David R. Jones (137830)
David R. Jones Credit: Contributed

It’s sad that that every time President Donald Trump does or says something outrageous or thoughtless, Republicans offer the excuse that he is new and doesn’t know what is required or expected of a president.

We hear a lot of: “He’s not a politician” or “The media is making too big a deal.” His transgressions, they argue, are only because he’s a fool, not a criminal. The essence of their defense is we should turn a blind eye to Teflon Trump’s financial conflicts of interest, erratic behavior, and dishonesty while accepting his various doses of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism.

Six months after he placed his left hand on the Lincoln Bible and took the oath of office, Trump has given the nation a low-grade fever, causing equal parts of anxiety, outrage and fear of the future. And there are still 1,272 days of the Trump presidency. We all know if President Barack Obama had done half of Trump’s antics Congress would have immediately run him from office.

Trump is exhausting, certainly, and the easy solution is to turn off cable news, advert your eyes from the latest newspaper headlines. But as the dog days of summer wane into autumn, we must play close attention to the deadly moves by the Trump administration as it seeks passage of a 2018 budget.

The budget does real damage to children, the elderly, poor people, and cities large and small. President Trump has proposed slashing $910 million in federal aid for everything from housing subsidies and homeless services to police anti-terror funding to community block grants, which are used by many New York City agencies to fund basic services. The cruel cuts expose the hypocrisy of Trump’s pledges to take care of America’s little guy.

We have reached the point where Trump needs to be held accountable for his actions. Benjamin Wittes, founder of the Lawfare blog, aptly denounces Trump’s “monomaniacal view of the relationship between the president and law enforcement,” in which the latter is there to “serve” the former.

Of course, one could argue that Donald Trump has been flouting the law and serving his own interests at the expense of others long before he was elected President. Here’s but a few examples: Trump Management Inc. defied Fair Housing laws in the 1970s by barring blacks and Puerto Ricans from renting apartments in certain Queens and Brooklyn developments, while steering them to others. During the 1980s and 1990s Trump used protracted legislation to avoid paying immigrant workers for honest work they performed on Trump Tower. And just this year, Trump University paid $25 million to settle federal lawsuits brought as far back as 2010 by former students who alleged Trump and his aides made several misrepresentations about a real estate training program taught by unqualified instructors and based on plagiarized lesson plans.

The only difference now is as President he can do a whole lot more damage. So what can be done about it?

As voters, it’s time to raise your voices to your elected representatives – both Democrats and Republicans – in New York City and Nassau and Suffolk counties. Voters must demand their Senators and Members of Congress be accountable, not obliged to the President. The truth is Trump is too unpopular nationally, and too weak in New York’s congressional districts, to scare our lawmakers.

Take a moment to call or write your Congressional representatives with pleas and protestations. Letters, emails and phone calls do make a difference because elected officials want to make sure they’re not voted out of office for doing something deeply unpopular with their constituents. Case in point: The House of Representatives late last year reversed course on a plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics after concerned citizens flooded their representatives’ office phone lines.

More recently, the collapse of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal and replace legislation was fueled, in part, by constituent emails and telephone calls. Even Republican lawmakers hell-bent on destroying the Affordable Care Act paid attention to their supporters, state representatives and governors, who favor many elements of the exiting law.

Here’s a universal truth: to force someone to change their behavior, you must show them there is a price to pay for their actions. If you keep making excuses for them, they’ll never learn. The time to hold the President accountable for his behavior is overdue.

Why are Republicans and Trump supporters willing to turn a blind eye to Trump’s many lies and monetizing of the White House? The answer is simple: they’re getting what they want out of the deal, an administration willing to turn the clock back to the 1950s. Trump and the Republican Congress seem to have one guiding philosophy: huge tax breaks for the wealthy and profitable corporations at the expense of older Americans and struggling families.

A great nation doesn’t renege on its promises to its most vulnerable citizens. And patriots don’t sit idly and allow it to happen without putting up a fight.

David R. Jones, Esq., is President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 170 years. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. The Urban Agenda is available on CSS’s website: www.cssny.org.