Montana Politics

The Trump Effect — there goes our economy

Written by Sue Malek
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When Mr. Trump was building his now bankrupt Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, he was also buying an airline and a cruise ship and, of course, spending money like flowing water. Big banks in New York and Boston realized they were way over-extended to a big spender who was unable to pay his debts.

Trump and the bankers made a deal. The banks would take ownership of the Trump name. They would put him on a stipend of about $450,000 a month. They would build hotels and resorts, call them “Trump” this or that and pay him a portion of the profits, in addition to his monthly stipend.

The banks bailed out Donald Trump when he owed over a billion dollars and couldn’t make the $200,000 monthly interest payments. You and I, dear friend, would lose all but the bare essentials if we were underwater in debt because of a health emergency or overly costly mortgage. We would be humiliated to admit our bankruptcy to friends and family. We would do everything we could to pay back as many people we could.  But not the Donald.

Donald Trump proved that rewarding the bad actors makes the economy less fair for us all. He declared bankruptcy three more times.

The author of CHICKENSHIT CLUB was recently interviewed on Charlie Rose. He contends that our super-bright and well-educated US Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys are failing to file criminal charges against white collar criminals like those who led the 2008-2009 financial crisis. DOJ is fining banks and corporations but not filing criminal chargers against perpetrators. CEOs whose unethical behavior resulted in hundreds of thousands of Americans losing their jobs, their retirements, their homes, and their health insurance walk free with millions in their pockets.

I’m worried about that policy, but currently I’m more worried that Donald Trump is in charge of our economy. A recent Rockefeller Foundation study notes that 21 states, including Montana, are experiencing a budget shortfall in income taxes. Rich people are not paying the taxes they usually pay. They are delaying taking profits waiting for Trump’s proposed big tax cuts for the wealthy. Economists call it the “Trump Effect.”

This year, the Montana legislature passed SB 261 which mandated automatic state government cuts should tax income decline. So, here’s what’s happening in Montana according to a July 26 Missoulian article:

Each state agency, receiving general fund dollars, must cut its budget by 5% each of the next two years and conserve an additional 6% by cutting personnel.

$30 million was recently transferred from the $68 million state Fire Fund to help alleviate budget shortfalls.

Montana State Library: $309,178 cuts each year because of mandated cuts for all state agencies. $681,000 additional cuts because of low tax income.

Montana Historical Society:  $400,000 cuts mandated for all agencies plus $600,000 per year in cuts triggered by a shortage of revenue. Guided tours of the capitol will no longer be available.

Employees:  $22 million appropriated for 1% state employee raises (1% in February 2018 and 1% a year later).  Budget shortfalls mean agencies will have to find the money within their reduced budgets.

Public Schools:  $19 million total cut over two years including $3.1 million for data achievement programs and $500,000 for secondary vocational education. $2.8 million cut from block grants, with the idea schools will make up the shortfall with local taxes.

$5.8 million K-12 Facilities assistance will be canceled in fiscal year 2019, but under a new law school districts will be allowed to levy up to 10 mills to pay for facilities.

Department of Public Health and Human Services: $14 million cut this year from its two-year budget of just over $1 billion.

Cut funding for 200 new nursing home beds which were funded to reduce a waiting list of more than 500.

Cut $1 million from programs to help adults and children with severe health problems manage their health care.

Cut 3.47% from Medicaid providers (doctors, groups homes, nursing home, etc.)

Department of Corrections:  $3 million reduction in contracts with pre-release and treatment centers and the private prison in Shelby.

No increased taxes on tobacco or on people making more than $250,000 a year, but impacts in local communities like Missoula where Opportunity Resources (ORI) which keeps disabled folks active in the community will be cut.

According to their director Ken Brown, reductions of more than $400,000 will result from the most recent proposed budget cuts.  Previously, the nonprofit shuttered an electronic waste recycling facility, sold a group home, cut administration and leased out a donated working ranch they had hoped to use to train clients.

About the author

Sue Malek

Sue Malek is a second term senator in the Montana legislature. She retired after 24 years managing an academic advising office at UM. She served as president of the UM staff union for two years and chair of the Missoula City Government Study Commission for another two years. Public service is a way of life, she says.

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