National service or disservice? Students weigh in on Trump’s salary donation to US education

National service or disservice? Students weigh in on Trump’s salary donation to US education
Here's some money. Source: Shutterstock

“Trump giving his pay check to education is like stealing 10 grand from someone, giving them a nickel back and asking for them to say [thanks]”. – @serial1337

While stumping for the US presidency, billionaire businessman Donald Trump said he’d work for free and would turn down the US$400,000 annual salary he’d receive to occupy the Oval Office.

In the early days of him coming to power, the White House said the full sum would be donated to charity by yearend… and that reporters would even get to decide the beneficiary. Fulfilling part of that promise, in April, Trump signed over $78,333.32 – his first quarter salary – to the National Park Service (NPS).

Last month after the second quarter, the president did it again, this time surrendering his three-month income to the US Education Department. The money is reportedly going to fund a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) camp to encourage more girls to enter these fields.

Like any and all Trump announcements, social media users, students in particular, went to town with the news.

Whilst there were many who hailed the contribution, countless others expressed anger. The gesture is a pyrrhic victory: magnanimous but fundamentally pointless.

Both the NPS and the US Education Department are under great financial strain. In his 2018 budget, Trump proposed a US$2 billion cut to the NPS and a US$9.2 billion cut to education. His declaration to donate to the NPS came just days after announcing budget cuts to the department which funds it.

Trump’s second quarter salary amounts to US$100,000, which equates to 0.001 percent of the sum he intends to cut from the Education Department’s allocation next year. This budget plan, of course, still needs to make it through Congress but the proposal predicts a daunting future for those working in the sectors Trump is currently donating to.

Collin Rugg, an American student who describes himself as ‘politically incorrect’, took to Twitter to say:

Cook, a fourth year student from Georgia, had this to say: Trump “has freely given his own earning as opposed to working towards an even further socialistic state. The self-sacrifice of doing such a demanding and difficult job as president of the United States without pay is quite an admirable decision”.

However, a surge of student Twitter users felt betrayed.

Among them were American student @justinreid777 who claimed that “anyone who thinks Trump is genuinely out to improve education because of $100k, after gutting it for $9.2bil, is a moron” and @lipglosspop who said “all the Trump supporters praising him and ignoring the fact he cut $9 billion to the department of education”. The tweet was later amended to clarify that the cuts have just been proposed and not yet implemented.

Bailey (@TweetsByBai), a student in the US, tweeted “Trump donating part of his salary to the department of education is like punching someone in the face then giving them an ice pack” and another Twitter user said ‘how gracious of Trump to throw us his scraps. Now we must bow to our “leader” and thank him, after cutting over $9 billion from education!’

To be fair, no matter what your opinion on Trump is, any decision to forgo a salary is estimable.

But there’s also this nagging argument that’s hard to ignore: that the president’s proposed budget cuts to public services across the US foreshadow a pretty dismal picture for the future of the country.

In that, the naysayers may have a point. And since both Trump’s salary donations have been to departments to be heavily impacted by his administration’s spending cuts, it seems all America can do is hope their president’s next burst of charitable inspiration won’t again come at great cost to their country’s desperately underfunded public services.

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