Meals on Wheels vs. Presidential Security

There are a lot of popular memes going around to the effect that one weekend of Trump’s security “could pay for” Meals on Wheels. This is true in the very narrow sense that they cost approximately the same amount of money. But savings on presidential security are not necessary to “pay for” the grant that funds Meals on Wheels. A combination of federal taxation and borrowing actually pays for it, and there is no reason to think that such a solution has suddenly become impossible.

It is definitely the case that Trump is being irresponsible in spending so much time at his tacky resort. But as a general principle, presidents should not be making travel decisions based on nickel-and-diming their security costs. Nor is it plausible to believe that the Trump administration sat down, estimated its increased security costs, and found some federal programs to cut to make up the difference.

In reality, Meals on Wheels and presidential security have nothing to do with each other. Trump could go to Mar a Lago twice a week and the cost would be trivial in the context of the federal budget. The very fact that one trip “could pay for” Meals on Wheels shows that the cost of that grant is even more trivial. This means there is no legitimate budgetary reason to cut Meals on Wheels. Doing so is gratuitously cruel. The way they’ve talked about it is gratuitously cruel.

Accepting the premise that it is “about” budgetary responsibility participates in that cruelty. A cheap “gotcha” about how dumb Republicans don’t understand math is not worth the cost of even minimally acknowledging the premise that the Meals on Wheels grant is somehow problematic for the federal budget. If someone asks whether the richest country in human history can “afford” to subsidize meals for shut-ins, the only permissible reaction is horror and outrage. Don’t bring a spreadsheet to a morality fight.

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