PROFILES IN COWARDICE Two Irish-American pols wage war against society’s weakest

“Nothing is politically right that is morally wrong.” Those words were uttered some 170 years ago by Daniel O’Connell, who scared the proverbial bejeezus out of the British government in his battle for Irish Catholic rights and on behalf of his homeland’s poor. One can easily speculate what the man dubbed “The Liberator” and the “King of the Beggars” would have thought of two Irish-American pols whose own ancestors fled the Crown’s and Parliament’s callous, cruel treatment and views of Ireland’s poor.

Enter Speaker of the US House Paul Ryan and Trump Administration Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. One might think that Ryan, he of the self-professed practicing Catholic ilk, and Mulvaney, fond of wearing jaunty little shamrock pocket squares, might have inherited the Celtic compassion gene embodied by O’Connell. But the unveiling of President Trump’s first budget is largely the work of these ersatz Irish-American boyos, and it is an unfettered plan to award the wealthiest Americans with a massive tax reduction they don’t need at the expense of those who need help most. In one of the most delusional or dishonest statements by a Washington pol in recent memory, Mulvaney asserted that he “cares about poor people.” He and Ryan have a strange way of showing it.

“The war against women” is a mantra that Democrats tried to use against Trump and his acolytes during the campaign. The words fell upon largely deaf ears among the majority of white women who helped propel Trump to victory. Flush with that triumph, the president and his Irish-American henchmen, Ryan and Mulvaney, aim to start another war – this one against poor children.
Make no mistake about it. The real architects of this heartless budget are Paulie and Mick, not Trump. Cynically calculating that slashing Social Security and Medicare would cut deeply into a cornerstone of the Republican base – older, middle-class whites – the Trump crowd looked for the softest, weakest, most voiceless target possible. They found it: Medicaid and social programs that help poor kids and poor seniors.

In an effort to defend his indefensible budget in front of Congress, Mulvaney slammed Meals on Wheels for “not showing any results.” Tell that to isolated seniors who are literally able to survive because of the program.

Glenn Thrush, of The New York Times, chided Mulvaney for asserting that “the elimination of children’s food programs” is necessary “because it doesn’t lead to ‘demonstrable’ improvement in school performance.” Is his point that depriving poor kids of the only meals that many get all day will give them the “opportunity” to show some initiative and lift themselves out of poverty and put food on the table? Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like a tall order for a first grader.

Mulvaney – bear in mind that any mention of Mulvaney includes his compatriot Ryan, aka Mr. Ayn Rand – pushed back against charges that their budget is “hard-hearted.” Mulvaney’s response? “No, I don’t think so. It’s one of the most compassionate things we can do.”

Thanks, Mick. Now I understand why gutting CHIP, the program that provides health services for poor and disabled kids, to hand billions in tax cuts – excuse me, “tax reform” – to the Trumps and the rest of the one-percent is “compassionate.” After all, America’s wealthiest families have suffered long enough. It’s time for impoverished kids to make it up to billionaires. In Ryan’s credo of the “makers versus the takers,” poor kids and poor seniors are “takers” who must be defeated at all costs. These leeches, he seems to be saying, must be yanked off the skin of our economy.

Ryan, Mulvaney, and Trump want to turn the so-called safety net into a safety strand. Here’s their math: Slice $192 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), $21 billion from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare), and a stunning $800 billion from Medicaid (the health program for the poor). George W. Bush’s phrase “fuzzy math” comes to mind with the following from Mulvaney: “We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs. We are going to measure compassion and success by the number of people we help get off those programs and get back in charge of their lives.” Rarely has any politician’s definition of “compassion” been so wan – unless one believes that it’s time for poor pre-schoolers, grade school children, and teens to lift the financial burden from heirs and heiresses with such names as Trump, Kushner, Koch, et al.

Mulvaney revealed one shard of truth when he said that Trump bluntly made the case for what he would do as president and that is what the budget proves. Trump did say that he would leave Social Security and Medicare alone; however, Mulvaney fails to mention that Trump also promised to leave Medicaid alone.

Here’s a “modest proposal” (let’s hope that Mulvaney and Ryan have not taken Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” to heart): In 2018, the Kennedy Library should offer a counterweight to the Profile in Courage Award and entitle it the Profile in Cowardice Award. High among the nominees for the latter would be Paul Ryan and Mick Mulvaney. They richly deserve such consideration, for who except a coward would declare war on poor kids?

Again, the words of Daniel O’Connell peal as loudly and as sonorously today as they did in the mid-nineteenth century: “Nothing is politically right that is morally wrong.”