Miloslav Vlk, Trump’s Budget, Meals on Wheels, and Tim Allen on Politics

SIGNS AND WONDERS

Rest in Peace. A remarkable man died over the weekend. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Czechoslavia became a Catholic priest in 1968, at age 36. In 1978, the Czechs came under draconian communist rule, and public religious practice was outlawed. Vlk was a window-washer by day and an “underground” priest by night, performing pastoral duties at the risk of torture or imprisonment. After the fall of the Soviet Union and relaxation of tensions in Eastern Europe, Vlk became the Archbishop of Prague from 1991 to 2010. He was made a cardinal in 1994 by John Paul II. Cardinals must resign at age 80, but one of Vlk’s last official acts as a member of the College of Cardinals was to vote in favor of Joseph Ratzinger becoming Pope Benedict XVI. Vlk died March 18, at age 84.

Trump’s Budget. If you’re a conservative, there’s a lot to both love and hate about President Trump’s new budget. A lot of conservatives will welcome his “zeroing out” of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has become increasingly liberal over the years. Conservatives also generally hail the budget’s priorities, putting defense first and pushing other activities lower on the federal priority list, or turning them over to the states. But some conservatives are saying that Trump is just picking meaningless fights without addressing the real problem with our federal budget: entitlements. Peter Wallison was a Reagan administration official and is now a senior fellow at the conservative think tank The American Enterprise Institute. He says: “The Trump budget’s severe cuts in government programs will shock many in Washington. But instead of outrage, the correct reaction should be to join a coalition for entitlement reform. For decades, as entitlements have grown, the controllable parts of the budget—the parts for which Congress actually appropriates money—have become a smaller and smaller percentage of the government’s spending.”

The Forgotten Americans. Those opposed to federal spending cuts will often point to a program that does a good thing, such as Meals on Wheels, and say how terrible it is that this good thing will no longer receive federal funds. But such arguments tell only a fraction of the story. Meals on Wheels, for example, is not a single program, but a lot of programs that in the aggregate get only 3 percent of their total budget from federal funds. These funds can easily be replaced with state, local, or private charity, with a fraction of the compliance and bureaucratic costs. Also, arguments against federal budget cuts ignore that the money for even good programs comes from taxpayers who might also have been doing good, even great, things with the money. These taxpayers, who Amity Schlaes described as “The Forgotten Man” in her famous book on the Great Depression, are ignored by those who are getting their budgets cut. Also, there are unintended consequences of “free money” coming from Washington, among them a lack of local ownership of problems . . . and their solutions. I learned this sitting on an airplane more than 35 years ago, when President Reagan cut funding for an after-school program that served hundreds of children. To find out what happened next, click here.

Hollywood Hypocrisy? Comedian/actor Tim Allen’s story is, to my mind, a heroic one. His father died in a car crash—hit by a drunk driver—when Allen was 11 years old. The next dozen or more years were tough ones for him, and included a stint in prison for drug trafficking. But he has pulled his life together and had a career many actors dream about. He’s also an unabashed Republican who recently “compared rhetoric in Hollywood surrounding President Trump to Germany in the 1930s.” “You’ve gotta be real careful around here,” he said during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” “You get beat up if you don’t believe what everybody believes. This is like ’30s Germany. I don’t know what happened. If you’re not part of the group, ‘you know what we believe is right,’ I go, ‘Well, I might have a problem with that.’” Allen attended the Trump inauguration, but during the 2016 election, he supported John Kasich. In November, Allen told Fox News host Megyn Kelly: “What I find odd in Hollywood is that they didn’t like Trump because he was a bully. But if you had any inkling that you were for Trump, you got bullied for doing that. And it gets a bit hypocritical for me.”

Image copyright Richenza at Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.


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