There’s an abundance of high-stakes hypocrisy and hoodwinking going on back in the national’s capitol — and in Palm Beach, Florida. While ordinary Americans faced tax deadlines last week, the executive branch was splurging, spending outrageous sums of our money so President Donald Trump can kick back in Florida most weekends.
And at the same time the White House geniuses want to strip millions of dollars in funding — including meals for fragile elderly people — from needy communities.
As a skeptical but dutiful taxpayer, I’m probably in the same boat with many adults in Cambria, and not just because I pony up cash to a behemoth federal bureaucracy that doesn’t seem to care a lick about my community, or about our coastal environment.
I bitterly bemoan having to shell out hard-earned dollars with zero ability to direct how and where it will be spent. I’m irked when executive branch spending is wrongheaded, wasteful, and, not incidentally, supportive of an elite, lavish lifestyle to which Trump feels entitled.
True, thoughtful citizens for eons have regretted seeing their taxes pissed away on schemes as irrelevant to their needs as Avila Beach is to Afghanistan.
For starters, I loathe the thought that even one dollar of my taxes would go toward funding the president’s frequent Florida forays to Mar-a-Lago, which, as of April 11, according to U.S. News & World Report, has cost taxpayers an estimated $21.6 million during Trump’s first 80 days in office.
The conservative group Judicial Watch reports that President Obama racked up an estimated $97 million in taxpayer funded leisure travel, which often included golf outings. At the present rate, Trump’s leisure/golf outings will cost Americans more in a year than Obama spent in eight years. These data are not my projections, nor do they come from fake news.
It’s humorous in hindsight to recall Trump’s attacks on Obama’s golf playing and travels. “We pay for Obama’s travels so he can fundraise millions, so Democrats can run on lies. Then we pay for his golf,” Trump tweeted in October 2014. “I’m going to be working for you, and I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” he said at a campaign stop in 2016.
He also said: “I love golf, but if I were in the White House … I don’t think I’d ever see the Doral (golf course) again. I own Doral, in Miami. I don’t ever think that I’d see anything. I just wanna stay in the White House and work my ass off, make great deals, right?”
This from a fellow who has been on golf courses 18 of his first 81 days in office (New York Times research).
When it comes to the Trump budget, rather than support his iniquitous $2.6 billion proposal to build a “wall” at the border with Mexico, I would much prefer that my tax contribution go to support Meals on Wheels, or food banks for the hungry, or public radio.
For those who don’t follow these issues, Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget would eliminate Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), the major source for states to fund programs such as Meals on Wheels for 2.4 million older, homebound and poverty-stricken citizens.
Statistics I harvested from Matt J. Leal with the San Luis Obispo County Department of Planning and Building reflect that funds the county received from CDBGs in 2017 — a bit more than $1.6 million — support homeless programs, facilities for the disabled, drug and alcohol abuse prevention, food for the hungry, and low-income housing, among other worthwhile projects.
What’s inside a U.S. president’s head that would motivate him to abolish those funds in 2018?
Profits over privacy
Trump calls the media “the enemy of the people,” but let’s be serious. His xenophobia-driven Muslim ban, his unendingly bizarre tweets (barefaced falsehoods to distract from the Russian investigations), and his obsession with savaging budget items that actually help Americans, tell a different tale.
If you’re looking for an unfriendly adversary, it’s not the mainstream media, but it just might be the portly golfer with yellow hair who wears ties made in China.
Meanwhile, given that an estimated eighty percent of Americans have access to the internet, it’s a safe bet that the same percentage of families in Cambria are hooked up to the web. What’s not clear is how many Cambrians are aware of recent legislation that killed a set of pending internet privacy rules.
In his last year in office, Obama crafted broadband privacy rules that would have prevented internet service providers (ISPs) from selling online users’ personal data without receiving permission from folks here in Cambria and elsewhere.
But those rules are dead in the water. Trump and the GOP-led Congress enacted a law allowing internet service providers to profit by vacuuming up your browsing patterns and then, without your permission, selling your private data to advertisers.
Predictably, the vote was along party lines: 215 Republicans voted yes, and 205 Democrats voted no in the House. In the Senate, it was 50 Republicans (yes) to 48 Democrats (no).
Let’s face it; few of us believe we truly enjoy absolute online privacy. But why would Congress and Trump open the door to far more egregious ISP mischief?
“Any Member of Congress who thinks this bill is a good idea ought to release their personal browsing history to their constituents,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). I second that motion, and call for a show of hands.
Two hundred and sixty-one years ago, Benjamin Franklin wrote a line in his Poor Richard’s Almanac that is extraordinarily germane when it comes to Trump: “Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.”
Freelance journalist and Cambria resident John FitzRandolph’s column appears biweekly and is special to The Cambrian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.