“When you start looking at places that we reduce spending, one of the questions we asked was can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no,” Mulvaney said yesterday morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
Later that day, CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Mulvaney for clarification.
“Just to follow-up on that, you were talking about the steel worker in Ohio, coal worker in Pennsylvania, but they may have an elderly mother who depends on the Meals on Wheels program or who may have kids in Head Start,” Acosta said. “Yesterday, or the day before, you described this as a hard-power budget. Is it also a hard-hearted budget?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Mulvaney replied. “I think it’s probably one of the most compassionate things we can do.”
“To cut programs that help the elderly and kids?” Acosta asked.
“You’re only focusing on half of the equation, right? You’re focusing on the recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place,” Mulvaney explained. “And I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not gonna ask you for your hard-earned money, anymore, single mother of two in Detroit … unless we can guarantee to you that that money is actually being used in a proper function.’”
Critics were quick to note, however, that the proposed budget plan covers only discretionary not mandatory spending, as New York‘s Eric Levitz notes. “By itself, this budget has no impact on taxes — it just transfers federal spending from programs that directly benefit working families to ones that don’t,” he wrote. “And the Trump administration has expressed no interest in significantly cutting payroll or sales taxes, which make up the bulk of many a Detroit resident’s tax burden.”
When asked about Meals on Wheels, Mulvaney said the food delivery service, which is part of the Community Development Block Program block grants the federal government gives to the states, was not producing results.
“Meals on Wheels sounds great,” he said. “That’s a state decision to fund that particular portion, to take the federal money and give it to the states and say, look, we to want give you money for programs that don’t work. I can’t defend that anymore. We cannot defend that anymore. I can’t defend that anymore. We cannot defend that anymore. We’re $20 trillion in debt. We’re going to spend money, we’re going to spend a lot of money but we’re not going to spend it on programs that cannot show they deliver the promises that we’ve made to people.”
A Washington Post data reporter pointed out that research does, in fact, suggest Meals on Wheels is an effective program:
Another critic was even harsher. “Honestly, I would have more respect for the man if he’d stood up on stage with a stock pot and said the administration had decided that the poor should be boiled into bone broth,” wrote Jordan Weissmann, Slate‘s senior business and economics correspondent. “At least then he’d have the courage of his convictions.”