Donald Trump, Magician Extraordinaire

He wears no cape and wields no colored scarves, but don’t be deceived: Donald Trump is a master of common street magic. And as he deftly weaves his hand of political playing cards through his fingers, progressive Democrats are only too eager to be entranced in the spectacle of his illusion, completely missing the real trick and yelping with surprise when they find their wristwatch gone moments later.

Consider the congressional Progressive Caucuses’ recent take on Trump’s proposed discretionary spending outline: dubbing it a “starvation budget,” Keith Ellison and other ordinarily intelligent Democrats launched a rapid offensive centered around the alleged elimination of the popular “Meals on Wheels” program to serve elderly Americans. This offensive seems to have had its intended effect; donations to the Meals on Wheels program jumped by 500% last week and Democrats across America took to social media to express their outrage.

In reality, however, what Trump’s proposed budget does is cut the “Community Development Block Grant” portion of the Health and Human Services, money which was given to the states to spend as they please—and some fraction of which was presumably then handed to Meals on Wheels organizations. The first problem, however, is that a 2015 audit of the Meals on Wheels America nonprofit reveals that only a measly $250,000, or 3.3% of their operating budget, came from government grants of this type.

Furthermore, the real source of federal funding for Meals on Wheels is a line item in the Health and Human Services budget reserving $227 million for “home-delivered nutrition services.” Trump’s vague budget, however, is entirely silent about this item, most likely because it was approved by the Older Americans Act—a law so popular it was renewed last year with no opposition from either party. The simple fact is that no federal Republicans or Democrats want to end Meals on Wheels, nor would they allow cuts for it to receive congressional approval. In fact, outrage over the supposed slashing of Meals on Wheels plays right into Trump’s hands, as it spends all the Democratic base’s energy opposing cuts that would never really happen and that Trump never really wanted.

A real potential problem will be the incredible variety of other proposed Trump cuts likely to actually be approved by Congressional Republicans. Where are appeals from the Democratic leadership about cuts to the EPA, or NOAA, or the State Department? It’s entirely possible that this is a conscious strategy by Democratic leadership, to energize the progressive base by straw manning Trump’s budget, evoking easy outrage focusing on Meals on Wheels, and delivering a “win” to their constituents when Meals on Wheels doesn’t get cut. If so, I couldn’t think of a worse tactic. It’s time to ignore all of Trump’s masterful political distractions, stop the continual exaggeration and distortion of facts, and deliver a reasoned, logical rebuttal to the Trump administration. And with clumsy, clownish circus that voters installed in America last November, this really shouldn’t be that hard.

– Jack Votava

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