Madison-area residents are in need of therapy, according to a Monday report in this newspaper — and not just because they are mourning the loss of a loved one, separating from a spouse, hearing voices or coping with some other deeply personal life event.
Rather, some clients — none of whom, as far as I’m aware, is named Clinton — are blaming recent feelings of fear and sadness on the surprise election of a presidential candidate who is anathema to pretty much everything liberal Madison holds dear.
When people seek counseling over who won a presidential election — even if that winner is as awful as Donald Trump — a little perspective is in order, and maybe even a silver lining.
The election of a president is a big deal. It’s a national signal of our values that can also have very personal consequences. Presidents can send our sons and daughters to war and dictate whether we get health insurance. A president’s Supreme Court picks can make it harder to get abortions and easier to get guns.
“If Trump agrees to support Rep. (Paul) Ryan’s budget, there will be substantial cuts to a wide range of federal grants programs to state and local governments, and likely reductions in federal assistance to individuals for a range of programs including housing assistance and health care,” said Andrew Reschovsky, a research fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and UW-Madison professor emeritus.
But Americans’ unhealthy addiction to the horse race, scandal and pure entertainment of national politics means coverage of the presidential election is endless, and technology makes it ubiquitous. How can the matter of Trump not be a daily concern when you can read about him on your smartphone while, say, soaking in the tub?
The power of the president to affect most of the routine challenges that usually send people to therapy, however, is not nearly as far-reaching.
Trump can’t dictate whom we love, or tell us how to raise our children or cultivate deeper friendships. Nor can he stymie our better angels, big or small.
A woman at my church has been collecting enough donations each month to support one Syrian refugee family. Just down the street at the Goodman Community Center, about 3,600 free Thanksgiving-meal baskets were distributed to needy families over the last week-plus.
Trump’s call for opening up domestic oil and gas exploration doesn’t mean Madisonians will stop biking to work or installing solar panels in the fight against climate change — much as the 2011 Republican state law hobbling public sector unions, Act 10, didn’t stop the Madison School District from continuing to make personnel and pay decisions based on union practices.
It’s also local government — not the feds — whom we rely on for much of what makes life livable. It plows the streets, educates our kids, and subsidizes economic development, among other things.
The largest portion of the average Wisconsinite’s tax dollar goes to the federal government. It took about two-thirds of the nearly $80 billion in local, state and federal taxes collected in Wisconsin in 2015, according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. But the feds generally don’t provide enough of those dollars back to significantly shape many local government services.
Madison’s 2017 budget includes about $54 million in federal funding, amounting to about 5.3 percent of the combined operating and capital budgets. Federal money accounts for only about 7.6 percent of revenues for the Madison School District in the current school year. Dane County controller Charles Hicklin said the federal money flowing to the county comes mainly in Medicaid dollars for human services needs.
A Trump presidency is understandably depressing for most Madisonians, but it doesn’t stop them from further fortifying their blue bubble of a city, even in a state that’s suddenly gone very red — and living in a bubble these days might not be such a bad thing.
Meanwhile, be thankful this holiday season Trump’s not your husband, wife, child or mayor.