I n the category of do as I say not as I do, President Trump recently proposed cuts in the federal food stamp program right around the same time his family and business partners maneuvered to win a healthy handout from taxpayers in Mississippi to build a hotel.
The food stamp cuts will affect millions of poor people throughout the country. The handout will benefit, ugh, the Trumps.
And their business partners, of course.
Trump's food stamp cuts are based on the notion that in order to make life better for the poor we must first make it worse.
Which is much the same argument Mayor Rahm made when he closed six mental health clinics in high-crime areas on the grounds that somehow fewer mental health services would be a benefit to those who desperately need it.
The handout from Mississippi is predicated on the notion that everyone benefits when a rich man gets even richer.
That's another economic principle we see all the time around here. For instance, when Governor Rauner proposes to cut pension payments to retired clerks, cops, firefighters, and teachers, he calls it "reform."
But when he and Mayor Rahm propose to give $2.25 billion to Amazon, the world's richest company, he calls that "economic development."
In other words, a monthly payment to ordinary retirees is viewed as an albatross, weighing us down. Even if the retirees will use their pension payments to shop in local businesses in their neighborhoods.
But a payout to the world's wealthiest company is seen as an investment in our future.
The handout from Mississippi comes in the form of a $6 million tax break for a Trump hotel that a couple of developers—Dinesh and Suresh Chawla—are building in a town called Cleveland. (It's a classic Trump deal—the Chawla brothers will build the hotel and pay the Trump family to slap their name on it.)
"The Chawlas estimated that the project would draw tens of thousands of visitors, including many from out of state, and that it would eventually create more than 100 jobs," according to the New York Times.
You know, that sounds like one of those may-be-true-but-probably-not press releases Mayor Rahm releases to justify one of his TIF handouts.
In fact, I'd say this Mississippi handout is sort of Trump's TIF moment. Not TIF in the literal sense—as in Chicago's tax increment financing program. But TIF in the metaphorical sense—as in public money taken from people who need it and given to those who don't.
Trump's food stamp cuts work like this. Instead of offering electronic coupons to eligible households, as the program does now, Trump wants to deliver boxes of "shelf-stable food like cereal, peanut butter, beans and canned vegetables," as the Tribune puts it.
The president says the food boxes will wind up saving taxpayers $129.2 billion over the next ten years. If so, that's just a roundabout way of freeing up even more money for handouts like the one Trump and the Chawlas are getting to build that hotel in good ol' Mississippi.
Not surprisingly, folks in the grocery store industry are up in arms over the program. I don't blame them. If you mail food boxes to people, there will be fewer customers for the grocery stores. In the face of protests from grocery store chains, there's a good chance the food box idea will die.
Well, you don't think they'd kill it because poor people complained.
I'd say the juxtaposition of cutting food stamps for poor people with giving millions to the Trumps for a hotel is the single most hypocritical act of the year. Except there's so much competition. To pick just one example . . .
In the wake of the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, Iowa Republican senator Chuck Grassley declared: "We have not done a very good job of making sure that people that have mental reasons for not being able to handle a gun getting their name into the FBI files and we need to concentrate on that."
Well, there used to be a federal rule intended to keep mentally ill people from buying guns. Except Trump, at the National Rifle Association's urging, reversed it. And Grassley supported that reversal. So in effect Grassley was denouncing himself.
I know that Grassley's hypocrisy has no direct bearing on the issue of governmental handouts. But it just goes to show you how Republican politicians will tie themselves into knots rather than defy the NRA—a subject weighing on my mind in the aftermath of Parkland.
Actually, there is a correlation. It's yet another example of how the welfare of the many is jeopardized for the benefit of the few.
Speaking of which—I saw Rauner's latest campaign commercial where he pledges to do away with the "Madigan tax hike." That tax hike—so named for Illinois house speaker Michael Madigan—enabled the state to distribute hundreds of millions of school aid dollars. The legislature barely passed that tax hike over a veto from Rauner, who called it "a two-by-four smacked across the forehead."
The governor agreed to sign another bill that distributed the school aid only after Madigan backed a tax credit for rich people who donate to private schools. Rauner hailed that measure as—you guessed it—school reform. That word again.
My guess is that Rauner will fight like hell to kill the tax hike, even if it means less aid for schools throughout the state. But he will fight hard to keep that tax credit, whose benefit will be limited to people in his tax bracket.
It must be the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do time of the season. 'Cause there's a lot of that stuff in the air. v