This holiday season we can be thankful that Donald Trump is acting presidential, and that there is good reason for hope across a broad swath of policy areas. The best to you and your family.
Living in San Francisco provides a unique opportunity to view the response of the Left to the election of Donald Trump. Most are still in shock, accepting that what happened happened, but not being able to process the causes or implications. Some have adopted a confrontational, angry perspective - a broad swath of the country is racist/Islamophobic/sexist/homophobic; eliminate or subvert the Electoral College; secede from the country; take to the streets. Most are questioning what the Trump administration will do, and even a few are re-thinking assumptions about the direction of the national political parties and their own sources of information. This blog is inspired by the latter two groups.
Getting a fair reporting on the transition to the world of Trump is difficult. Democrat sources like CNN fed Democratic debate questions to Hillary Clinton; MSNBC makes no effort to understand the Trump voters. Mainstream Republican sources such as the Wall Street Journal and National Review are suspect - some opposition was to Trump the person, but much was due to his economic populism or his less interventionist approach to Russia and the Middle East.
Speculation on the cabinet is appropriately rampant - and a simple Google search provides the basic background on each applicant. (Wikipedia is a good starting point.) Divining policy direction is more fraught, with much of the media discredited after their blatant Clinton bias, many columnists trying to develop story lines to weaken Trump's standing, and a few on the hard right complaining about backtracking. The "Muslim registry" story is a good example, with many in the media distorting Trump's desire to track immigrants from areas of the world experiencing conflict to a false claim that he wants a registry of all Muslims. Each citizen should find a commentator that they trust - troll the list at the bottom of Drudge. Of the fact checkers, Fact Check.org is fair, Snopes is definitely not, and Politifact is somewhere in between.
Some Obvious Directional Changes
The Obama administration has reached cul de sacs in two major policy areas - the failure of the policy is obvious to all, but the administration has not been able to retreat or alter its path.
-- Obamacare is collapsing. There will be a transition in the 2018 enrollment cycle to Health Savings Accounts, competition across state borders, tort reform to reduce costs for hospitals and doctors, and replacing the crushing costs and regulations of ObamaCare. The change will be phased in; it will include high risk pools, coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and the option of keeping young adults on their parents policies. The individual cost will be less for the middle class; the poor will get less coverage.
-- Half-hearted intervention in the Middle East has been a disaster for the locals, for Europe, and for the United States. The foreign policy team being assembled favors agnostic support for local governments, with all attention turned to obliterating ISIS and al Queda. (A specific prediction: within six months, and by the agreement of Russia, Syria will be carved into zones controlled by Assad, the Kurds, and the anti-Assad opposition. ISIS will promptly be driven out of Raqqa.)
We will have an "all of the above" energy policy as a cornerstone of the plan to resuscitate the American economy. Presidential executive orders expanding the power of the EPA will be quickly overturned; the Paris Climate Change agreement - never having been submitted for Congressional approval - will be disavowed. Drilling will be allowed on federal land. Pipelines will go forward.
We will soon have a "constitutional conservative" majority on the Supreme Court. It will likely last for at least a decade.
Some More Nuanced Directional Changes
The southern border will be secured. Those liberals claiming foul because some of it will be a fence instead of a wall show the truth of Peter Thiel's statement that conservatives took Trump seriously, but not literally, while liberals took him literally, but not seriously. Time limits on legal visas will be enforced. Employers will be held responsible for confirming legal status of employees. Guest worker programs will be expanded.
The sorting of illegal immigrants in the country will take a year or two. Hopefully a set of principles will be articulated shortly after the cabinet is appointed. Hopefully those principles will include a distinction between refugees (who face danger if returned home) and economic migrants; hopefully they will include harsh treatment of criminals and more benign treatment of non-criminals; hopefully they will include permits (but not citizenship) for those who have roots in the community. This problem could have been solved years ago if the Democrats had not been lured by the future Hispanic voting block; the Republicans can solve it to the satisfaction of most, but need to establish a new paradigm while they control the executive and legislative branches.
Trade deals will be re-negotiated with an objective of equal benefit. In the 1960's and 70's there was an understanding with Japanese car manufacturers and their government that they could only grow their market share in the United States if they made cars here - the profits went to Japan, but the jobs stayed here. Since the passage of NAFTA, we have had a trade imbalance of $1 trillion with Mexico. The trade imbalance with China remains almost $400 billion per year. The transfer of wealth and jobs will not continue at anywhere near the current pace. Some balancing will be from tariffs which make Chinese goods less competitive; other will come from an understanding that American products (like Liquified Natural Gas) will be the preferred source. Individual companies will be lobbied by the administration.
Corporate tax rates will be reduced to be competitive internationally; profits held offshore will be repatriated. Hopefully hedge fund managers will be taxed at ordinary income rates. Paul Ryan's thinking will dominate on tax policy.
In his final days Barack Obama appears intent on removing any possibility of blocking Iran's path to nuclear weapons in another decade. Hopefully, Trump's team will find a way.
The "trillion dollar infrastructure stimulus plan" will attract much opposition in Paul Ryan's House. Many conservatives see our current $20 trillion national debt as an existential threat for future generations. Many remember the trillion dollars that Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi showered on well-connected companies like Solyndra and the eventual admission that "shovel ready" projects didn't really exist.
There will be an effort to de-politicize core governmental institutions which have suffered under the Obama administration - the IRS; the FBI; the police. This will be the greatest task facing new Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
This administration will be very good for those who prioritize liberty, opportunity, security, and personal responsibility. Not so much for those who prioritize support for the poor or see America as an equal player among the 193 members of the United Nations.
This week's video explains Trump's decision to not appoint a special prosecutor for Hillary Clinton, but to allow the legal processes unfold - a good sign for those who have concern for the fundamentals of American democracy.