|Vol. 12 No. 7
March 30, 2017
Russians and Budgets
Every once in a great while, I get a gut feeling that something happened or something isn’t true even though there may be few facts to base an
opinion or conclusion on. For instance, back in January 2003, I remember having a strong feeling that there were no WMDs, weapons of mass
destruction, in Iraq. Vice-President Chaney was pushing the alleged presence of WMDs in Iraq as justification for an invasion to topple Saddam
Hussein from power. Secretary of State Colin Powell would be pushed out front by the Bush Administration to give an address to the UN
Security Council to make the U.S.’s WMD case. America’s war machine was getting greased and prepared for an Iraq invasion.
Yet I firmly believed that there were no WMDs. I remember calling up a Wisconsin Public Radio program around that time expressing my
opinion that the presence of WMDs in Iraq were a hoax. And I remember getting the cold shoulder from the radio announcer like I was some
crazy man because the “patriotic thing to do” was to fall in line and support the invasion.
Now we all know how that story ended. Despite a thorough search for WMD by the U.S. Army had taken over Iraq, none were to be found.
Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives because of a hoax and greed for that black gold, oil.
Well after the U.S. presidential election last November, I had another strong feeling. I heard a vague report that Trump campaign officials had
met with Russian government officials. Now there was all kinds of “fake news” going on and a whole lot of trolls and Internet bots denying any
Russian interference in the U.S. election.
But in my heart, I knew that there had been Russian interference in the election on behalf of the Trump campaign. In a November 24, 2016
Reflections, I wrote:
“And why shouldn’t he feel that there was some tampering with the election going on? After all, wasn’t it Trump campaign officials who met
with Russian officials and then, voila, Democratic Party emails were hacked and given to WikiLeaks, which conveniently didn’t start releasing
them until October, the Republican Party’s October Surprise? Here we have foreign entities allegedly deciding the U.S. election aided by
Republican Party operatives and none dare call it treason, to borrow a line from the John Birch Society? And what price will the Trump
administration have to pay Russia for this little favor?”
The reports of the past 10 days seem to indicate that there is a great possibility that there was some collusion after all. And perhaps we are
starting to see one of the favors that the Trump operatives may have promised Russia.
Just this week, presidential spokesperson Sean Spicer said that we must accept the political reality in Syria and so the U.S. will not call for the
removal of Syrian President Bashar al Assad who is a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Is this part of the payoff for Trump being
assisted in his election efforts by the Russian government? How can we trust anything that Trump does on the international scene? Who knows
what else may have been promised?
On the domestic front, we do have a lot to worry about in terms of federal funding for local government programming. Trump has announced his
plans to increase military spending by over $50 million and also wants to fund a border wall between Mexico and the United States. Well he
has to get the funds from somewhere else since he promised that these expenditures would be offset by corresponding budget cuts so that
there would be no increase in the federal budget deficit.
And of course, you know where Trump would make those budget cuts, on programs that impact poor people and the homeless. Bullies always
pick on the defenseless.
In his March 30th press conference, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin briefly discussed the impact that those types of federal budget cuts could have
on local programs. CDBG, Community Development Block Grants, HOMES and other federally funded programs directly impact the quality of
city life. As Soglin noted, these funds are spent providing services through our neighborhood centers. They create and maintain affordable
housing. They also assist with city planning and public health programs.
If Madison would lose these funds due to federal cuts, they would leave a $5-6 million hole in Madison’s 2018 budget, one that would be
“virtually impossible to make up,” Soglin said.
For the past 18 years, I have been a non-profit accountant specializing in neighborhood centers. I currently work in some capacity with three of
them. CDBG funds provide their core funding, funding that allows them to open their doors and provide access so that other programs the
centers operate as well as other organizations can provide vital programming for youth, seniors, people with disabilities and others. It would
be next to impossible for these centers to make up for the federal funding cuts with funds raised on the local level. It would mean that the
centers would have to drastically cut back their services to those who are most vulnerable in our communities. This is not acceptable.
As Soglin also noted, there is very little difference between the Trump Administration and the Republican-held Congress on these issues. Since
as long as I can remember, Republicans have proposed the elimination of the CDBG Program or at least serious cuts to it. This should be a
concern to anyone who lives in an urban area in this country.
And that may be our saving grace for there are Republican-led urban areas as well. And budget cuts to specific programs know no political
affiliation. Now is the time to speak up Republican mayors. The future of our cities depend on your voice.