Donald Trump doesn’t set the federal budget—that’s up to Congress. But the White House’s budget proposal can act as a kind of “presidential mood board” that offers us a look at the administration’s priorities, so on Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took a moment to gauge the latest presidential mood. What he found was pretty scary, with a list of cuts that “scroll by like the end credits for America.”
The budget proposal served as many people’s introduction to budget chief Mick Mulvaney, who crafted the plan by combing through Trump’s speeches, picking out policies, and turning those policies into numbers. Not surprisingly, that doesn’t make for a very realistic or even ideal budget. Trump once said, “You gotta make the country rich again, and strong again, so that you can afford it, and so that you can afford military and all of the other things.” To Oliver, that sounds like “an audiobook of Farewell to Arms being broadcast by an iPhone submerged in hot coffee,” but to Mulvaney, it evidently sang “increase defense spending by $54 billion.”
But the increases for military and nuclear spending also come with significant slashes to the Environmental Protection Agency, arts and humanities funding, and a slew of other agencies. Mulvaney justified these proposed cuts by suggesting that the government couldn’t reconcile them with taking the hard-earned dollars of coal miners and single mothers. Yet as Oliver points out, that argument doesn’t hold up when you consider that the cuts would jeopardize funding for after-school programs, education services, and health initiatives, like Meals on Wheels, that benefit those very people.
In fact, as with the Republican repeal-and-replace of Obamacare, some of the people who have the most to lose from Trump’s budget cuts are the very people who voted for him. While some might explain this as Trump just being a good businessman, Oliver thinks Trump voters might actually turn on him. In fact, he has a quote just for the occasion: “You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.” Now where could that be from?