Our Opinion: In nation's capital, threats to Great Society

It's the weekend, so many members of Congress are back in their districts. We hope they have the courage to pull off those sunglasses and speak with constituents about the many ways the House and Senate are poised to take our nation backward.

It is no longer a surprise that President Donald Trump wants to eviscerate vital regulatory functions. He signaled that when he appointed a climate-change skeptic as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

But now this week comes a proposal to cut the EPA's funding by 30.5 percent.

The question now is whether voters who put Republicans in charge of both chambers and elected Donald Trump will sit still for the massive collapse of what used to be known as the Great Society.

As the Congressional Budget Office announced this week, replacing Obamacare with a GOP-devised tax credit program would, in time, result in more than 20 million people losing health insurance.

Will voters be OK with that? Will they accept trading environmental protection for a border wall? Will they abide pumping $54 billion more into defense, instead of bolstering early childhood education, agriculture programs or medical research?

As a share of federal spending, the $3 billion provided through Community Development Block Grants — which the president seeks to eliminate — is minuscule. But as a story in The Eagle today explains, these grants help poor people and disadvantaged communities improve their economic prospects.

Threatened too are the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation creating the NEA, he said it would help America's brightest talents shine. "It is in the neighborhoods of each community that a nation's art is born," Johnson said, picking up a project his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, didn't live to see through. "In countless American towns there live thousands of obscure and unknown talents. The arts and the humanities belong to the people, for it is, after all, the people who create them."

We must tell Congress to preserve public investments that kindle invention, research and imagination.

Members of the House are averse to political pain. Those who benefit from worthwhile federal programs now threatened must speak up.

By electing this president, residents in those "countless American towns" expressed a desire for change. But now, our fervent hope is that they tell their representatives in Congress there is far more to America than munitions.


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