The Dems and much of the media would convey the image that the White House is in chaos, that the Obamacare fiasco shows that the Republicans cannot pass legislation, and that all will change with the 2018 Congressional elections. Let’s take a closer look at what is being done.
For his last six years Barack Obama ruled by executive order rather than by compromise and legislation. That has given Trump the opportunity to uniltaterally reverse policies which he didn’t like. On the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact and the Paris Climate Agreement (which should have required Senate ratification as a treaty) Trump has simply reversed Obama’s decisions. To his credit, he has also shown a commendable willingness to take a broader view than did candidate Trump, agreeing to marginally expand our presence in Afghanistan, and possibly scrapping the deportation of young undocumented immigrants.
As expected with Greg Pruitt leading the EPA and Rick Perry leading the Energy Department, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline have been approved, approval has been given for drilling off the Alaska and Atlantic coasts, restrictions on mining and drilling on federal governmnet land are being reduced, an Obama administration directive to greatly increase auto fuel standards will be scaled back, coal is accepable, and numerous regulations on wastwater, emissions, and record keeping are being relaxed. Energy in a cornerstone of Trump’s jobs agenda.
The department of Labor is rolling back Obama’s significant expansion of workers entitled to overtime pay, and a Trump-appointed National Labor Relations Board will likely change rules to make elections to form unions more difficult. Obama-era regulations preventing states from applying drug testing for welfare beneficiaries are being repealed. Reversing an 11th hour Obama regulation, Trump has signed legislation allowing states and localities to deny funding to Planned Parenthood. The Education Department is reversing federal rules on the evaluation of schools and teacher preparation programs, returning that authority to the states.
Preparations for the upcoming overhaul of the tax code suggest that some lessons have been learned from the Repeal and Replace healthcare defeat. Top Republican leaders from the White House, the Senate, and the House have been meeting for months to frame legislation to make corporate rates more globally competitive, to repatriate a trillion dollars of American corporate profits currently sequestered overseas, to simplify individual tax returns, and to eliminate many of the more egregious lobbyist-advocated loopholes in the current system. The marketing campaign has begun; A second failure is not an option.
Most of this is fairly small stuff, adequate to keep the base happy and to marginally help the economy which has increased its growth rate to 3% after years in the 1 to 2 % range. But, it is worth taking a macro view of the few big things which are really necessary to truly Make America Great Again:
1. Reestablish our borders for legal, economic, and security reasons. While the Congress has not supported building a wall, many locales have refused to cooperate with immigration authorities, and the courts have temporarily limited the president’s power to exclude immigrants from potential terrorist havens, Trump has actually had somesuccess. “Catch and release” has been ended; illegal immigration on the southwest border is down some 50 %; a zero tolerance policy has been adopted for criminal aliens; and legal immigration is being restructured to prioritize the needs of the country rather than the needs of the immigrants. (B+)
2. ISIS is being crushed and there is reasonable hope for a Russian – Iranian – American partition agreement to end the Syrian civil war. Enough presence will be retained in Afghanistan to prevent the resurfacing of al Queda and to limit a Taliban threat to the nuclear facilities in Pakistan. (A)
3. Nuclear proliferation remains a problem. Bush ended the risk in Iraq. Obama made limited progress with Russia on the number of deployed warheads, and at least delayed the Iranian risk. Nobody has found the key to stopping North Korea, but Trump’s rhetoric has probably made success less likely. (C-)
4. During Trump’s first term the federal judiciary will be remade. Neil Gorsuch has nicely replaced Antonin Scalia; a second conservative Supreme Court appointment is likely at some point. Trump and the Senate have been slow with circuit and appeals court judges, but more than 100 “conservative acceptable” judges will be seated in the first Trump term. (B+)
5. The unsustainable $500 billion annual trade deficit is the central focus of Trump’s foreign policy – renegotiation of NAFTA; strong challenges to China, South Korea, and Germany; high profile “American jobs” agreements with Foxconn (a Taiwanese Apple supplier), Carrier air conditioners, Ford, Bayer, Amazon, and many others. (A)
6. The federal deficit of some $600 billion represents over 3% of of GDP. Trump laid down a marker witha a FY 2018 budget plan that cuts just about everything except defense; the House Budget Committee has opened their discussion with a similar objective. We can look forward to another civics lesson as Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the White House maneuver around Senate rules, “reconciliation” requirements, and the bleats of thousands of special interest groups. (B)
On policy, an A+ would require a solution on Healthcare, disarming of North Korea, and a real plan to get to balanced budgets (including Social Security and Medicare reform) at some point. And then there are style points.