Ruthless, an adjective once used to describe Bobby Kennedy before he purposefully softened his demeanor to pursue the presidency in 1968, is more commonly attached to unscrupulous businessmen who never let sympathy get in the way of achieving their goals.
President Trump's first budget outline - a draconian document released Wednesday that slashes programs that for decades have aided America's poor and protected the environment - makes it clear that voters who wanted a ruthless businessman to run the country have gotten their wish.
Unfortunately, many of those same voters may become victims of Trump's slash-and-burn approach to discretionary spending. For example, his list of agencies whose funding he wants to eliminate includes the Appalachian Regional Commission, which for 50 years has provided assistance to residents of one the nation's most impoverished areas.
Also on the list is the Legal Services Corporation, which helps poor people with civil litigation; the Corporation for National and Community Services, which funds Americorps, Senior Corps, and other organizations that provide hands-on assistance to Americans in need; and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, whose mission focuses on helping veterans, families, and youth.
Eliminating those four agencies would cut federal spending by about $1.3 billion, which isn't close to the $54 billion Trump wants to add to the defense budget. But he also would eliminate funding for about 16 other independent agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
It doesn't stop there. Trump would also cut the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 30 percent; the State Department, 29 percent; Agriculture, 21 percent; Labor, 21 percent; Justice, 20 percent; Health and Human Services, 16 percent; Commerce, 16 percent; Education, 14 percent; Transportation, 13 percent; Housing and Urban Development, 12 percent; Interior, 12 percent.
"You can't drain the swamp and leave all the people in it," said White House budget director Mick Mulvaney. What a disingenuous statement. The "swamp" voters want drained remains filled with lobbyists and cronies who hold Washington in their thrall. Voters didn't ask Trump to drain the life's blood out of agencies that are keeping the air clean and educating children.
Fiscal conservatives are criticizing Trump's "skinny budget" for not addressing the deficit. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget pointed out that the non-defense discretionary spending, which Trump wants to cut, accounts for only 15 percent of federal spending. The Concord Coalition noted that instead of saying how he will pay for the infrastructure program he has promised Trump's budget would cut regular transportation spending.
Trump's cuts to the NEA, NEH, and public broadcasting would bludgeon organizations associated with liberal orthodoxy, an anathema to many in his base. But other cuts would hurt rural areas that turned out for him. The House measure Trump supports to replace Obamacare would similarly make it harder for many of his less affluent supporters to get health care.
The president seems to care only about getting his way no matter who is hurt. That's the definition of ruthlessness.