Originally published April 4, 2016
Donald J. Trump’s first presidential term had started with such promise. He had ascended to the highest office in the land based upon his business acumen and as a man of the people. A billionaire populist, he would use his negotiating skill on behalf of the general citizenry. The American public, as he had convinced it during the campaign, was tired losing and being governed by “stupid people.”
Trump took office in January 2017, following 83 consecutive months of job growth and an increase of over 13 million private sector jobs under the outgoing Obama Administration. He inherited a growing economy and shrinking budget deficits.
So what happened?
Don’t tax but spend
Trump made good on his promise to maintain popular middle class entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, etc.), but also on his promise to cut taxes for everyone. This translated into a miniscule tax cut for lower income earners, but huge one for those in the upper income brackets. As accurately predicted by the Tax Policy Center, the highest-income 0.1 percent of taxpayers got an average tax cut of more than $1.3 million while middle-income households only received an average tax cut of $2,700. Although he campaigned like a would-be traitor to his class, the Donald’s tax plan oddly benefited himself and his children the most. And without any offsetting spending cuts, deficits have spiraled – taking the deficit that was down to 2.4% of GPD in President Obama’s last year in office back to the almost double digits not seen since the recession that Obama inherited.
Tariffs and trade
The incoming Trump Administration also made good on the candidate’s campaign promise to hike tariffs on our trading partners by 45%. The resulting trade war caught the new president off guard. He was also surprised to find that Americans were none too pleased by what amounted to a huge tax on their consumer goods – and by the resulting return of high inflation to a country where millennials had grown up expecting no inflation and close to zero interest rates. But Fed Chairman Carl Icahn had no choice but to hike the federal funds rate to tamp down on runaway inflation.
After depleting government revenue and ballooning the deficit, Trump had no money left for government spending on investments that actually pay dividends in economic development, like public infrastructure, public education and research and development. He, of course, worked with Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to repeal the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank regulations of Wall Street. The predicable results: pre-ObamaCare levels of uninsured returned, as did banks that were too big to fail. Wall Street was unleashed, and income inequality soared.
The Donald has always said that he cherishes women and has lived up to his election promise to protect them from their right to choose. Instead, he gave that choice to the Supreme Court justice he selected to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia.
During a 24 hour period in the campaign, Trump had gotten a little tripped by taking wildly inconsistent positions on abortion – from punishing a woman for having an abortion, to calling Roe v. Wade settled law that should not be changed, to finally saying he would appoint judges to overturn it.
But by sub-contracting out to the Heritage Foundation the job of vetting judges for the high court, Trump was able to recreate the 5-4 conservative majority that had reigned since the Reagan years. With the retirement of Anthony Kennedy and his replacement by Andrew Napolitano of Fox News, abortion is now technically legal but practically inaccessible for most women. Separate is once again equal. And all gays who married have received a government-mandated divorce when the franchise was recently withdrawn by court decree. Trump explained that he was merely swapping one individual mandate for another.
Making America great again
In his first week in office, President Trump decided to renegotiate that “disastrous” nuclear deal with Iran. The Iranians responded by kicking out the IAEA inspectors and restarting their nuclear program that had been mothballed under Obama’s international agreement. War is imminent. But with the demise of NATO, at least the United States can count on the now nuclear-armed Saudis, South Koreans and Japanese to maintain the peace in the east.
The big, beautiful wall
Trump finally built that dang wall on the Mexican border, and one on the Canadian border for good measure. Combined they block both undocumented immigrants returning to the South and emigrants fleeing to the North. His glowing historical references to Eisenhower’s “Operation Wetback,” FDR’s Japanese internment and East Germany’s Berlin Wall now make prefect sense.
Four more years
After defying odds in capturing the White House in 2016, Donald Trump reaches the end of his first term facing a more diverse, unemployed and angry electorate. Four years ago, he loved the “poorly uneducated” and they returned the favor. Will those with a functioning brain now take their country back?