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Capuano: Trump budget poses challenges for local government

Yawu Miller | 5/31/2017, 10:35 a.m.
The Trump administration released a budget last week that proposes deep cuts to federal programs and taxes on the rich ...
Michael Capuano Banner file photo

The Trump administration released a budget last week that proposes deep cuts to federal programs and taxes on the rich while increasing spending on the nation’s military — a controversial move that earned him praise from his base of conservative supporters and condemnation from Democrats and progressives.

In Massachusetts, where federal funding accounts for nearly a quarter of the state budget, the Trump administration’s proposed budget would cut an estimated $1 billion out of the $40 billion state budget, affecting spending in areas including housing, education, infrastructure, food stamps and health care.

The Banner spoke with Congressman Michael Capuano, who represents the 7th Congressional District, which includes much of Boston, Cambridge and Milton as well as Chelsea, Everett, Randolph and Somerville.

The Trump budget proposed deep cuts to many programs your constituents depend on. Do you think Americans are paying attention to his proposals?

Michael Capuano: I hope so. People need to pay attention. The reality does not necessarily match the rhetoric. That’s what they’re finding out with this, and across the board — on infrastructure, on immigration — the rhetoric is easy. Anybody can say what they want to do. But this administration hasn’t come close to accomplishing anything they promised they would do.

This is a classic example. They promised they would repeal and replace Obamacare and keep all the stuff that you would like. They haven’t even come close. They’re going to go out of their way to hurt millions of Americans if this law becomes effective. I don’t think it will. However, we still have an administration that can undermine the current law by not funding it. We’re not out of the woods, no matter how you look at it.

How might this play out in Massachusetts?

MC: Every city and town will be affected, by the cuts that are proposed, if they’re adopted. That’s part of the fight we’re having. This is so broad and so deep, it will impact pretty much everything that the federal government does which has some impact on many of the things that the average person accepts as normal.

It’s over a billion dollars’ worth of cuts to the commonwealth. We would have a hard time absorbing that. Even if we could do it for one year, could we do it continuously?

How might this budget affect Americans’ view of the Republican agenda?

MC: It won’t hit home, unless it gets adopted. Then it will hit home hard and fast, but it will be too late to do anything about it.

I think an awful lot of Americans are waking up every day and realizing they’ve been bamboozled.

Do you think Americans support increased military spending?

MC: I think everybody supports a strong military. So do I. The question is never whether we have a strong military. The question is using the money wisely to have the right military that is appropriately strong. Do we really need to have extra planes in the sky that we already control? No country in the world can compete with us in the sky. Do we need extra ships that even the navy says they don’t need or don’t want? Those are the questions we need to ask.

We already have the strongest military in the history of mankind. We need to keep it that way. I have no problem with that. But that doesn’t mean you just throw money at it.

How do Americans feel about tax cuts for the rich?

MC: It’s hard to say. In Massachusetts, people have seen through the lie of so-called supply-side, trickle-down economics — that if you give tax cuts to the rich, they’ll spend more money in your neighborhood. We’ve heard that for too long. We’ve never seen it work. That doesn’t mean the other side is going to stop. They’re going to keep saying the same old nonsense.

People in Massachusetts know that doesn’t work. The rest of the country has woken up to that. Everybody loves the rhetoric of cutting taxes. Everybody does. That’s across the board. And the Republicans are real good at using that. But to be a responsible public servant, you have to tell the truth: that taxes are needed to provide the services people want. If you’re not willing to pay for something as a society, you can’t have it.

Tax cuts will always be on the table. Taxes are a good piñata.