By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – This is where ignorance leads.
The new health care plan conceived by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and the budget proposed by President Donald Trump have been called many things.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
Assaults on the poor, the old and the sick.
A betrayal of the rural Americans who voted Trump into office.
A huge giveaway to the wealthy and corporate classes.
All these things are true, but there’s an even larger struggle going on.
Together, Ryan’s health coverage plan and Trump’s budget represent a war on knowledge. If there is anything that ties these proposals together, it is a belief that facts simply don’t matter.
This shouldn’t be a surprise.
Time and again, when confronted with verified information that contradicts one of his assertions, the president has demanded that reality yield to dark fantasy.
When he’s told that an American’s chance of being killed by a refugee terrorist is one in 3.64 billion – that, in fact, we’re far more likely to perish by lightning strike, collapsing furniture or, for that matter, the maladjusted family member or neighbor with easy access to firearms – Trump responds by ordering an unconstitutional travel ban.
When he’s shown evidence that undocumented immigrants pay more than twice as much in taxes as they consume in government services and that they are no more likely to commit crimes, violent or otherwise, than anyone else, he reacts by screaming for a wall to be built.
When he confronts hard numbers that show we’re amid the fourth-longest period of economic expansion in American history – and that, in a couple of months, it will move into third place – he caterwauls about “carnage” and calls for draconian fiscal responses as if this were the Great Depression and he were Herbert Hoover.
In each instance, in Donald Trump’s America, fact must surrender to fiction, concrete reality to fevered imagination.
This might be the stuff of comedy – Barney Fife fantasizing he’s Dirty Harry – except for a couple of things.
The first is that millions of Americans did and have placed their faith in this president. Many, if not most, of them were the folks who haven’t shared in this prolonged period of economic expansion. They are the Americans who are taking on second and third jobs to hold onto the lifestyle either they once enjoyed or that their parents did.
They saw Donald Trump as the vehicle for restoring their grip on the good life.
But, whether they realize it or not, this president already has sold them out.
The cynicism accompanying that sellout took place is breathtaking.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s explanation for why deep cuts – so deep in some cases that they eliminate entire programs – were necessary for education, meals on wheels and public schools so that huge tax cuts for the upper crust could be preserved relied on a special kind of brass. Mulvaney said he was defending the interests of the single mother in Detroit.
In other words, that single mother should learn to live without luxuries like good educational experiences for her children and cost-effective meal and check-in services for her elderly parents so that the members of the billionaire class can afford that desperately needed third yacht.
The worried Americans who voted for Trump deserve better than this.
The second reason this is tragic is it runs against the current of the American experiment.
This country is a product of the Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason. The founders of this nation devised a system of government in which truth and falsehood could joust in the faith that wisdom and justice would emerge from the contest.
At the heart of that faith, though, must be a conviction that facts matter.
That the truth matters.
Now, in too many instances – preventing the Centers for Disease Control from gathering data about gun-related injuries, hampering budget agencies from collecting information about the cost of altering various healthcare policies – we Americans have a government that tries to prevent us from discovering facts.
From finding the truth.
That leaves us in a place where we’re asked to embrace tragic absurdities such as notions that old people don’t need food, sick people don’t need care and poor people are the only ones who should sacrifice.
Yes, this is where ignorance leads.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.