Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Perhaps that is the best way to encapsulate the reaction to President Trump’s move to donate his salary to the National Park Service this week. His action represents both a promise kept and an act of charity. But is seems that just about any step by the president comes back as a slap in the face from those on the left who loathe him.
Donald Trump made the point that he did not need the taxpayer’s money, and promised throughout his campaign to take no salary as president. While the U.S. Constitution does require that the president is compensated, it does not specify how he can use that pay. President Trump promised to donate his entire salary to charity, and his first-quarter check of $78,333.32 was presented to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke as a gift from the president.
The previous plan was for Mr. Trump to donate his four-hundred-thousand-dollar annual salary at the end of the year to a charity chosen by the press. There has been no explanation for why the plan changed, but Mr. Spicer did say that the president was presented with a list by the White House Counsel’s Office and that Mr. Trump chose the National Park Service. Mr. Spicer said in the press release:
The park service has cared for our parks since 1916, and the president is personally proud to contribute the first quarter of his salary to the important mission of the park service, which is preserving our country’s national security.
While Secretary Zinke said, he was “thrilled” by the donation, not everyone was satisfied with the donation. Many point to the president’s 2018 budget proposal and the 12% decrease from the 2017 request for the Department of the Interior. In response to the gesture, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune released the following statement:
If Donald Trump is actually interested in helping our parks, he should stop trying to slash their budgets to historically low levels. This publicity stunt is a sad consolation prize as Trump tries to stifle America’s best idea. It’s a distraction that falls far short of the $12 billion needed to address the current backlog of park maintenance and does nothing to offset the almost $2 billion Trump asked Congress to cut from the Department of the Interior in his budget. America’s parks, and the people and economies they support, need real funding, not a giant fake check. Parks are a good investment and we must invest now if we want them to be around for our kids.
Brune and his minions have spoken loudly and often of their distaste for President Trump. The issue here, of course, is that Mr. Brune has apparently not read the budget. The section on the Department of the Interior begins on page twenty-seven of the proposed budget and shows clearly that President Trump does not call for a cut to the National Park Service’s share. The president’s 2018 proposal requests $11.6 billion for the Department of the Interior, which is a decrease of one and a half billion. However, the proposal explains what the cut is meant to do:
Eliminates unnecessary, lower priority, or duplicative programs, including discretionary Abandoned Mine Land grants that overlap with existing mandatory grants, National Heritage Areas that are more appropriately funded locally, and National Wildlife Refuge fund payments to local governments that are duplicative of other payment programs.
The budget goes on to detail across pages twenty-seven and twenty-eight how the budget should be spent. The National Park Service is touched on multiple times, but the most important mention – given the claim that the president doesn’t care about the deferred maintenance – is this paragraph:
Ensures that the National Park Service assets are preserved for future generations by increasing investment in deferred maintenance projects. Reduces funds for other DOI construction and major maintenance programs, which can rely on existing resources for 2018.
While the president’s donation may seem to be small compared to both the dire need it goes to meet and the president’s wealth, it should be noted that it was both a personal donation and a promise kept. Of the other forty-three men who have served as President of the United States, only two others – Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy – have donated their entire salaries as president. Some say that Donald Trump could – and should – have donated much more. Considering his wealth, he could have. But who can say how much another should give?
The purpose of Mr. Trump’s tax cut is not to hamstring the government, but to decrease each American’s tax burden. This leaves more money for everyone to be used at his or her discretion. Perhaps those who feel Mr. Trump did not give enough should donate a matching percentage of their own income to the National Park Service – or any other government agency for that matter – before demanding that his is not enough.
One thing is for sure, it’s never a virtuous act to belittle another person’s graciousness.