Thursday, November 10, 2016

Donald Trump's Proposed First 100 Days In Office, Part 1

From now until his time in office ends, I'm going to attempt to document the Donald Trump Presidency on a daily basis.

Few expected the election of Donald Trump.  The advantages and expectations enjoyed by Hillary Clinton are well documented and do not bear elaboration here.  Let's just touch on a few quick things:

Voter turnout was, as it typically is in America, slightly more than half of the voting age population.  Trump fared better amongst the older, whiter, and somewhat-to-considerably wealthier portion of the population, but not by an overwhelming margin.  White non-college graduates were the decisive voting block that broke for Trump.  Here's a detailed breakdown.  Surprisingly, Donald Trump outperformed amongst Latinos compared to Mitt Romney in 2012.  Clinton still overwhelmingly won the Latino vote, but it didn't matter.

Trump has already released a statement concerning his hypothetical first 100 days in office.  I thought it would be instructive to look at his statement.  For a liberal, progressive, or "traditional" conservative, it would be easy to dismiss it in its entirety without looking at it in detail.  It would be just as easy to dismiss that criticism.  Neither critique nor counter-critique requires actually reading his plan.  I'm going to take a stab at breaking down the plan point-by-point.

* FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress

I think few would take issue with this.  Whether this is intended seriously or simply as a sop to those who wish to "drain the swamp" remains to be seen.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said "It will not be on the agenda in the Senate," but who knows.

* SECOND, a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health)

If you are ideologically committed to "reducing the size of government," then this is music to your ears.  If you favor the expansion of the economy, then taking any tool off the table to achieve that end is counter-productive.  Less hiring means fewer people earning money, fewer people earning money means fewer people spending money, fewer people spending money means fewer businesses earning money, fewer businesses earning money means less investment, less investment means less economic growth.  But perhaps the private sector will step up in ways it tends not to do, typically, when Republicans are in office as compared with when Democrats are in office.

* THIRD, a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated

This sounds more like a political talking point than a serious claim, but either way it's hard to assess without knowing which regulations will be passed and which will be repealed.  Regulations currently in effect include drunk driving laws and laws intended to keep our drinking water safe, to name two.

* FOURTH, a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service

* FIFTH, a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government

Again, I have a hard time visualizing people on the right or the left who would not applaud these changes.  The question is whether President Trump can figure out how to enact them.  The latter point, concerning lobbying on behalf of foreign governments, is far more likely to succeed than the former.

* SIXTH, a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections

How serious a threat is this in reality, as opposed to in the imagination?  Either way, it might as well be banned, so it's easy to support this step.

* FIRST, I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205

How this would play out is quite unclear.  It is known that NAFTA lowered wages, so perhaps good riddance to NAFTA.  One could argue that retaining NAFTA while simultaneously strengthening labor laws and labor's organizing power in both Mexico and the USA would be the way to go, but given the diminished power and militancy of labor in this day and age, that may be unrealistic.

* SECOND, I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Given that TPP was on politically perilous ground no matter who was elected, this is neither surprising nor completely upsetting.  It will mark a notable shift in Republican political ideology to walk away from a free-trade agreement, however.

* THIRD, I will direct my Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator.

China is a currency manipulator, though not in the way most people think - in the past 18 months, it has manipulated its currency to keep it stronger against the dollar, not weaker.  So if China were, at this time, to cease its currency manipulation, the value of its currency would likely depreciate, making Chinese exports cheaper in the US market and undercutting the ability of US manufacturers to compete with Chinese manufacturers.  This sounds like the opposite of the intended effect of benefitting the Rust Belt, the forgotten steelworker, and so forth.

Now, the percentage of consumer goods in America manufactured by China bears no relation to what most people on the left and right think the percentage is.  So perhaps labeling China a currency manipulator, while counter-productive, wouldn't be the end of the world from a manufacturing perspective.

As to the morality of currency manipulation: efforts by nations, including the United States, to either weaken or strengthen their currencies are part and parcel of nationhood - there's nothing particularly nefarious about it.  Still, other countries are fully welcome to retaliate to defend their own interests, so the US could be said to be morally justified in taking action against China.

