Trump’s Bark Is Worse than His Bite

 

The anti-Trump fervor seems to be slowly dying down as his appointees take hold of their agencies and begin to promulgate new policies. I have expected this to happen because of the excellent quality of many of the people he has appointed.
Here are a few recent developments:

  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said that “the border is complicated as far as building a physical wall” and there are all sorts of problems to be resolved before it can be done.
  • Reality is setting in with regard to Russia policy “given Russia’s continued provocations in terms of weapon’s deployments, overtures to Iran, cyber intrusions and intervention in Ukraine.”
  • The Brookings Institution has just issued a new report showing that school choice options are increasing in the country’s largest school districts. This indicates that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is in the mainstream by supporting more choice.
  • Coal jobs Trump vows to save no longer exist.  In other words, cancelation of the Obama Clean Power Plan will have little effect on the huge drop in coal use because coal has become so much more expensive than natural gas.
  • Of course, the Trump 2018 Budget Proposal will be heavily modified by Congress but it does contain some good ideas. Agriculture, Foreign Aid and Community Development Block Grants are all ripe for big cuts.
  • The biggest unknown with respect to administrative action concerns trade policy. The question here is what concessions he can get from China and Mexico without starting a disastrous trade war.

What is mainly lacking at this point is any significant action by Congress on the Trump agenda. What will happen with healthcare reform, tax reform and deficit reduction, for example?

Conclusion. Trump is doing fine so far but it is on relatively straightforward issues under his control. Hopefully he will be able to make progress on the bigger issues as well which require working with Congress.

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Donald Trump and Foreign Policy

 

“Speak softly and carry a big stick”              President Theodore Roosevelt, 1858 – 1919

Donald Trump was elected President because of his strong support from white blue-collar workers who feel left behind in the modern world of globalization and rapid technological change. While the President has to work with Congress to implement new economic and fiscal policies, he has almost free rein in conducting foreign policy.

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There are major international issues that President Trump will have to deal with such as:

  • Rapid Chinese economic growth and assertion of power in Southeast Asia. Also currency manipulation and over-protection of domestic industry against foreign imports.
  • Russian assertion of power in Eastern Europe and the Middle East make it a dangerous adversary. All the more so since the Russian population is in decline and its economy is stalled under Putin.
  • Iran’s nuclear ambitions are only temporarily halted under the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015. Iran continues to support terrorism in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
  • The defeat of ISIS and the containment of terrorism all around the world but especially in the Middle East.
  • Support of our democratic allies in hotspots around the world such as Japan and South Korea in Asia as well as our NATO allies in Europe.

Ever since WWII when the U.S. emerged as the sole superpower, the world has benefitted from overwhelming U.S. economic and military strength. The resulting “Pax Americana” has resulted in a long lasting period of relative peace and stability. But U.S. military strength is not automatic nor does it occur in a vacuum.  It depends fundamentally on the underlying strength of the U.S. economy which has been growing at the very slow rate of 2% annually since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009.

Conclusion. If we want continued peace and stability around the world, then we need faster economic growth to better support the U.S. effort to project strength.

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