Politics & Prejudices: Trump’s war on Michigan

Donald Trump has essentially declared war on Michigan. That's what any fair and balanced citizen would conclude, based on the truly horrible "skinny budget" he sent to Congress.

Any sane person analyzing it would never guess that Michigan narrowly voted for Trump last year, helping to give him his astonishing victory.

What this budget would do, if Congress were to pass it in its present form, is treat our state almost as if we were a hostile nation at war with Trump's America, one that deserved to have our economy and environment severely damaged or destroyed.

That's not an exaggeration. For starters, this budget would set the stage for the environmental destruction of the Great Lakes, our greatest asset and the most important body of fresh water on this planet. For many years, both parties have supported the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Congress budgeted $300 million this year to fight everything from toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie to invasive species, such as the dreaded Asian carp.

Two years ago, when President Barack Obama attempted to cut its funding by $50 million, both Democratic and Republican congressmen demanded it be restored.

Now, Trump wants to totally get rid of funding for the lakes. If that were to happen, plan on the massive "Dead Zone" in the middle of Lake Erie growing ever larger.

We won't even discuss the future of the lake once the bighead and silver carp are nicely established there.

This much we expected, as I wrote last week. But the sheer crass brutality of the rest of this proposed budget stunned even old cynical me. Trump would end all funding for libraries and heating assistance for the poor.

Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) would become extinct. That would be an immediate funding cut of $31 million for Detroit, and $80 million for other Michigan cities.

Funding for alternative fuel vehicles? Entirely gone. Department of Transportation grants to fix bridges? Bye bye. What about the Economic Development Administration? Sayonara. Same with the Minority Business Development Agency. Both have been important to Detroit.

And to Motown, our president sayeth, Fuck you.

Naturally, the Donald wants to completely kill off the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and any other funding for the national endowments for the humanities and the arts.

Most ironic, however, is that the Trump budget mostly whacks those regions hardest that voted for him.

The Upper Peninsula, where most communities outside of gentrified Marquette are poor and the others even worse off, used to be safely Democratic. Now, however, they vote Republican for social and cultural reasons — and, frankly, because in too many recent campaigns, Democrats like Hillary Clinton didn't even bother to try to speak to them.

And this time, that was the difference: Trump won the Upper Peninsula by more than he won statewide.

How are the Yoopers being rewarded? Trump proposes to completely shut down the Department of Transportation's Essential Air Service, which helps subsidize airports in remote places. This could close down Houghton Memorial Airport, the only one of any size in that vast region.

That would leave anyone living in that region the choice of a four-hour drive to Green Bay, or an eight-hour one to Chicago if they want or need to get out. Not necessarily for medical treatment; many won't be able to afford it any more.

The GOP health bill before Congress would likely end medical coverage for the 640,000 folks of limited means (incomes under $34,000 a year for a family of four) who were able to sign on for Medicare, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

I asked Charles Ballard, a professor of economics at Michigan State University, what replacement of "Obamacare" with the GOP health care plan would mean. Ballard, the author of an excellent book called Michigan's Economic Future, makes his living crunching numbers, not appealing to emotions.

His response, however, affected me emotionally. "Thousands of Americans would be dead without the ACA," he said, meaning the Affordable Care Act.

"If the ACA is rolled back, the exact number who will lose their insurance ... is likely to be in the millions nationally, and in the tens or hundreds of thousands in Michigan. If that happens, every year more and more will die needlessly."

Yes, but some very rich folks will save on their taxes. Step back a moment, look at what this budget, and it is very easy to see what Trump, with Steve Bannon, is building:

A heavily militarized National Security State that is preparing for war. He wants to boost the Pentagon budget by a whopping $54 billion, and pour billions into the Department of Homeland Security, a name out of Orwell if there ever was one.

Additionally, he wants to earmark $4 billion for his insane border wall. Was this what we voted for?

Was this anyone's vision of an American future, whether or not they voted for Donald Trump? Nightmare though this is, there is still hope. There is an institution that can save us from most of this madness: Congress. Very little of Trump's soul-destroying and America-destroying agenda can become law if they have the strength to reject it.

We better make our feelings known to every member, especially the Republicans. We are facing what amounts to an agenda of pure evil. Someday, those who didn't stand up to fight now may have a lot to answer for.

Worst of the worst

Longtime readers of this column or anyone who pays attention to the legislature may recognize the name of Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-Ottawa County), a dreadful creature if there ever was one.

Meekhof, who briefly entertained fantasies of running for governor until he realized he had no support, has done everything he could to destroy democracy.

He has helped block any attempt to make voting easier in this state, with the help of his mini-me Dave Robertson, the chucklehead chair of the senate elections committee.

Meekhof also killed an attempt by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to require disclosure of who exactly are donating large sums to so-called "dark money" committees that run expensive commercials to smear candidates for office.

Now, however, there is a wide consensus among lawmakers of both parties that Freedom of Information, or FOIA, rules should be extended to the legislature and the governor's office. Most other states have this; the need for it became painfully apparent to all after the Flint water poisoning scandal, in which the governor claimed he knew nothing about it even though his closest aides were discussing it every day.

The consensus was so overwhelming that on March 16, the Michigan House of Representatives voted unanimously to require that most of what the governor and legislature do be subject to FOIA and open records law.

But Arlan Meekhof doesn't like that. Like Donald Trump, he doesn't read much. Unlike Trump, however, he doesn't even have a college education. He doesn't intend to allow the state senate to vote on the bills, or even hold hearings on them.

He contemptuously told reporters at a Michigan Press Association meeting in January, "You guys are the only people who care about this." Later, it became painfully clear he hadn't even read the bills.

Well, anyone who cares about democracy and thinks we should have the right to find out what our elected leaders have been doing in the jobs we pay them for has a vested interest in showing Meekhof that more than a few reporters care.

Everyone should be hounding every state senator incessantly — especially the Republicans — to force the state senate's backcountry Caesar to allow hearings and a vote.

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