Apparently having an appreciation for the absurd is necessary in assembling a budget for President Trump. “I feel like I’m in a Monty Python skit,” said OMB Director Mick Mulvaney in the White House briefing room.
Twice in two days Mulvaney trotted out to visit with reporters - while the president traveled to the Middle East - in order to try and sell a budget that many on the Hill aren’t buying.
On that Monday Melodious Mick did his act off-camera in a gaggle before the remaining White House press corps not currently flying with the president to the Middle East – where they’ve witnessed him complimenting the Saudi Arabian leaders and their shoes. “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes man,” he said to Saudi-Arabian leaders. (You really can’t make this stuff up).
President Trump’s wife has swatted away the president’s hand coming off Air force One and the president was photographed with a strange glowing orb rumored to sustain life and bring about peace in our days.
Meanwhile, Mulvaney, back on earth is trying to defend a budget that many on The Hill say is “Machiavellian and Draconian all at the same time.”
Monday I popped in with the first question and asked Mulvaney how he would react to critics who say his budget is incredibly hard hearted and takes advantage of the least of our brothers, those who have the least amount of income.
Mick, true to form, told the media the president’s budget is “More compassionate” and for the first time is a “Taxpayer’s budget” – by taking into account those who pay for the budget. (Mostly the rich)
“People don’t mind paying taxes if they know their money isn’t being wasted,” Mulvaney declared. By that, Mulvaney apparently meant the working people of this country would rather spend money on more guns and less butter.
The proposed budget cuts NASA, the EPA, climate science, NIH, food stamps, student loans, federal retirees, healthcare, the NEA, after school meals for the poor, medical research, planned parenthood, social security disability pay and earned income credit – a fact a reporter from Sputnik – the Russian propaganda machine- pointed out to Mulvaney – who sputtered badly on that issue. The Russians are certainly having their fun with this administration.
The truth is, according to Mulvaney, most social programs will suffer cuts – some of them dire – in order to sustain more spending in defense and with the hopes of balancing the budget with a three percent annual growth rate – after huge tax breaks to the rich.
While supply side economics and tax cuts for the rich have never proven to be realistic weapons to sustain growth – most rich people just hold on to their money instead of investing it in the economy – Mulvaney remains convinced his plan will bring about posterity – though he admits with a lower growth rate “we’ll never balance the budget.”
The reaction on the Hill to Trump’s budget is decidedly downbeat. Since Congress decides how to spend the money, and there is bipartisan support for some of the domestic spending agenda items – most especially medicaid – few give Trump’s budget a chance to pass unscatched any greater than a snowball has a chance of surviving in the Hell of global warming.
“We are keeping our campaign promise,” Mulvaney said of the budget.
"We are keeping our campaign promise,"
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney
“That’s all they can say,” a GOP member on the Hill said last Tuesday. “That budget is a pipe dream.”
Other criticism was even more pointed. “It’s an amalgamation of extreme proposals that are the legislative equivalent of throwing shit on the wall to see what sticks,” another GOP congressman said with disgust. “Passing that budget would destroy the chances of some of the members of our own party to get re-elected during the midterms.”
Mulvaney is keen on proposed parental leave in the budget plan, “something no administration has done before,” he said with pride. On that he may be right and he might get the support he needs for it, but few – even the president’s closest friends in congress – are taking the budget seriously.
That did not keep Mulvaney from trying to sell it to the very same reporters he met with on Monday during an on-camera briefing the very next day - Tuesday. Apparently Monday was the dry run. But fewer showed up for Act II on Tuesday as the sequel seemed an awful lot like the first episode.
This time though, Mulvaney came with visual aids that supported his budget – and for all the world as he made his pitch on stage he looked like a used car salesman trying to sell us a canary yellow used ’76 Pinto.
He had to double down on the compassionate side of the budget, again explaining how cutting social programs so the government could build more bombs was the prudent and compassionate thing to do.
And, as he slowly descended into the madness of explaining why people are upset and don’t pay their taxes- because of Obama (side note if you’re keeping score here – everything wrong on the planet is due to Obama and the democrats and only Donald Trump is responsible for the light and goodness that makes life worth living and can put the fizz in a carbonated beverage).
At this point Mulvaney mentioned how we felt he was in a Monty Python skit.
"I feel like I'm in a Monty Python skit,"
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney
I wanted to ask him how the President felt about paying taxes since president Trump has said in the past that if you’re smart you don’t have to pay taxes, but instead I got the opportunity of a lifetime to ask the Monty Python question that everyone who has ever covered a news conference at the White House has wanted to ask – “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”
“Exactly,” Mulvaney said smiling. Technically it’s the wrong answer and he should’ve been thrown from the bridge of death, but we give him points for recognizing the reference.
As Mulvaney’s appearances have increased in the press room, so have they escalated in their eclectic mix of theater, hutspah , rhetoric and hypocrisy.
He once told us that after school meals for poor children were going to be cut because the program didn’t do what it promised – feeding the poor was supposed to help them get better grades. Channeling his inner “Soup Nazi,” from Seinfeld, he said since the poor kids didn’t do better in school, “No Soup for You!”
On that Tuesday he continued selling the idea of an “America First,” and a “Taxpayer First” budget – but started out with a moment of reflection and support for the victims of a terrorist attack in Manchester, England.
As he defended the administration’s budget – which also cuts funding to the U.N. and foreign aid, the reflection on those killed in England seemed a shallow and hollow sentiment to those who’ve covered foreign affairs.
It is widely believed there are 20 million people facing famine and starvation from four countries –a figure that hasn’t been seen since the end of World War II. If the U.S. doesn’t help these refugees, many in the U.N. have said we will be helping to fuel the fire that creates the terrorists we want to eliminate.
Mulvaney has never seen the logic in that. When an Al Jazeera reporter once asked him the question about starving refugees, Mulvaney replied “We have an America First Budget,” so too bad. A thrusting upward of a certain middle finger was only implied, but everyone understood.
At one point during the briefing Tuesday Mulvaney said, “Y’all don’t understand,” to the assemblage of reporters. Looking at one of his minions who’d accompanied him to the briefing, I mouthed the “Y’all –‘really?’” The young man shook his head back and forth as if he didn’t approve.
But for all that he gave us in two days on the podium usually reserved for Sean Spicer, Mulvaney’s high point came when he defended cutting climate change studies because he’d heard the unthinkable. “ I think the National Science Foundation last year used your tax money to fund a climate change musical,” he said.
“Couldn’t you just tell them you don’t like musicals?” I asked. He didn’t hear me or ignored me.
Meanwhile, we’re left to pick up the pieces. The president’s defenders will be glad to hear the promise of putting people back to work while kicking deadbeats off the welfare rolls – all the time missing the point that science and social services are being cut to put more money in defense at the expense of the hard working people who support the president while the rich make off with even more money.
It isn’t a Monty Python script. It’s a bad acid trip and the hangover seems to be never ending.
And now about the climate . . .