I’ve been calling the work by the Trump administration and the greater Republican Party to destroy America’s safety net The War on the Poor for some time now. This includes CHiP, Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP (aka food stamps), Social Security, and a host of other individual programs at the local level designed to help those in need. The current plan of the Trump Administration (which of course could change at the drop of a hat, or a presidential tweet) is to merge Labor and Education and dump Housing in somehow with that, to create a new department that deals with housing, education and welfare, along with labor, and which would also pull food stamps away from the Agriculture Department to include it under this umbrella. Trump thinks this will streamline things, but the old Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) department was separated in the late 70’s under Carter, breaking Education apart from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) because having them all together was too unwieldy. It’s hard to see that they would be any less so today; what’s more likely is that putting all the safety net programs in one place will make it easier to cut funding for them — because really, when in recent years has the GOP not tried to cut any one of these programs?
Fighting for each of these programs individually is wearing. We feel like we’re running between fires, trying desperately to put one out only to have another spring up in its place. Seeing this all as part of a concerted attack, a War on the Poor, and naming it as such, makes it easier to wrap our heads around. It also makes it easier to avoid feeling worn down, worn out, because we can see that we’re not the only ones fighting the battles. When we drop in our tracks, there’s someone else to pick up where we left off and keep going until we’ve recovered enough to start again. A host of people are all in this with us, and fighting the same battle on different fronts, we don’t have to win the entire fight ourselves, just the small part that is in front of us because there are many other people fighting it as well and together all of us are making a difference. Sometimes it’s important to see the big picture and name it as such. A War on the Poor.
And along that line, I saw this comment on a friend’s Facebook post recently:
Worse that that, it’s the war on everything the enlightenment stood for. Logic, reason, religious tolerance, liberty, tolerance and individual liberty. Everything the founding fathers stood for. It’s sad and now I see it’s becoming very, very dangerous right now.
Seeing this made some pieces fall into place for me, the same way that calling it a War on the Poor did for someone else when I made that comment on Facebook recently. It’s part of a pattern, and I think that’s why I react to some things at a gut level without always being able to sort out the reasons right away. Enlightenment philosophy is a foundation of American democracy and of Western thinking. Jefferson and Franklin and the rest all came out of a very specific world view, and yes, they were all fallible humans and did individual wrongs, but they had some very specific values they believed in and they started this nation as a very radical experiment based on those — and we forget how radical that notion was at the time, that a people could govern themselves justly, under the rule of law, rather than having a king as an authority figure and as head of a state religion. The current administration, and a large segment of the GOP is trying to destroy that. And the rest of the GOP is to cowed to stand up to them. I won’t say cowardly, because I think there is good reason for their fear, but I do wonder if the Republican Party won’t find itself splitting in half because of this before the dust has settled.
In the meantime, there is a strength in naming things.
A War on the Poor.
A War on the Enlightenment.