“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” — Albert Schweitzer
“We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.” — Ellen DeGeneres
“I do not challenge the conservatism of this administration. I do challenge its failure to exhibit a compassionate conservatism that adapts itself to the realities of a society ridden by class and race distinction.” – Vernon E Jordan, Jr., (1981) in response to conservative cuts under Reagan to programs designed to help the needy
“Compassionate conservatism is dead; Trump and his band of backward-thinking devotees killed it.” –– Charles M. Blow, New York Times, 23 February 2017
Definition of ‘compassion’: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. – Merriam-Webster
Last month, as Trump sent his preliminary budget to Congress, White House Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, made the following statement:
“The president knows who his voters are. His voters are folks who pay taxes as well. And I think for the first time in a long time, you have an administration that is looking at the compassion of both sides of the equation. Could I, as a budget director, look at the coal miner in West Virginia and say, ‘I want you please to give some of your money to the federal government so that I can give it to the National Endowment for the Arts?’ I just think we finally got to the point in the administration where we couldn’t do that.”
Never mind that the money spent on such things as the arts and PBS might well be the key to helping educate that coal miner’s children so that they can grow up to have a better life than their father. And never mind that the money saved by dropping the arts and PBS is earmarked to go toward military expansion. Apparently Mr. Mulvaney would have no problem asking that coal miner for some of his money to build more tanks, planes and warships.
But it doesn’t even end there. The budget calls for cuts to other humanitarian programs:
- Meals on Wheels – delivers meals to individuals, typically elderly people at home who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals.
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance – helps low-income families pay their heating bills.
- The Choice Neighborhoods program – rejuvenates public housing and provides a safe space for low-income families to live in their communities.
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) – assists with healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five.
- The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) – provides emergency food assistance for Americans living in poverty.
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers – helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers students a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to low-income families.
- The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant – provides up to $4,000 per year for low-income students trying to pay for college.
The Trump budget calls for significant cuts, and in some cases complete de-funding, of each of these humanitarian causes, and yet Mick Mulvaney calls it a ‘compassionate’ budget. It isn’t as if, by cutting the above programs, taxes will be reduced on the struggling middle class, or on that coal miner Mulvaney is so concerned about, since the funds will simply be shifted to the expanded military budget. Little Donnie wants more tanks and army men to play with but cares not a whit about people starving or freezing to death.
“You’re only focusing on half of the equation. Right? You’re focusing on recipients of the money,” Mulvaney said to a reporter who balked at his “compassionate” defense of the cuts. “We’re trying to focus on both the recipients and the folks who give us the money in the first place, and I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard earned money anymore”. But MICK … you will still be taking our hard-earned money, just to provide unnecessary and costly military equipment instead of food, shelter and heat for people … human beings. How the Sam Heck do you call that compassionate?
Might I inform you, Mick, as a citizen, a voter, and a long-time taxpayer, that I would much prefer my tax dollars going to feed, shelter, clothe, and educate people in need than to expand an already bloated military! Would you mind listening to me? I believe, that put that way, at least 75% of my fellow-citizens will agree with me!
For eighty-two days now … 82 long, tiresome, contentious, stressful days, we have been subjected to ludicrous lies, ‘alternative facts’, petulant temper tantrums, destructive policy proposals, and worse. Now, add to the list the re-definition of certain words, starting with the word ‘compassion’. In the Not-So-Brave-New-World of Trump & Company, compassion no longer means concern or caring about others. I do not know quite what it does mean to Messrs. Trump and Mulvaney, but it does not really matter, for it will likely take on another new meaning in a week or so.
In the words of poet Harley King: “Nothing stays the same and nothing changes. What is old today will be new tomorrow. What is new today will be forgotten tomorrow.”