants for everything from transportation to education under both Presidents Bush. The new budget indicates there could be worse trouble getting desired federal grants under Trump. So California’s problems in getting its fair share of federal spending will likely grow as the Trump years progress.
Why be surprised at this when the state’s top officials loudly and proudly bill themselves as leaders of national resistance to Trump’s agenda?
Yet, those same officials now sound stunned. Said Gov. Jerry Brown, “(The proposed budget) gives a massive break to the wealthiest, while imposing painful and debilitating burdens on tens of millions of decent and hard-working people. It’s unconscionable and un-American.”
In other words, it’s a fiscal plan promoting the Republican Party’s platform stances of minimizing “entitlement” programs, welfare and federal healthcare subsidies. It’s also a plan that favors the party’s biggest political donors, who often are corporate leaders. Election results matter. So does the Electoral College.
That’s not to minimize this plan’s potential effects here. The Health Access California organization, for one, says this budget would “rip health care from over 4 million Californians, cut Medi-Cal by 25 percent” at a cost of over $24 billion a year to California. The organization’s executive director, Anthony Wright, complained the budget “would savage California’s health care system, cutting…tens of billions of dollars to hospitals and health providers…(it) would cause carnage to key safety-net services, all to finance massive tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest.”
California public and charter schools would also lose about $400 million if a proposed total of $9 billion is cut nationally from education spending. This would affect everything from teacher training and preparation to after-school programs and student loans. Moaned state Schools Supt. Tom Torlakson, “I give this budget an ‘F’ grade for failing public school students.”
There’s also a new bid to punish sanctuary cities, which include California’s largest urban centers. This one would rewrite a federal code section so that cities could no longer block police and other employees from communicating with federal officials about the immigration status of any individual. The budget would condition federal homeland security and law enforcement grants on guarantees that cities comply. And it includes a mandate that local jailers hold releasable prisoners up to 48 hours when federal agents issue requests called “detainers.”
Taken together, this budget attacks many items that are political dogma in California, but anathema in Southern and Midwestern states that voted heavily for Trump.
Anyone who’s surprised by all this wasn’t paying attention to the promises Trump made during his campaign last year. Or when Trump appointed key budget officials who have long advocated precisely the changes they now propose.
The challenge for Californians in Congress and state government who oppose all this will be to find Republicans who back at least some programs that now are threatened. Judge their effectiveness by what’s in the final budget.