Trump’s 100-Day Plan: The Great Unraveling BeginsNov 16 2016
Just moments ago the media universe was forecasting the demise of the Republican party, riven as it was by dissension between the moderate and the extreme, and split in third by a rogue independent who had rented the Party name to catapult himself into the presidency.
Instead, suddenly finding themselves victors, Republicans of all stripes are scrambling to fall in line, seeing their chance to enact every reform in their
wish list. Winning the trifecta of the presidency and control of both Senate and House has given Republicans a nearly clear path to overturning just about everything Obama accomplished in the last eight years.
Just before the election, confident that Democrats would upend the Republican majority in the Senate, a pair of Democratic senators wrote in a fund-raising e-mail that it is time to get rid of the filibuster the ability for the opposition to block anything that attracts less than 60 votes and to allow a simple majority for consenting to a president's Supreme Court nominee. That would extend the so-called "nuclear option" of 2013 that struck down the 60-vote super-majority requirement for approval of all judicial and cabinet agency appointments engineered by then-majority leader Democrat Harry Reid.
They should have been more careful in what they wished for. The tables have suddenly turned. The question is whether, at the very moment of the Senate convening on January 3rd, when rule changes are typically considered, the triumphant Republicans will adopt their own nuclear option and strike down the 60-vote rule to block the Democratic filibusters, retaliating against the Republican refusal all year even to meet with Obama'schoice of judge Merrick Garland, that will greet any choices for filling Antonin Scalia's empty seat.
The bigger question is whether, while they're at it, Republicans will move to knock down the 60-vote filibuster rule altogether, attracted by the lure of four years or more of clear passage for every every measure in their canon.
In late October Donald Trump issued his 100-day plan. Herewith a few of his intentions:
Supreme Court: Trump was simply handed a list of candidates which he has spoken of as admirable without knowing any of them. It is an example of how the outsider, who plans to overturn embedded Washington cronyism, will be manipulated by the insiders after all.
Across the next four years, Mr. Trump may have the opportunity to fill more than Scalia's seat. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83, Anthony Kennedy is 80, Stephen Breyer is 78. That eventuality would lead to seven hard right conservatives on the bench deciding the laws of the country for a generation.
Obamacare: Trump adopted the party line of repealing the Affordable Care Act early on. It is reviled by conservations and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said repealing the law is something that’s “pretty high on our agenda.” Accordingly, "repeal and replace" is part of Trump's first 100 days plan.
The Act was passed in 2010 when the Democrats controlled Congress using a process in the Senate called "budget reconciliation", available only to financial bills and needing only a simple majority to pass a measure. That blocked the certainty of a filibuster by Republicans. Not
a single member would go on to vote for Obama's historic attempt to solve America's chaotic healthcare "system" that presidents from Harry Truman onward had been unable to pull off.
By the same token, Republicans will be able to use reconciliation to effectively repeal Obamacare. In fact, they already have. After some 60 votes in the House, a repeal bill made it through the Senate by reconciliation and landed last January on Obama's desk for a veto. It wasn't an outright repeal because "budget reconciliation" can only be used for changes that directly affect the federal budget, that is, measures that cost or save money. But that bill eviscerated the key provisions needed for Obamacare to work. It eliminated the subsidies that help people pay for insurance, did away with the mandate that required people to buy coverage or face penalties, and cut off funding for state expansion of Medicaid. As seen in our related article, Obamacare is facing collapse on its own.
The moment Donald Trump takes office, Congress can pull that bill off the shelf and send it over to the White House for Trump's signature. But the new regime will likely face a backlash. An indication was that on the day after the election there was surge of people 100,000 rushing to sign up on the healthcare exchanges, fearful that Obama's plan will be taken from them. Some 23 million Americans now have health insurance, the majority with subsidies to help them afford it. They will be told yet again that they must scramble their lives and adopt some new scheme. Congress will need to come up with a plan that appeases their disruption. Features that Republicans have in mind are sketchy and so far suggest that their trademark is likely to be "You're pretty much on your own" (see companion story).
Climate vs. Energy: Trump called climate change a hoax, indeed a Chinese hoax "in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive", he once tweeted. He aims to lift all burdens from U.S. industry, beginning with canceling "every unconstitutional executive action" instituted by Obama, presumably without benefit of a court's deciding what is and isn't constitutional.
That would first and foremost include rescinding Obama's entire Clean Power Plan, which would have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by U.S. power plants. He would go in the opposite direction, lifting all restrictions on "job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal". The Keystone Pipeline will be approved. Trump would even "cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs" and, although not mentioned, billionaire climate skeptic Myron Ebell, who Trump appointed to head his E.P.A. transition team, says he would disentangle the U.S. from the the emissions reduction pact consummated last year in Paris, an America betrayal that would make this country a pariah among the 200 nations that signed.
Trade: Anger over the loss of jobs caused by foreign competition was, along with unchecked immigration, the cornerstone of Trump's populist appeal. He opened his campaign with the declaration that he would slap a 45% tariff on Chinese goods and called "what China has done to our country…the greatest theft in the history of the world". He called NAFTA "the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere". During the campaign he said, “Our jobs are being sucked away from our country, and we’re not going to let it happen anymore, folks”.
