This morning, when I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a funny parody video of Elmo being told that he was fired due to Trump's new budget causing PBS to lose funding. It made me laugh for a few minutes, but then I realized the broader implications of what it actually meant. PBS has actually been cut from the federal budget. PBS, the network responsible for educational content consumed by millions of children around the country.
In addition to PBS, the new administration has made several other cuts that are deeply disturbing. The new budget would cut the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which are key to promoting the arts and providing information to the American public. In addition, scientific research is being cut. The National Institute of Health is losing $6 billion, and NASA is losing 1% of its budget. The EPA is being cut by 31%, and the administration is in the process of ending the department altogether.
The question is, why? While the arts, public broadcasting, and science are having their funding slashed, military spending is increasing by 10%. The U.S. already spends more on its military than the next 15 highest-spending countries combined. Military spending takes up over half of all federal discretionary spending. We aren’t even at war. And President Trump’s personal spending is even more egregious. $3 million a weekend for him to travel to his resort in Florida, which he’s done almost every weekend since he took office. Not to mention the $183 million a year to keep Melania and Baron in New York City. That’s almost $40,000 more than the budget for the arts that is being cut.
So, if the new budget does not aim to save money, then why cut such small programs with such great importance? My theory is that the new budget is a clear statement from Trump to American citizens: WE WILL NOT HOLD YOUR HAND. The Republican administration has decided that it is not financially responsible for the well-being of its citizens. They’ve decided that Americans can figure everything out on their own, and if they can’t, then they don’t deserve anything. The theory may be pure capitalism, but in practice, it is a disaster that stands in the way of Americans’ opportunities to succeed, and makes it difficult to break cycles of poverty. The image of taking Elmo away from young children is a perfect metaphor what Donald Trump is doing. The programs that seek to educate Americans and improve their well-being are those like Elmo, and the millions of Americans who have watched the show as toddlers, although they may not realize it, rely on Elmo for the early guidance that will shape their futures.