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Since President Trump released his “skinny” budget last week, there has been a lot of political posturing, if not outright hysteria in the media, from the advocates of the various government programs targeted for reduced levels of federal spending. And perhaps more remarkably, there have been widespread accusations of spending cuts where none have even been suggested. Legal Insurrection details a list of media organizations whose fact checking skills were apparently not put to use on a hyped story where all the facts about President Trump’s discretionary spending proposals are a matter of public record.
For example, New York Magazine has an article entitled, “White House Says Cutting Meals on Wheels is ‘Compassionate’,” Rolling Stone has one entitled “Meals on Wheels Seniors Respond to Trump: Cut Something Else,” the BBC writes that “Meals on Wheels cut back prompts backlash,” and Slate declares that “Trump’s budget director says Meals on Wheels sounds great but doesn’t work.”
The problem with these and the many other such headlines is that Trump is not cutting, and is certainly not eliminating, Meals on Wheels.
In an article headlined “Here’s the truth about Meals on Wheels in Trump’s budget“, USA Today‘s Gregory Korte reports on the origins of the story:
President Trump’s first budget proposal to Congress last week specifically identified steep cuts to hundreds of domestic programs, but Meals on Wheels wasn’t one of them.
The popular program — which mainly uses volunteer drivers to provide hot meals to older Americans across the country — doesn’t directly receive federal funding. As Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told reporters Thursday, “Meals on Wheels is not a federal program.”
Nevertheless, Meals on Wheels quickly became the poster child for the impact of Trump’s budget cuts. Even before the budget’s release, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., tweeted that Trump had called for the “elimination” of Meals on Wheels, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus quickly dubbed it the “Starvation Budget.”
The involvement of partisan lawmakers brings an old saying about the rule of law to mind:
The Rule of Law:
1. If the facts are against you, argue the law.
2. If the law is against you, argue the facts.
3. If the facts and the law are against you, yell like hell.
The wide propagation of the phony Meals on Wheels budget cut story in the media suggests that Rule #3 is now in effect, where the loudest voices are demonstrating to their supporters just how far they’ll fight to prevent any imaginary budget cuts, no matter how imaginary they might be!
Bloomberg‘s Megan McArdle reflects on the politically inspired hysterical reaction to date and suggests the reason for why those who have become so angry and hysterical are now desperately yelling like hell.
The reaction to Trump’s budget has been, let us say, loud, with headlines blaring about cuts to poverty programs and social media going viral with angry denouncements of the White House budget chief who proclaimed that cutting meals on wheels was compassionate … to taxpayers. There have been some problems with these analyses, starting with the fact that the Meals on Wheels allegation was not, well, true. But broadly this is correct: the proposed budget does represent a fairly substantial transformation of government spending priorities.
Indeed. Just imagine how much more hysterical the reaction would be if any real net spending cuts for the discretionary portion of the U.S. government’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget had been proposed. The very earth below Washington, D.C., might have cracked open and the whole city sunk into the Potomac River from all the politically motivated and phony outrage.
Maybe next year.