Trump vs. the World

During the presidential campaign, President Trump often came off as a bully. Now that he’s president, the bullying is coming from others.

The “resistance,” the media, academics, celebrities and others have not accepted him as their president. On any given day, you’re likely to read more favorable reporting about North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un than you are about President Trump.

Granted, his statements often accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive. His tweets, at least the ones that catch the attention of journalists, are sometimes crude or unpresidential and many of his braggadocious claims, at best, exaggerate the truth.

But with 100 days gone, is the widespread criticism warranted? How is he really doing as president? And how does his presidency compare with previous presidents?

Before considering his performance to date, keep in mind that judging a president based on such a short period is like judging a corporation based on its performance for a quarter. A presidential term is 1,461 days, so the first 100 days account for about 7% of the president’s term.

So when the Associated Press points out that President Trump accomplished only 10 of the 38 promises he made in his 100-day contract with voters, you may decide that that’s a pretty mediocre rate of success … or you may be surprised to learn that he’s accomplished that much.

It’s also worth noting that President Trump took over the role of leader of the free world with no previous political experience. He’s also facing severe opposition from Democrats, even though he was one until recently, because they still believe their candidate should have been president, based on the popular vote. Because of that opposition, inexperience and disagreement within his own team, it’s taken him longer than it otherwise might to make all of his appointments and accomplish his goals.

Trump vs. Obama

President Trump has had little legislative success to date, even though he is a Republican president with a Republican majority in Congress. His one major attempt at navigating the legislative process resulted in failure, when the House of Representatives didn’t even vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was floated as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare.

While Obamacare has resulted in rapidly rising premiums and other issues, the proposed legislation would have removed the requirement for all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty, which could have resulted in 24 million Americans no longer being insured. So while Obamacare is unpopular, replacing it with the AHCA also would have been unpopular.

In contrast, during his first 100 days President Obama passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which resulted in $787 billion in stimulus spending.

It was the largest expenditure ever passed by Congress, but was it a success? While some credit the stimulus spending with decreasing unemployment, much of the money went toward extending unemployment benefits and, as we’ve previously noted, unemployment rates didn’t fall significantly until that program ended. It also helped boost the federal debt, so we may have been better off as a country if President Obama didn’t have a successful first 100 days.

Trump vs. Trump

So what has President Trump accomplished? In a previous post, we referred to his early days in office as, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” That headline still fits.

In addition to the healthcare bust, his proposed 90-day travel ban on citizens of countries that are sponsors of terrorism was shot down in court. While he continues to pursue travel-ban options, he also threatened to shut down the government unless funding was approved for a wall along the Mexican border. To his credit, he backed off on his threat.

Signs of protectionism are also emerging, such as a new tariff on Canadian lumber, which is expected to add to already rising housing costs. He kept his pledge to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but he backed off on his threat to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

While negotiating for the best possible trade agreements could help the economy, backing out of trade agreements and creating new tariffs will hurt the American consumer. Prices will increase and foreign countries will retaliate with their own restrictions.

Trump vs. Democrats

What about the positives? In spite of Democratic opposition, President Trump was able to get respected jurist Neil Gorsuch appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. He’s hung tough on foreign policy, standing up to Russia and North Korea. He responded to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons by launching cruise missiles on a Syrian air base. And U.S. forces dropped the most powerful conventional bomb in existence on a system of underground tunnels used by ISIS terrorists.

In addition, progress is being made on two issues that are essential to economic growth – deregulation and tax reform.

He’s issued executive orders to overturn various regulations (many of which were created by executive order during the final days of the Obama Administration), and he created an executive order that requires two regulations of comparable cost to be eliminated for every new regulation that’s created.

By mid-April, 13 significant regulations had been eliminated. Of perhaps greatest significance, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai last week announced his campaign to repeal the net neutrality rules created in 2015 by the FCC.

The FCC’s net neutrality rules “classified the Internet as a public utility under the Communications Act, a law carbon-dated to the 1930s,” according to The Wall Street Journal, which said the Pai plan would instead “revert to the bipartisan consensus that the Internet should be ‘unfettered by Federal or State regulation.’ ”

Trump vs. the Federal Tax Code

As for tax reform, President Trump’s proposal, rolled out last week, contains “the sort of stuff that think tanks, congressional reformers and business groups have been salivating over for years,” according to the Journal’s Kimberley Strassel.

What’s it do? Strassel summarizes: “Simplify the brackets? Check. Lower rates? Check. Harmonize rates between corporations and small businesses? Check. Move to a territorial corporate-tax system? Check. Kill off the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax, itemized deductions, and corporate loopholes? Check.”

Among the highlights, President Trump’s tax reform plan would eliminate all itemized deductions on individuals’ tax returns except for the mortgage and charitable-giving deductions, lower corporate tax rates to 15% from the current 35%, and replace the seven brackets for individual taxes to brackets of 10%, 25% and 35%.

The U.S. not only has the world’s highest corporate tax rate, it also is the only industrialized country that taxes corporate income when it is returned to the U.S. That federal tax grab has resulted in a growing number of inversions, in which U.S. corporations move their headquarters abroad to reduce their tax bills.

High corporate taxes have also held back capital investment, in spite of record-low interest rates over the past eight years.

Not surprisingly, The New York Times claims that the Trump plan would help wealthy Americans most. Yet it’s wealthy taxpayers and special interests who benefit most from itemizing their deductions; few low-income Americans itemize.

By combining deregulation and lower corporate taxes, assuming Congressional support, President Trump could succeed in returning the economy to annual growth exceeding 3%. That would create jobs. As demand grows, the unemployed would have an opportunity to rejoin the workforce and wages would increase.

Who knows? Maybe America would even be great again.

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