This is, of course, part of the reasons why trade wars might break out.  The effects of a trade war with China aren't fully knowable, but would likely embolden hardliners in China who wish to extend China's power projection in the South China Sea, amongst other things.  It not a slam dunk to bring jobs back home; it is likely, in fact, to hurt the export of American goods

Whether this is a wise or foolish battle to pick remains to be seen.  It would be interesting to find out.  In the meantime, here is an article about the phenomenon of "reshoring" that is worth your time if you have the time to spare.

* FOURTH, I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately

This sounds good to me.  It's so vague that nothing further can be said about it, but I'm all about ending abuses.  Who isn't?

* FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars' worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.

* SIXTH, lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward

I would like to see some backup on the claim that $50 trillion of energy potential remains trapped in some way by regulation.  There is currently an oil glut due to low global demand.  Producing larger amounts of oil and coal may create jobs in the short term, but if no one will buy that oil or if there is no demand for coal, those jobs will evaporate very swiftly.  Where will the $50 trillion come from?

Meanwhile, the environmental damage that would be wreaked upon the Earth as a result of the increased production of fossil fuels bears absolutely no elaboration here.  There are a good many people who deny that mankind's economic activity has led to global climate change and no facts will change their mind, apparently.  I'm sure to skeptics the last two sentences I wrote appear whiny and petulant.

It is not a given that water, clean or not, will always be readily available, and therefore one wonders if government support for the nascent solar and wind industries might not be a wise investment. 

Some more on the Trump energy policy here.

* SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America's water and environmental infrastructure

I'm not really sure what President-elect Trump is getting at here, but fixing our water and environmental infrastructure sounds good.  Hopefully we'll get further details soon.

Trump is on record as being an opponent of the Paris climate agreement and has said he will "cancel" it.  Perhaps global climate change is, in fact, a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.  Perhaps pulling out of the accord will lead to rising sea levels, extreme droughts and food shortages, and more powerful floods and storms.

We'll find out!

* FIRST, cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama

There's a lot to take in here.  Here's a good summary.  Let me touch on just one item for now. 

If you're a fan of Iran certainly developing nuclear weapons, as opposed to potentially covertly developing them, and emboldening Iran's hard-liners in the process, then you'll be happy to know that Trump likely plans to impose sanctions on Iran.  Perhaps emboldening Iran's hard liners as opposed to cultivating Iran's very young, reform-minded population is the way to go.  President-elect Trump was smart enough to win election to the White House and ergo may have a firmer grasp of geopolitics than I do.

* SECOND, begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States

Much ink will be spilled on this topic.  Suffice it to say: if you were a fan of the Supreme Court of the past decade, you'll be happy that Trump has been elected; if you're a fan of the Supreme Court of Brown v. Board of Education lore, you'll likely be unhappy.

* THIRD, cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities

There is a lot to be said about this policy as well.  For now, suffice it to say, it is interesting for a "law and order" President-elect to choose to punish cities for policies favored by police chiefs who rely on illegal immigrants, from time to time, to act as witnesses and, thus, deter crime.

But, of course, if the eventual goal is to deport all illegal immigrants, ending funding to sanctuary cities makes sense.  Illegal immigrants have carved out a role in construction that may be edging out qualified citizens.  One wonders how many citizens want to work slaughtering animals, cleaning other people's bathrooms, or picking strawberries.  Maybe it's the morality of their immigration being illegal that bothers you.  There may be more jobs for citizens in clothes manufacturing in the future, though minimum wages laws will likely have to be rolled back.  More information here.

One alternative to expelling the nation's illegal immigrants is to attempt to narrow the nation's output gap.  This requires spending money, which is easy to do as the United States of America prints a fiat currency which is the reserve currency of much of the world.

* FOURTH, begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won't take them back

I already addressed this above, but it is worth noting, given that Republicans, who ostensibly have historically favored a government that spends less, the considerable price tag of expelling all of the nation's illegal immigrants.

* FIFTH, suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.

There's something to be said for this policy for sure, even if it seems ardently cruel to the peace-loving immigrants from these countries who are simply fleeing the hell holes in which they live, but even if every single potential terrorist from abroad is stopped, there's always the homegrown threat.

Perhaps banning the internet itself is the way to go here, or expanding the security state so that every last American is being monitored.


There's a lot to take in here, and I've got to get back to my very patient wife.  Part 2 will follow tomorrow!