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The GOP's mean streak

President Barack Obama was fond of saying, in the aftermath of racist or other obnoxious incidents against fellow Americans, that such behavior does not represent who we are as a people.

But one wonders if that still holds today.

An unchecked meanness has taken hold throughout the land, encouraged by the presidential campaign and election of Donald Trump. It includes a despicable targeting of Muslims and Mexicans, the probable and unconscionable deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants and a loathsome willingness to disregard those who need government help the most.

Many in the Republican Congress have taken their cue from their mercurial leader and signed on to a pattern of ignoring not only what their constituent base wants and needs, but what most Americans expect from their government after eight years of expanded medical care, climate change control efforts and limits on Wall Street greed, among other benefits.

A literal turn away from the care and feeding of Americans was embodied in the now-defunct legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. But that spirit remains in the president's proposed $1.1 trillion budget, which will gut government agencies and cut benefits to many of those who voted for Mr. Trump while rewarding the wealthy with tax cuts.

Like the poorly conceived attempt to eviscerate Obamacare, the proposed national budget was put together by House Speaker Paul Ryan, once hailed as a policy paragon. The 40-member Freedom Caucus and Republican moderates who helped defeat Trumpcare wiped the ubiquitous smirk off Mr. Ryan's face.

Obamacare has flaws, true. But it is beyond understanding how any elected official could propose fewer health care benefits for those who most need it in exchange for cutting billions of dollars in taxes for the wealthy. That's Robin Hood in reverse. Where is the compassion?

And the proposed budget? How can anyone justify the description of a budget that most hurts the weak and the poor as putting "America first" when so many Americans have been designated last? Where is the humanity?

Whose America is this?

The already bloated Pentagon, always the darling of Republicans enthralled with and probably paid for by the military-industrial complex, gets No. 1 priority in the budget with a 10 percent funding increase. This on top of a predicted $30 billion the Defense Department is to get in a supplemental budget for this fiscal year. The rich truly get richer.

The Department of Homeland Security would get a 7 percent boost in spending, with most of the $2.8 billion increase earmarked for a start on building the unnecessary Great Wall of America along the Mexican border that the U.S. taxpayer will pay for, not the Mexicans — despite another of Mr. Trump's empty campaign pledges.

Don't the Republicans remember the admonition by their onetime hero, Ronald Reagan, to then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev "to tear down this wall" between what was then East and West Germany? Yet the United States of America, once the leader of the free world and a beacon for the destitute, plans to erect a barrier against its third largest trading partner. Will Canada be next?

The biggest cut of all, 31 percent, was reserved for the Environmental Protection Agency. Its regulations safeguard our air and water and reduce pollutants and carbon dioxide in the face of a warming planet whose threat to the lives and livelihoods of this and future generations are being dismissed by the Trump administration. EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt is intent on decimating the very agency he was appointed to supervise.

The first draft of the budget will be followed later in the spring by a more inclusive document that is expected to contain proposals on taxes and the biggest proportion of government spending that goes to what are called entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

If the late American Health Care Act is any guide, we're in for another wrenching debacle.

Richard C. Gross, a former foreign and Pentagon correspondent and foreign editor of United Press International, is a former opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun. His email is rcg51@comcast.net.

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