It bears repeating that the reason corporations do not feel free to sell us spoiled meat, lock up our daughters in ninth-floor sweatshops without fire escapes, employ our underage sons in coal mines, or call in private armies to fire rifles at those of us who dare strike for higher wages, is not because companies experienced a moment of Zen and decided to evolve.
And, it bears repeating that the reason millions of children get school lunches, seniors have some security in their old age, and students and workers can get the skills and education they need to get good jobs, is not because right-wing extremists suddenly saw a new light.
No. They were forced into greater accountability and social concern by the legitimate actions of a democratic government committed to helping people. In other words, if we depend on corporate goodwill or right-wing generosity, we are all screwed. President Trump’s budget provides the latest proof. The candidate who pledged to stand up for working families is instead throwing gut punches that will bring them down.
These didn’t used to be partisan issues. Republicans and Democrats have, in the past, both recognized the moral responsibility we have to each other. That’s how the social safety net was created. Social Security lifted seniors out of poverty. Food stamps prevented kids from going hungry. Refundable child tax credits helped families make ends meet.
The Trump budget betrays our shared responsibility to each other in a time of need.
The array of government programs that have become known as the social safety net was created throughout the twentieth century to help working people in times of need―and make sure kids do not get punished for their parents’ poverty. The social safety net acknowledges we are accountable to one another and it set the stage for a century of unparalleled prosperity, that made the United States a beacon for the world.
Then came Newt Gingrich, the Tea Party, and now, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and the social safety net and the people it helps are under assault like never before. President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan want massive cuts that will make it impossible for millions to get health care, put food on the table, retire with some dignity – and that’s just the start of their assault. The Trump Administration is taking away lifelines for millions of working families – food, health care, housing.
The Trump budget betrays our shared responsibility to each other in a time of need. It’s not the first time that our values have been threatened by a short-sighted and mean-spirited budget. And this isn’t the first time we’ve had to stand up to the likes of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan. We’ve taken them on before and we’ve won. We stopped Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America. We can stop Donald Trump and Paul Ryan too. This is the most heartless budget I’ve seen in 26 years in Congress but those 26 years have also convinced me we can beat back the bullies and win these fights for the least among us.
Rosa DeLauro is the Senior Democrat on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. She is the author of the new book, The Least Among Us: Waging the Battle for the Vulnerable, from The New Press.