There’s a zinger in the Biblical book of Matthew that goes, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” While I doubt Jesus was addressing a slow-starting American president a couple of millennia later, the rhetorical hyperbole is unfolding right before our eyes in Washington.
Remember how Trump fought with the National Park Service about his inauguration crowd size? Or, how Trump, an avid Twitter user, took away social media privileges from the National Park Service and other science-minded government agencies? Who can forget the president’s terrible budget proposal released last month that’ll “Make America Great Again” by slashing what makes our country great in the first place? Among those is, to nobody’s surprise, the National Park Service; the Interior Department would face a 12 percent drop in funding, and deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and Army Corps of Engineers means that Park Rangers would have to do more with less in order to maintain federally-protected public land.
Trump seems to be giving Park Rangers a stone in comparison as he finally follows through with his campaign promise of donating his $400,000 presidential salary. At a press conference April 3, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer handed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke an oversized check for $78,333. A press release by Zinke indicated that the money will go to preserving national battlefields, a valuable asset often ignored in favor of preserving national parks. Zinke also stated that, “We’re about $229 million behind in deferred maintenance on our battlefields alone.” So much for loving our country’s selfless warriors as we put “America First.”
This drop in the bucket of funding is an obvious publicity stunt without the risks of a stunt. It attempts to distract from the fact that, on paper, Trump doesn’t seem to care about the things he claims to value in this country. The military? Though his budget boosts defense spending overall, it comes with no input from the Armed Forces and leaves the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers with deep cuts as he tries to partially replace these cuts with a border wall. Veterans? Trump proposed boosting the Department of Veterans affairs by a mere 6 percent while the healthy Homeland Security and Defense Departments get 7 percent and 10 percent increases, respectively, not to mention Trump’s insulting past comments about veterans’ mental health. Urban core neighborhoods? Ben Carson is in charge of Housing and Urban Development.
So with this minuscule check, Trump continues a pattern of claiming dedication to the United States without actually demonstrating it. If his proposed funding and past statements didn’t make it obvious, his golfing trips to Mar-a-Largo nearly every weekend paints a picture as clear as his tacky 6 foot tall portraits of himself, paid for with donated money, of course. Perhaps Congress can see if the Holman rule, which allows them to reduce a federal employee’s salary to one dollar, works on the president. Perhaps then the National Park Service or the National Endowment for the Arts can have $400,000 thrown their way, or worse yet, none at all.