You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

The real national emergency is not at the border

CNN logo CNN 3/11/2019 By David Love
a person flying through the sky: A girl from Anapra, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, touches hands with a person on the United States through the border fence, during a prayer with priests and bishops from both countries to ask for the migrants and people of the area, on February 26, 2019. - Built two years ago, the Anapra fence is one of several reinforced border barriers that the administration of US President Donald Trump calls the first sections of the wall. (Photo by Herika MARTINEZ / AFP)        (Photo credit should read HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images) © HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP/AFP/Getty Images A girl from Anapra, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, touches hands with a person on the United States through the border fence, during a prayer with priests and bishops from both countries to ask for the migrants and people of the area, on February 26, 2019. - Built two years ago, the Anapra fence is one of several reinforced border barriers that the administration of US President Donald Trump calls the first sections of the wall. (Photo by Herika MARTINEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Unlike Donald Trump's manufactured crisis and his vanity wall at the Mexico border, severe income inequality and economic greed are true national emergencies. Still, the President plans to ask for $8.6 billion for the wall and a 5% cut across federal agencies -- except for defense -- in his 2020 fiscal budget.

This comes as Trump and the Republicans are waging a war against socialism as a 2020 campaign strategy, which goes against the needs of the millions of Americans who rely on government assistance to help meet their basic needs.

In yet another example of how this administration and its supporters continue to ostracize those in need, two of Trump's children took it upon themselves to talk about something they seem to have virtually no experience in: earning things.

During an interview on Fox News, Ivanka Trump, when asked about the concept of "a job with a family-sustaining wage" in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, said: "I don't think most Americans, in their heart, want to be given something. I've spent a lot of time traveling around this country over the last four years. People want to work for what they get. So, I think this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want. They want the ability to be able to secure a job."

Eric Trump told Sean Hannity that the notion that people should be given things rather than work hard for them is "almost an anti-American message."

These comments distort the helpful attributes of social programs. One of these programs is Social Security, an insurance program designed to protect against economic insecurity and the uncertainties of life by providing benefits to those who are retired, disabled, or the spouses and children of people who have died. Others are Medicare and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which 42 million people rely upon to reduce their families' food insecurity and prevent starvation.

These two grew up with silver spoons in their mouth, so they couldn't possibly know what it feels like to barely be able to -- and in some case not be able to -- pay rent or put food on the table.

And as we were reminded with President Trump's unnecessarily long government shutdown, that's the reality of most Americans.

We saw how federal workers lined up for food pantries and soup kitchens, and it only highlighted what many already knew, which is that many Americans are only one paycheck away from poverty.

The President likes to tout that his administration is responsible for the nation's low unemployment rate, but what is the use of a low unemployment rate when people cannot live on the jobs they hold?

Forty percent of Americans do not have $400 in case of an emergency expense. Drug and health care costs preclude millions from being able to afford to get sick, and public servants and first responders cannot afford to live in the communities they serve.

The United States is one of the least economically mobile of the advanced countries. Of the 50 nations with the lowest rate of upward mobility in the world, only four of them are high-income countries, and America is one of them. The myth of the land of opportunity where people pull themselves up by their bootstraps is just that -- a myth. This, in a country where one's parents' social status is a strong predictor of one's occupational success. Meanwhile, a Stanford study suggests intergenerational mobility is elusive, in which only half of children born in the 1980s can hope to earn more than their parents, down from 90% of those born in the 1940s. The US economic structure is not working out for the average American, including young people, who are steeped in $1.53 trillion in college debt with no jobs, unable to start a family or buy a home, and must take on side gigs to supplement their low-paying fulltime jobs. Forty percent of Americans hold a second job, and half of millennials, as they struggle to pay for increasingly expensive housing and college tuition, also hold a second job. As much as 30% of family's earnings are set aside to pay for childcare. As many as 44% of people on food stamps have at least one person working in the household, and 23,000 military families rely on food stamps.

Even with all of these facts, Trump filled his cabinet with millionaires and billionaires who are disconnected from the financial hardships of many Americans, such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who failed to disclose $100 million in assets and his role as director of a fund located in a tax haven fund. He said that it was an oversight. Mnuchin also profited from 16,000 foreclosures as a bank executive and spent $800,000 of taxpayers' money flying military planes on personal trips.

And Trump-appointed Alex Azar, who tripled the price of insulin as a pharma executive, is in charge of Health and Human Services.

Further, with his policies, Trump has sought punitive cuts to social services and social welfare programs, including billions to education funding -- such as literacy programs, afterschool programs and college student aid -- all in the name of "school choice" voucher funding to charter schools, replacing SNAP, or food stamps, with meal deliveries to cut costs, and deep cuts to public housing for low income people to promote "self-sufficiency."

In response, the Democrats have responded with a number of policy offerings, such as House Democrats' HR 1, legislation that targets voter suppression, redistricting, corruption and money in politics. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a Green New Deal to address climate change and inequality, a 70% marginal tax rate for the rich, and supports a living wage, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren has unveiled a universal childcare plan, and she and Sen. Kamala Harris support reparations for slavery. Many Democrats are championing Medicare for all, and Bernie Sanders supports free public college for all.

All of these proposals could help level the playing field so that the Eric and Ivanka Trumps of the world aren't the only ones who have a clear shot to success.

But instead of recognizing how these ideas could benefit Americans -- including his white working class supporters -- Republicans have put socialism on trial and returned to the traditional conservative red-baiting of government social programs meant to improve the lives of Americans. The GOP campaign was on display at the recent CPAC conference, where participants decried efforts at restoring liberal democracy, promoting social and economic justice and saving the environment as, according to former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka, a Stalinist plot to steal your hamburgers. "They want to take your pickup truck! They want to rebuild your home! They want to take away your hamburgers! This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved," Gorka said referring to the Green New Deal.

But the reality is that a new generation of Americans is not swayed by the old labels and divisive tactics. Rather, they ask themselves how they are faring in today's America, and what kind of country they want to live in. Polls have found that a majority of Democrats are more positive about socialism than capitalism, that a majority of millennials have a negative view of Trump and are positive about socialism -- preferring government intervention to improve people's lives economically rather than depending on the free market to sort things out -- while fewer than half embrace capitalism. While some would blast the social democracies of Scandinavia, your chances of achieving the "American dream" are far better in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and elsewhere in Western Europe, not to mention Canada, Australia and Japan.

Of course, income inequality in America did not begin with Trump, but because of his administration's continued attack on the programs that benefit some of the most vulnerable Americans, it has rightly become a focal point of the fight against him.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From CNN

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon