That’s right, the president, facing pressure from everyone — because who cuts money to the fucking Special Olympics? — reversed course on a proposed $17.6 million cut, roughly ten percent of the organization’s budget.
What makes this even dumber is that the actual budget Congress passes — if it actually manages to pass one — would certainly not have contained such a cut. Because even if they hate the Special Olympics, congresspeople have no desire to let their future electoral opponents air an ad accusing them of taking money from disabled kids.
On his way to Michigan for a rally, Trump, newly wary of how such a cartoonishly callous move would play in the press, announced the reversal.
“I’ve been to the Special Olympics, I think it’s incredible, and I just authorized a funding [sic]. I heard about it this morning I have overridden my people. We’re funding the Special Olympics.”
It’s unclear why he had only heard about the controversy that morning. Presumably, one of those “people” is education secretary Betsy DeVos, who was roasted by congressional Democrats days earlier.
In a caustic statement released after her testimony, she said “There are dozens of worthy nonprofits that support students and adults with disabilities that don’t get a dime of federal grant money.
“Given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations,” she continued. The funding DeVos wanted to cut from the program amounts to 0.0275 percent of this year’s proposed overall budget for the Department of Education.
So if “current budget realities” sounded like bullshit then, the president all but confirmed it by changing his mind. A development DeVos, likely eager for the controversy to just go away, welcomed.
“I am pleased and grateful the President and I see eye to eye on this issue and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant,” DeVos’ statement said. “This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.”
In a matter of days, DeVos went from framing herself as a responsible budgetary steward to a behind-the-scenes agitator for more funding. The president, for his part, came across as clueless and weak, not exactly qualities he’s built his brand on. And because the controversy was entirely of their own making, they couldn’t even blame Democrats.
So the Special Olympics will get its federal money, which is good. But lest you think this story has a happy ending, Trump is still proposing less politically toxic cuts to the Department of Education’s overall budget that nevertheless amount to 10 percent of last year’s funding. It’s bad, but in a less obvious way, so the chances of the Trump administration being bullied into doing the right thing are slim to none.