'Tis the season for looking back and looking forward; for assessing accomplishments and opportunities unfulfilled; for thinking what was, what might have been, and what might yet be. In Trump-world this exercise is best done in two year increments - since the last election and to the next.
The easy part: What was and what might have been.
- Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the presidency - all was possible, but never in recent history has a president faced such constant, vitriolic opposition from the opposing party, most of the media, and a significant slice of his own party. In the House, the Freedom Caucus prevented compromise; in the Senate the 60 vote threshold for most matters and the few Never Trumpers among the 51 seat Republican majority proved too liberal for the more conservative House. And that's before Robert Mueller's relentless probes to find anything to bring the president down.
- With that setting, Donald Trump delivered peace and prosperity, with the working class and minorities sharing the bounty for the first time in decades.
-- Despite the Fed returning monetary policy toward normalcy after 8 years of stimulus, the Obama era "new normal" of 2% GDP growth was bettered by 1 to 2 %, and unemployment of 4.5 % was reduced below the 4% often considered "full employment". Deregulation (deleting two old for every new regulation; freeing smaller banks from Dodd-Frank), tax cuts (benefitting 85% of payers), energy expansion (offshore; Alaska; fracking; pipelines) , and tariffs (particularly on steel and aluminum) all contributed. The results are undeniable, and they belong to Trump.
-- The ISIS caliphate was defeated in short order, and the promise to cut back on being the world's policeman is being fulfilled despite a messy world full of fanatics and despots.
-- First important steps were taken to force China to conform to World Trade Organization norms - reducing state support for favored exporters, and stopping industrial espionage - and to engage North Korea in denuclearization talks. Leaders with long term contracts in both countries will try to wait out the Americans.
-- The Republicans whiffed on "Repeal and Replace" of Obamacare, but the individual mandate was repealed, it was made easier for small businesses to group together to buy health insurance, and stripped down short term plans were made more available.
-- An early offer to Democratic Congressional leaders to trade DACA for a wall was rejected and remains an elusive goal as the Democrats prefer to stoke their voter base.
-- The more partisan accomplishments were also myraid: cancellation of President Obama's Iranian nuclear giveaway; withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement; moving our embassy to Jerusalem; appointment of two Supreme court justices and 83 lower court judges.
And the hard part: what the next two years might hold. With Trump's high energy, unconventional style, and broad agenda in the wake of President Obama's globalist, liberal, ineffective legacy, it has been possible to make progress across a broad front. With a Democratic House (and an effective leader), it will be necessary to significantly advance a few key initiatives.
- Strategic confrontation of China's trade practices is broadly popular, but will take time and a coalition. When Trump withdrew from the Transpacific Partnership in January 2017, most of the other participants went ahead with a set of trade agreements which do not include China. Whether a formal participant or an interested partner, this coalition is ready-made for a more favorable realignment of East Asia trade relationships.
- North Korea's nuclear program must be dismantled. Mike Pompeo's performance review in 2020 should be heavily weighted on how well he works with South Korea and Japan to accomplish this goal.
- We cannot go on with porous borders, millions of largely assimilated young illegal immigrants in the shadows, and a demographic which shows an aging native population in need of young workers to support Social Security, Medicare, and the general economy. Real border secutrity in exchange for DACA is so obvious that only cynical politicians can refuse to find the equation. Unfortunately we have plenty of them.
- Personality flaws aside, the biggest risk of a President Trump working with a Democratic House is the ballooning budget deficit. With interest rates rising and current deficits coming out of Paul Ryan's House exceeding $1 trillion, one shudders to think of what Pelosi and Trump might concoct. Someone somewhere in the federal government needs to take notice.
One can hope that Mueller will get out of the way, and that the next two years are as productive as the last two.
This week's video is a shocker - Van Jones on CNN praising Donald Trump and Jared Kushner for their role in assembling a coalition to pass major prison reform which will greatly reduce incarceration for nonviolent offenses, and should be a big plus in the African American community.
bill bowen - 12/28/18