Like many things about Donald Trump, his approval ratings are contradictory and misleading. The Wall Street Journal reports that:
Only 44% of Americans currently approve of President Trump’s job performance (while 48% disapprove) which is historically low for a new President.
On the other hand, the percentage of Americans who have positive feelings about him has been steadily increasing ever since he declared his candidacy in June of 2015, and has now reached a high of 43% (see chart). Since his State of the Union speech was generally well received, this rating is likely to go even higher.
Here is my own perspective. As I have said many times on this blog, I believe our country’s two biggest and most urgent problems are:
Slow economic growth, averaging just 2% per year since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. This means fewer jobs, smaller raises for workers and less tax revenue to spend on important national initiatives.
Massive Debt, now standing at 77% of GDP (for the $14 trillion public debt on which we pay interest), the highest since right after WWII. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that this debt level will keep on steadily getting worse, without big changes in current policy. It is therefore a huge threat to our national security and prosperity.
I have great confidence that the Trump administration and Congressional allies will put a high priority on faster growth and are likely to be able to achieve it. I can’t yet tell if Trump understands the seriousness of our massive debt. But the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus members in the House of Representatives do very strongly understand this problem and will insist on addressing it. I believe that they will be able to persuade the President to support them in doing this.
Conclusion. At this point I am a supporter of President Trump because I think that our national government is moving in the right direction.
Is it possible for the U.S. to effectively address its enormous debt problem in today’s contentious political environment? Two weeks ago I discussed in “America’s Fourth Revolution” why the political scientist James Piereson thinks this is impossible. He is very persuasive but I think he is too pessimistic. Since then I have discussed several different things we should do to turn around this perilous situation:
If spending for just Medicare and Medicaid (two very expensive entitlement programs) alone fell by 25% over ten years, as a percentage of GDP, and then stayed in line with GDP after that, the U.S. would actually have a budget surplus in 2040.
Just recognizing the magnitude of our debt problem would do wonders in public awareness.
If the Tea Party were able to grow beyond a protest movement and unite the country behind a majoritarian agenda of work, mobility and opportunity, it would be much more effective in achieving its fiscally conservative goals.
Another significant way to save money, and get better results at the same time, is to turn over more and more programs to the states. A good way to do this is with block grants to the states for federal programs in such areas as welfare, education and Medicaid. This would give the states more flexibility to get the job done in an efficient and cost saving manner.
What we need to do to turn our debt situation around is to greatly shrink our annual deficits below their current level of about $450 billion per year. If the debt is growing slower than the economy, then it will shrink as a proportion of the economy. This is what happened after WWII (see above chart) and it needs to happen again now!
As I constantly remind the readers of this blog, America has huge fiscal and economic problems which need to be addressed right away. In a recent post, “America’s Fourth Revolution,” I described the pessimistic view of the political scientist, James Piereson, that our polarized and dysfunctional political system will not be able to successfully confront our stagnant economy and massive debt and establish a pathway to recovery. The president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, does see a way for this to happen as explained in his new book, “The Conservative Heart: how to build a fairer, happier and more prosperous America.” It is the Tea Party which could do this! Its “future relevance depends on whether it can shift from being a protest movement to becoming a social movement.”
According to Mr. Brooks there are four steps to making the transition from minority to majority and turning a protest movement into a broad-based social movement. They are:
Launch a rebellion
Declare majoritarian values
Claim the moral high ground
Unite the country behind an agenda
These were the steps taken by our own founding fathers over two hundred years ago and by the civil rights movement some fifty years ago. The Tea Party has already launched a rebellion against big government, taxes, spending, etc. Now it needs to take the second step of declaring its support for the majoritarian values of work, mobility and opportunity. The third step is to seize the moral high ground:
Too many Americans have been marginalized and left behind in recent years.
It is neither fair nor compassionate to content ourselves with an economic recovery that only accrues to top earners.
Obamacare is hurting too many people by forcing them out of full-time work and into part-time work.
Huge debt may require spending cuts that fall the hardest on the poor.
We need education reform, especially in big cities, because the welfare of poor kids is more important than job security for poor teachers.
The Tea Party should spend less time protesting big government and more time showing how conservative principles help the most vulnerable members of society!
So declares Jim Jenkins, an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate from Callaway in western Nebraska. Several weeks ago I endorsed Jim based on his common-sense centrist views on many important issues such as fixing the debt, tax reform, Obamacare, and immigration reform. Check out his campaign website for the details. Now Jim has come out with additional common-sense reform ideas:
My 5-Point Bipartisan Reform Agenda
Nebraska doesn’t belong to a political party; Nebraska belongs to our people. Unless you can develop a framework in Congress by which you actually debate, discuss and negotiate, we’re not going to be able to move forward. Here’s my 5-point, bipartisan reform agenda to end gridlock in Washington.
Fix the Debt. Debate recommendations from the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, more commonly known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission that presented Congress and the President with a comprehensive plan to reduce the deficit.
Biennial Budget. Congress should adopt a biennial budget process, an approach to budgeting utilized by many states, including Nebraska that allows for a more thorough evaluation of budget proposals in year one and a review of budget effectiveness in year two.
No Budget, No Pay. Unless Congress passes a budget by the end of its fiscal year members of Congress will not receive pay. I also support legislation that suspends Congressional recesses until it has passed a budget. Failure to pass budgets undermines the greater economy and undermines the credibility of Congress with its citizens.
Immigration Reform. President George W. Bush presented a bipartisan plan on immigration that had the backing of a significant number of Democrats. The passage of immigration reform will require a meeting in the messy middle. Both Democrats and Republicans are going to have to yield.
Leadership Council. Congress should adopt a bipartisan leadership group each session that would identify the top legislative priorities.
We need leaders in Washington who will work together to find common-sense solutions to our very challenging national problems. Jim Jenkins is such a person and I hope you will consider voting for him on November 4!