Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

The Codification of Cruelty

There is an old Hollywood legend . . . perhaps apocryphal, perhaps not and known to virtually every Hollywood Brat (including yours truly) - that Groucho Marx was denied membership in the all-Jewish Hillcrest Country Club because he was simply too crude, too lewd to fit in amongst the likes of the more staid Louis Mayer and Irving Thalberg (MGM),  Jack Warner (Warner Bros.), Harry Cohen (Columbia) and Al Jolson.  After having been turned away at least three times - so the legend goes - Marx was finally granted membership - which he summarily turned down, saying, in typical "Marxist" fashion,  "I'd never join a club that would have me as a member."  In truth, Marx eventually did become a member of Hillcrest, and, true to form, spent many a day  "punishing"  his fellow club mates by being . . . well, Groucho Marx: lewd, crude and downright rude. Groucho made a career - both in reel and real life - of essentially "punishing" and being "cruel" to all those who supported him.  This was Hollywood's version of perverse "Marxist" lunacy.
In a strange sense, we are experiencing perverse - though decidedly non-"Marxist" lunacy once again with #45.  "What in the hell are you talking about?" I can hear you ask. Well,  in looking over #45's first budget blueprint - with all it's overwhelming cuts (and $54 billion increase in defense spending) - we find that, like Groucho of old,  those whom this Randian budget would seem to be punishing the most are precisely those who supported and believed in him the most - his so-called "loyal base."  Taking a brief gander at some of what's in this budget blueprint, we find it:

  • Making draconian cuts to programs which help feed the poor and elderly (notably "Meals-on-Wheels");  
  • Axing funds for after-school programs (known as the 21st Century Community Learning);
  • Granting a $1 billion increase in a "fund portability program" (otherwise known as "school vouchers");  
  • Severely cutting funds for job training and medical research;
  • Cutting funding for the EPA by 31%, State Department (29%) Department of Agriculture  (21%), Labor Department (21%) and HUD (12%);
  • Completely eliminating funding for, among others, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Legal Services Corporation.

Those this proposed budget would hurt the most are #45's loyal base, such as:

  • Coal miners in Appalachia for whom there is not a cent devoted to bringing back jobs;
  • Un - and underemployed blue-collar workers in Rust Belt states for whom there will be no job training programs;
  • Rural Americans who will see their local airports disappear, thus necessitating traveling hours in order to catch a plane;
  • Low- and lower-middle income Americans from Maine to Arizona who will no longer have any form of health insurance;
  • People who live in states vulnerable to coastal flooding (FL., LA., and TX), because funds for flooding projects have all but dried up;
  • In opposing federal subsidies for wind energy, the budget will cost small towns and rural areas clean energy job opportunities.
  • Despite pledging $500 million to combat opioid addiction - which affects small town and rural America disproportionately - #45's concomitant American Healthcare Act (AHCA) will make it next to impossible for those falling victim to this scourge of being covered by health insurance.

And on and on and on . . .

Despite White House budget chief Mike Mulvaney's assertion that this budget really, truly displays "great compassion for taxpayers," it would appear that what #45 and his colleagues have presented is, in fact, a document which if passed in its present incarnation, would serve to codify cruelty. For it is a highly ideological document which gives the richest of the rich even greater tax cuts, lines the pockets of defense contractors with tens of billions of dollars and places unimaginable stumbling blocks in the path of those who, strangled with feverish anger against politicians and "politics as usual," bought into the promise that a billionaire reality show host best understood their plight, and would make their world - their America - his first priority.
How much actual input did #45 have on this budget blueprint?  Although one cannot be certain, it is likely the answer is "precious little."  For the man who now sits in the Oval Office (when he is not lounging about Mar-a-Lago) is not what one could call a detail kind of guy.  Rather, as with his hotels, golf courses, vodka, suits, ties, bottled water and even toilet paper, he merely puts his brand on the product and then either collects the royalty checks or files for bankruptcy.  His personal and business history shows that frequently, he leaves those who dug the trenches and performed the grunt work (precisely those who made him the man he is today) holding the bag.   I doubt few of them voted for him in 2016.
In a truly sad repeat, it would appear that once again, #45 is set to stick it to the very people - his ardent base - who made him POTUS.  It's almost as if Groucho - who, by the way, was a lifelong ARDENT liberal Democrat - has come back to inhabit the soul of #45, making sure that those who granted him membership in the most exclusive of all clubs, will live to regret it.
Except in Groucho's case, it was all good clean fun.  Hillcrest is still alive,  still prosperous (oil was discovered on the golf course in the early 1950s), and its members still regaling one another with their hilarious recollection of Marxist lunacy.

58 days down, 1,402 to go . . .

Copyright©2017 Kurt F. Stone