He intends to "direct my Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator", "renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205", and withdraw the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership. These are steps he will have to take to some degree, and very visibly. His base will expect him to deliver, or will denounce him as the demagogue that the left calls him.
The results of his talking such actions will be very disruptive. China will retaliate (even more than it already has) against U.S. companies, upending their inroads into the enormous Chinese market that they have spent the last decade developing. At stake on this continent are the extensive supply-chain networks that U.S. industry has constructed with Mexico and Canada that have succeeded in making products such as automobiles and appliances competitive against global imports.
Too heavy a hand could well lead to more American jobs lost than gained. Instead, Trump would be much better advised to tighten oversight of foreign competitors to come down hard and rapidly on perceived violations and let the matter be resolved after-the-fact when counterparty countries. And, commendably, that is indeed the fourth plank in his trade platform " to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately". In the case of China, waiting for the World Trade Organization to adjudicate disputes too often results in American companies driven out of business in the interim. It is our relationship with the WTO and its rules that should be renegotiated.
Immigration & Refugees: There was first the accusation that Mexicans are rapists and murderers (only "some of them are good people") and the intention to deport all undocumenteds ("We got to move 'em out, we're going to move 'em back in if they're really good people" July 2105 and "You're going to have a deportation force, and you're going to do it humanely November 2015.) As recently as September he had not backed down: “We are going to triple the number of ICE deportation officers.” The 100-day plan would "begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas [issued to] to foreign countries that won't take them back". That would indeed require a deportation force. It also raises the question of how would "criminal" illegals be identified? We are likely to see arbitrary removal of families with little concern for "criminal".
He intends an End Illegal Immigration Act that "funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall". Because Mexico scoffs at any notion of paying for the wall, Trump at one point proposed to finance the wall by taxing money that Mexican citizens working in the U.S. send home. The cost of the wall has been estimated in the vicinity of $25 billion, with the gauge of Congress appropriating the money reading zero. Here again is a promise to his base he must act on; how can he turn to them and say, "Sorry, Mexico won't pay and neither will Congress"? This could test just how authoritarian Trump might become.
As for refugees, he once intended to ban all Muslims from entering the country. That has become suspension of "immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur". Trump has repeatedly insisted on extreme vetting, refusing to acknowledge that there has been extreme vetting all along (see related story) so as, apparently, to make his base think the government is lax.
Taxes: The Trump tax reform plan again follows the mythical Republican doctrine that says cutting taxes produces such growth and income gains that tax revenues will exceed what the government took in before the cuts. Apart from the illogic of this phenomenon, it has not happened in fact, witness the examples of the Reagan and (George W.) Bush tax cuts. Those two administrations produced deficits that went well beyond defense and war spending.
Didn't They Do The Math?
|Some quick math to illustrate: Trump's plan says, "A middle-class family with 2 children will get a 35% tax cut". Say that family has two in the work force and adjusted taxable income of $100,000. They'd pay $16,575 in income tax. Cut their rate by 35% and their income would have to jump to a whopping $154,000 to return only the same amount of tax revenue to the government.|
In fact, Trump's steep tax cuts are estimated to produce deficits in the range of $3 to $5 trillion across 10 years. Yet Trump expects his tax reforms to generate 4% growth, a huge gain thought to be impossible given the new world order in which our goods are produced everywhere else and at low cost. The plan depends on "trade reform, regulatory relief, and lifting the restrictions on American energy". This, says Trump, will create "at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination". ", Mr. Trump says at the end of the document, "This is my pledge to you", but he also deploys “truthful hyperbole” which he defends as “an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion". With his tax reform plan, you are being promoted. For example, there are nowhere near 25 million Americans available to take those jobs. The joke is that he will have to recall those Mexicans he will have deported.
Iran Deal: During the campaign Trump called the nuclear pact a "disaster" and "the worst deal ever negotiated" with the implication that he would renege on the United States' obligations. In its strange propaganda war against the pact, Trump and those on the right are incensed over the return to Iran of its own money, frozen in banks around the globe as part of the sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. This would resurrect Iran's economy enabling them to build nuclear weapons, goes the argument but (a) the actual funds are about a third of the $150 billion once other Iranian obligations are settled and (b) freedom to resume weapons development is 10 years off, which is the objective of the deal if it holds. That is, its strategy is to buy time from a sovereign nation that is otherwise free to do as it pleases. Those objecting to that eventual freedom, as if more could have been negotiated from a country that would yield no further, willfully choose to obscure the fact that Iran was months away from developing a bomb, and if the deal collapses, would presumably resume where they left off.
Something seems to have gotten through to Mr. Trump. Curiously, while almost everything else is crammed into the symbolic 100 days, there is no mention of cancelling the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated with Iran by the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany, and the European Union and implemented in January this year. The word "iran" occurs nowhere in the document.
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