On Tuesday, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stood at the briefing room podium, explaining to the American public the righteousness behind $274 billion dollars worth of cuts to welfare programs helping the hungry, the young, the poor and working class—all part of the administration’s “Taxpayer First” budget.
Budgets, as they say, are moral documents, and the White House was apparently prepared for criticism that a massive, upward redistribution of wealth—from the pockets of America’s needy to the (already quite full) coffers of its rich—did not appear to be a particularly ethical crusade.
Mulvaney, tasked with selling a budget that my colleague Russell Berman concludes is decidedly his own handicraft, highlighted that this budget shows “compassion” to those paying for social safety net programs, and that, furthermore, the definition of what exactly constitutes “compassion” is … changing:
“We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs,” Mr. Mulvaney said Monday. “We are going to measure compassion and success by the number of people we help get off of those programs and get back in charge of their own lives.”
At the very same time that Mulvaney was making the moral argument for these cuts, his boss, President Trump, was flying to Italy—where, among other things, he is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis on Wednesday. For an administration has already struggled mightily on the subject of ethics (whether economic or otherwise), Trump’s confab with the pontiff may present a significant challenge to the core values of this nascent presidency.