Local and state leaders are blasting GOP White House occupant Donald Trump’s demand to yank federal dollars from New York, Seattle, and Portland, Ore.—cities Trump says are consumed by anarchy—as a campaign gimmick.
One top union leader adds in a tweet that another fiscal threat comes from the GOP-run U.S. Senate and its refusal to send aid to cash-strapped states and cities.
On Sept. 16, Trump ordered his officials to compile how much money goes to the three Democratic-run cities, so that he could order it stopped. All of those cities, of course, send much more in dollars to the federal government than they receive in return.
In line with his “law and order” campaign theme—a phrase directly lifted from 1968 racist presidential hopeful George Wallace—Trump charged the three cities descended into anarchy because city officials refused to turn their cops loose to crack down and crack heads among Black Lives Matter protesters.
His memo told Attorney General William Barr, who has been a Trump lapdog, Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to identify cities “that have permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract these criminal activities (anarchist jurisdictions).”
They cite as the jurisdictions’ “refusals” the redirecting of some police funding to social services, declining to prosecute peaceful protesters, and refusing to “cooperate” with federal agents.
Studies show 92% of all the protests have been peaceful since the start of mass marches nationwide after George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis cop on Memorial Day. But pro-Trump white nationalists have infiltrated the other marches, causing and inciting violence, smashing store windows, setting fires, and threatening the peaceful protesters with guns.
In response, Trump sent federal agents, from the Border Patrol and ICE, to Portland in particular, with unmarked cars and vans. But they didn’t arrest the white nationalists.
Those agents seized and held BLM protesters, often for hours. All that wasn’t enough for Trump, so he ordered his regime to see if it could stop federal cash to the three cities, plus Washington, D.C., in his initial denunciation of anarchy on Sept. 2. He later dropped D.C.
The sums are not small, but they’re also not an overwhelming part of city budgets, either. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s latest report on the city’s finances said the federal government accounted for just over $2 billion of the $32 billion in city revenues since the start of this calendar year, including estimates through Dec. 31.
While Stringer had no comment on Trump’s threat, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, and Seattle Mayor Jenny Barkan all denounced it. New York State Attorney General Letitia James says she’ll take Trump to court if he tries such a stunt. All six officials are Democrats, not coincidentally.
In a joint statement, the mayors called Trump’s threat “thoroughly political and unconstitutional” and said he’s “playing cheap political games with congressionally directed funds.”
“Our cities are bringing communities together. Our cities are pushing forward after fighting back a pandemic and facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, all despite recklessness and partisanship from the White House. What the Trump administration is engaging in now is more of what we’ve seen all along: Shirking responsibility and placing blame elsewhere to cover its failure.”
James stated Trump “is using the last few months of his presidency to sow more chaos, more hatred, and more fear… This designation is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to scare Americans into voting for a commander-in-chief who is actually incapable of commanding our nation.” She added Trump “should be prepared to defend this illegal order in court, which hypocritically lays the groundwork to defund New York and the very types of law enforcement President Trump pretends to care about.”
Henry Garrido, president of AFSCME District Council 37, which represents the largest worker group in the Big Apple, agreed with the governors, mayors, and James. But he warns about another threat to the federal funding: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“@senatemajldr is trying to leave before the elections w/o providing COVID aid. This means cuts for essential public services needed to beat the pandemic & safely reopen the economy. Call 1-888-981-9704 & demand action. #FundtheFrontLines #DoYourJob #COVIDRelief” Garrido tweeted.
McConnell refuses to let lawmakers even debate the House-passed $3 trillion Heroes Act, which channels additional economic relief, including aid to jobless workers and $1 trillion to cash-strapped cities and states around the U.S. The workers and the governments need the funds to keep going through the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic depression.
Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.