Trump Puts His Own Economic Agenda in Danger
Much has happened over the last week. It's worth considering where we are now.
The week started off very badly for Donald Trump when Congressional testimony by the NSA, the FBI, and Trump's own DOJ finally laid bare what we already knew: his wiretapping claims were fabricated. He followed this testimony with a string of dishonest and/or misleading tweets, which served only to compound the problem for his administration. Then the apparent source of his "information" on wiretaps, Andrew Napolitano, was suspended indefinitely from Fox News--because of his false wiretapping claims. To make matters even worse, the FBI director not only indicated that Trump's tweets were fabricated, but he also publicly confirmed (for the first time) that Trump's campaign is under a criminal investigation.
The situation had become so one-sided that Representative Nunes tried to throw Trump a little cover by claiming that Trump's team's communications had, in fact, been picked up by intelligence surveillance, an assertion that ran into trouble almost immediately. Nunes himself acknowledged that these collections were both "legal" and "incidental." The next day he found himself apologizing for handling the situation as he did, and the day after that, he walked back his comments overall. Now he just looks partisan and ridiculous.
Aside from the fact that Trump ought to apologize to all of us for wasting so much time with this, the bottom line is that the allegations were false, and the Trump administration needed a success--badly. That's not what happened though.
The most notable event--and probably the most consequential one as well--was the failure of Trump and establishment Republicans to replace Obamacare. The messaging that followed the bill's demise hasn't boded well for the future either.
I was furious that this situation was handled as it was because I deeply believe that Obamacare MUST be replaced. Obamacare did nothing to address the rampant fraud in, especially, Medicare. By the Obama DHHS's own admission, it has raised health care costs above where they would otherwise have been. It levies additional taxes, and it locks millions of Americans into appallingly high premiums that are rising at an even more appalling rate. Replacing the Affordable Care Act (which, ironically, makes healthcare even more unaffordable for many) was and is a high priority of mine.
The replacement bill needed to be one that took care of those who purchased health insurance on the ACA exchanges. It also needed to lessen the impact of our government's health care spending on our national debt. It had to protect those with pre-conditions, address fraud, and eliminate single-state monopolies. To accomplish lofty goals like this, two things were needed above all else: compromise and skilled negotiation.
Unfortunately, neither of those occurred. An element of the modern Republican Party views any compromise with Democrats as weakness and borderline un-American, which ensures that any substantial reform we undertake faces a very up-hill climb to passage. They've forgotten the wisdom of the greatest modern Republican President (and one of the greatest overall), Ronald Reagan: he famously said that he'd be happy to get 70 or 80 percent of what he wanted and just come back for the rest later.
In a further blow to Trump, who is a self-proclaimed "brilliant" negotiator, negotiation over the bill's contents went absolutely nowhere. It appears that Trump's idea of negotiation was to make only token changes to the bill and then to have Steve Bannon threaten, twist arms, and otherwise try to force Tea Party-style Republicans to vote for his flawed, establishment bill. (This is quite an empty threat coming from a President with fewer legislative achievements--none--than any other President at this point in a Presidency [even though his party controls both houses of Congress] and the lowest approval rating ever recorded for a President so early in a Presidency--37%.) The result was predictable: Trump and the establishment were defeated by the very strain of the Republican Party that worked to elect Trump in the first place, a result made all the more likely by Trump's demand that voting on the bill tax place on Friday before all potential avenues to reconciliation had been pursued.
Trump's response in the aftermath has been, honestly, appalling. First, he blamed the Democrats, which is odd since the Democrats don't have enough votes to stop bills in the first place. Then he blamed Republicans, even though he himself is a Republican who was involved in crafting this bill. (Interpretation: "Everyone who isn't named Donald J. Trump is at fault. Everyone who is named Donald J. Trump is not at fault.")
His position right now is to simply give up and stick with Obamacare. Really? Stick with Obamacare? Yes, his "great" plan now is to simply keep Obamacare "until it implodes" so that he can blame it on Democrats. Aside from the fact that it's difficult to imagine a more partisan position, it's even harder to imagine an outcome that would hurt more Americans or add more to our national debt than an Obamacare implosion. Our President is not paid to watch policies crash and burn. He is paid to proactively get ahead of problems and to fix them before they "implode." He and Republican Congressional leadership should role up their sleeves and get to work on a serious replacement bill right now.
Instead, they say that they are going to tackle tax reform. I am on board with this as well. The national debt is my top issue, but tax reform is a close second (besides, the two are closely linked). The first step down this path was Trump's budget submission, yet much to Democrats' delight, his budget included no entitlement reform--none! What kind of conservative declines to try to reform entitlements? This amounts to trying to cut tax rates at the same time you're trying to increase spending. No thank you. We should be cutting both tax rates AND spending.
I agree with the writer of the Bloomberg article I just shared here: when Trump was first elected, I felt that perhaps the best thing that would come of it is serious tax reform. I was confident about that. After observing what I have observed over the last two months--and especially over the last week--I must admit that my confidence in our enacting more-than-nominal tax and spending reform is no higher than 50%. Trump is not coming into that challenge from a position of strength. Nor, for that matter, is the GOP overall. This is crucial though, and I will remain hopeful.
I'm sure that many Democrats stand ready to excoriate me for this last bit, but there are two positive developments that are worth mentioning. Voter ID laws, which I firmly support, appear to be making a comeback, most recently in Arkansas. Trump's DOJ is helping to facilitate this. Additionally, more than 500 companies are expected to bid on Trump's border wall--another policy of his that I support. (I may write more on these two policy items later, but before anyone rushes to tell me how hateful and discriminatory I am, perhaps you could ask first why I feel as I do--if I've not yet written a post about them, that is.)
So maybe all isn't lost. Time will tell. Still, if we cannot reform our tax system or our spending, then I'm not sure how much the rest is worth anyway... One can hope.
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