Virginia Riley: Who are the people for whom America is great?

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves adjusts his "Make America Great Again," face mask upon concluding his press briefing with members of the state's COVID-19 response team, to discuss the ongoing strategy to reduce and limit transmission, Monday, July 20, 2020, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

“Keep America Great.” That’s the new slogan.

But here is my question: Who are the people for which America is currently “great”?

Not people of color. From the very beginning, this administration has given legitimacy to white supremacy, with Trump referring to Mexicans as “rapists,” tweeting that four minority congresswomen should “go back” to the “corrupt countries” he said they are from, and calling neo-Nazis in Charlottesville “very fine people.” At the debate Tuesday, he told a hate group to “stand by.” These crass comments by the president have legitimized the hateful rhetoric and disdain for the lives of Black Americans that came to a head this summer with the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd.

Not women. Trump has blocked laws that promote equal pay in the workplace; dismantled reproductive health services available to women; eliminated child care for military families; slashed nutrition assistance for women, infants and children; and defended accused sexual harassers. He has paid off porn stars, called women names, talked about women as sex objects, and bragged about sexually assaulting women.

Not senior citizens. The Trump administration’s budget proposals each year have sought cuts in Social Security funding. Trump has also targeted the payroll tax that keeps Social Security going, but he has no clear plan to replace it.

Not members of the military. Trump called American war dead “losers” and “suckers.” He ridiculed Sen. John McCain for being a prisoner of war and didn’t challenge Vladimir Putin about suspected Russian bounties to kill U.S. soldiers.

Not the families of the 200,000-plus who have died so far of COVID-19. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the Trump administration had acted promptly and responsibly, and told Americans the truth. We have 4% of the world’s population, and 20% of the COVID-19 deaths.

Not the families of those who have lost jobs. The global pandemic has resulted in unprecedented levels of unemployment, through no fault of the people who are now struggling to make ends meet. While unemployment is improving, it is still high, and people are still suffering without relief.

Not small-business owners. Emergency funding did not reach many small entrepreneurs, while large and well-connected companies, some owned by members of Congress, received in aggregate over $1 billion in loans from the Small Business Administration.

Not teachers and students. Trump pushed to reopen schools, even in areas where COVID-19 numbers were rising, threatening to withhold federal funding if they did not begin face-to-face learning, all while not providing funding for protective equipment and supplies. And after proposing a budget slashing 8.4% in federal education funding.

Not taxpayers. America’s trade deficit has hit an all-time high. The federal debt has exploded. Wages for most Americans have been flat, adjusted for inflation, while the rich have become richer. The corporate tax cuts brought about by the 2017 tax reform legislation were mainly used by corporations to buy back their own stocks rather than invest in equipment, facilities or workers. The tax cuts for middle-class Americans will expire, while the cuts for corporations will not. On top of all of this, we recently learned that Trump paid only $750 in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017. Most Americans paid many times that. But then, Trump’s disdain for working Americans was evident when he said not paying taxes “makes him smart.”

Not even Christians. Trump’s separation of families at the border, his bullying, his lying, his denial of asylum to those fleeing persecution, all go against Christian beliefs. And that doesn’t include the vices rampant in his personal life: worship of money, infidelity, sexualizing his own daughter, lack of compassion, and appeals to fear and anger.

As a country we are weaker. Trump has rolled back U.S. standing and influence in the world, pulling us out of global commitments and alienating our allies while cozying up to dictators. He promised to drain the swamp, but instead appointed lobbyists, donors, and loyalists who, in many cases, know nothing about or directly oppose the very departments they run. We are more divided, more angry, more lost than we were four years ago.

“Keep America Great” would have been appropriate four years ago. “Make America Great Again” is what we need now.

Virginia Riley

Virginia Riley, Centerville, is a woman, a senior citizen, a daughter of a military veteran, a retired teacher, a taxpayer, and a Christian who is concerned about the state of the nation.