Republicans living in blue states admit their support for President Trump in hushed asides, the kind of whispered confidences that in gentler times would have confessed financial difficulties or divorce. It’s craven, but especially during the most tumultuous periods, like last week, it’s draining to defend the Commander in Chief.
And yet, Trump’s priorities are more than defensible; they are essential to the future of our country. Months before the election, at a perilous moment during the Trump campaign, I wrote a piece entitled “Five Reasons a Sane Person Would Vote for Trump.” Those arguments and ambitions stand; some, like the opportunity to pick a Supreme Court justice who will uphold the Constitution, are no longer paramount. With the GOP and White House struggling for traction, it seems a good time to review the positives in the Trump agenda. The top five reasons are:
1) Resetting the scales with our trading partners to ensure U.S. workers are treated fairly
2) Disrupting the teachers’ unions control of our public education system
3) Reforming our hideous tax system
4) Bringing order to our broken immigration policies
5) Letting the world know that the U.S. will stand up for its citizens
Donald Trump won the election because Americans were discouraged – about lost jobs, stagnant incomes and because they disliked the globalist policies of Barack Obama. Trump promised to protect and champion U.S. workers, in part by getting tougher on our trading partners who he said were taking advantage of us.
Trump followed through by walking away from the TPP, a multi-nation agreement that the World Bank concluded would provide little boost to the U.S., and by insisting on a broad re-write of NAFTA. As important, his Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has spearheaded an aggressive effort to call out trade cheats.
In a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Ross noted that many of the countries attacking Trump’s tough trade talk are in fact the very same that impose substantial barriers to trade. The U.S. runs a big trade deficit with China and the EU in part because those partners protect their domestic industries with lopsided tariffs and other impediments. For instance, “China’s tariffs are higher than those of the U.S. in 20 of the 22 major categories of goods.” Europe slaps higher fees on 17 or 22 classes of products. For instance, Ross notes that the EU charges a 10 percent tariff on imported American cars while we reciprocate with a 2.5 percent tariff. China adds 25 percent.
Ross writes, “Today, Europe exports 1.14 million automobiles to the U.S., nearly four times as many as the U.S. exports to Europe.” Ross is pushing back, and to date has brought 54 actions before the WTO this year. High time too. It’s good to see someone fighting for U.S. workers.
Meanwhile, Betsey de Vos continues to be a firm advocate for school choice, anathema to the education- industrial-complex. That money – and it’s always about money – should be diverted from failing public schools is an existential threat to the country’s powerful teachers’ unions. Those groups shelled out $32 million during the last election cycle; 94 percent of their political donations over time have gone to Democrats who have consistently put the unions’ interests ahead of children’s educations.
A recent New York Times opinion piece noted that the gap between the earnings of American blacks and whites has failed to narrow over the past five decades, across all income levels. Can anyone deny that poor public schools are part of the problem? In New York, just a couple of years ago, testing revealed that only one in five black kids could read and write at grade level – way below their white and Asian counterparts. Something needs to change, and De Vos has the mandate to upset the applecart.
Tax reform is in the works; it is long overdue. Though Democrats so far have signaled no willingness to further the Trump agenda, they will struggle to explain why they oppose streamlining our hideous 70,000-page tax code. In a 2015 Pew survey, 72 percent of respondents said they were bothered by the “complexity” of our tax system – more said they paid too much in taxes.
Our corporate tax policies also need a reset. Alone amongst developed nations, we tax income earned and taxed abroad when those monies are repatriated. As a result, U.S. corporations have piled up hundreds of billions of dollars outside the country. Some companies have used those funds to build manufacturing plants overseas, rather than pay a stiff penalty to bring the money home. This needs to be fixed.
Away from the White House soap operas, tax policy gurus have been meeting daily to craft a simpler, fairer code. They will encounter opposition from the left and the right but, disgraced by the failure of health care reform, GOP leaders are committed to success on the tax front.
They have made significant compromises to that end already, like junking the Border Adjustment Tax. Most likely, they will also scale back the proposed cuts in the corporate rate, from 15 percent to perhaps 20 percent or 25 percent. Further, they may not demand a permanent fix, which raises the requirement for revenue neutrality, but rather focus on a ten or fifteen-year horizon. In our country, that passes for permanent, and will likely succeed.
Meanwhile, ramped up deportations and a less welcoming posture has substantially shrunk the inflow of undocumented persons, with border crossings down an estimated 64 percent through May. Earlier this year, Gallup reported that 59 percent of Americans –79 percent of Republicans but also 48 percent of Democrats – worry a great deal or a fair amount about illegal immigration. Few Americans believe that we should not enforce our borders; Trump is committed to doing just that.
Finally, Trump has made it clear to the international community that he will pursue policies that are good for the U.S. The Paris accord was not good for our country. Obama pledged significant, economy-slowing measures to cut U.S. emissions even as our carbon footprint is already shrinking. Our economic rivals got off light, and yet they are the ones driving global emissions higher.
Trump has also called out countries for shirking their global responsibilities on defense spending. He is correct. Germany, for instance, the richest country in Europe, fails to spend its fair share.
President Trump will not get everything right, but Americans should cheer his agenda. And, maybe soon, cheer it out loud.