Trump’s Second Term Agenda Revealed, Sort Of

Trump’s Second Term Agenda Revealed, Sort Of

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Plus, Trump's Covid challenge
Monday, August 24, 2020

Trump’s Second Term Agenda Revealed ... Sort Of

It’s President Trump’s party now. Yes, we’re referring to this week’s Republican National Convention, where Trump formally was renominated on Monday to take on Joe Biden in November’s presidential election. But we’re also referring to the Republican Party itself, which chose not to adopt a new platform for 2020 and instead over the weekend passed a resolution saying that it “has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.”

What’s on that agenda for the next four years? Trump has struggled repeatedly to answer questions about what he wants to accomplish if given a second term, but his campaign on Sunday released a bullet-pointed list of 50 “core priorities” under the banner “Fighting for You!” Even for a PowerPoint era, the lack of detail was glaring, though the campaign said that Trump would provide some additional details in speeches over the coming weeks.

Some examples of the big promises on Trump’s list:

  • Create 10 Million New Jobs in 10 Months
  • Create 1 Million New Small Businesses
  • Cut Taxes to Boost Take-Home Pay and Keep Jobs in America
  • Develop a [Covid-19] Vaccine by The End Of 2020
  • Return to Normal in 2021
  • Make All Critical Medicines and Supplies for Healthcare Workers in The United States
  • Cut Prescription Drug Prices
  • Lower Healthcare Insurance Premiums
  • End Surprise Billing
  • Cover All Pre-Existing Conditions
  • Protect Social Security and Medicare
  • Teach American Exceptionalism
  • Pass Congressional Term Limits
  • Stop Endless Wars and Bring Our Troops Home

The Republican National Committee resolution said that “the media has outrageously misrepresented the implications of the RNC not adopting a new platform in 2020.” Here’s some of what they had to say:

The Washington Post Editorial Board: “The Republicans are announcing that they stand for nothing. The party’s only reason for being is to gain and retain power for itself and its comparably unprincipled leader. … Many of the party’s senators and other leaders used to have principles, or at least claimed to. They believed in fiscal rectitude, free trade, limited executive power. Now they have fallen in line behind a president who believes in none of that. So, are they the party of managed trade, unbridled presidential power, unlimited debt? No one wants to say that. Instead, they define themselves as the party of Donald J. Trump.”

Politico’s Tim Alberta: “It can now safely be said, as his first term in the White House draws toward closure, that Donald Trump’s party is the very definition of a cult of personality. … Everyone understands that Trump is a big-picture sloganeer—‘Build the wall!’ ‘Make America Great Again!’—rather than a policy aficionado. Even so, it’s astonishing how conceptually lifeless the party has become on his watch. There is no blueprint to fix what is understood to be a broken immigration system. There is no grand design to modernize the nation’s infrastructure. There is no creative thinking about a conservative, market-based solution to climate change. There is no meaningful effort to address the cost of housing or childcare or college tuition. None of the erstwhile bold ideas proposed by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan—term limits, a balanced budget amendment, reforms to Social Security and Medicare, anti-poverty programs—have survived as serious proposals. Heck, even after a decade spent trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans still have no plan to replace it.”

Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein: “So Trump is supposedly going to produce 10 million new jobs in 10 months, but there’s nothing — really, nothing at all — about how to fulfill that promise. Same with a million new small businesses. The president plans to ‘Build the World’s Greatest Infrastructure System,’ which sounds nice, but given that he’s been promising the same thing for almost four years and hasn’t yet sent a bill to Capitol Hill, some might find it hard to take it seriously. ‘Wipe Out Global Terrorists’ also seems ambitious, but the plan contains nothing about how it would be done in practice or how it squares with the promise to ‘Stop Endless Wars and Bring Our Troops Home.’”

The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman: “The truth is that the resolution more clearly describes today’s Republicans. They have some things they want to do, sure — cut taxes, gut environmental regulations, restrict abortion rights — but mostly, what unites the party is that they hate Democrats and they worship Trump. That’s about all you need to know.”

Just 31% of Americans Approve of Trump’s Handling of Pandemic

Republican officials from President Trump on down say they’ll deliver an “uplifting and positive” message at their convention this week. Take that forecast with a heaping dose of salt – you can expect plenty of negative attacks this week; Trump made several in remarks to the convention Monday after formally securing the GOP nomination.

“What they’re doing is using COVID to steal an election,” Trump said of Democrats. “They’re using COVID to defraud the American people — all of our people — of a fair and free election.”

The problem for Republicans, as NBC News’s Shannon Pettypiece notes, is that “selling a success story to an electorate where the vast majority believe the country on the wrong track may be a heavy lift.”

A new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research highlights the challenge. Overall, the poll finds, just 31% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while 68% disapprove. (After failing to deliver another coronavirus relief package this month, Congress fares even worse, as just 13% approve of how “leaders in Congress” are handling the pandemic, while 65% disapprove, up 7 percentage points from July.)

Even among Republicans, approval of how the federal government is handling the virus is at just 43%, high only in comparison to the 10% approval among Democrats.

Growing majorities of Americans now say that the government isn’t doing enough to help individuals, small businesses or public schools. And just 23% think the country is heading in the right direction, compared to 75% who say it’s on the wrong path.

The poll of 1,075 adults was conducted August 17 to 19. It has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

Quote of the Day: Biden Talks Tax Hikes

“I will raise taxes for anybody making over $400,000. Let me tell you why I’m going to do it. It’s about time they start paying a fair share of the economic responsibility we have. The very wealthy should pay a fair share. Corporations should pay a fair share. The fact is, there are corporations making close to a trillion dollars and paying no tax at all. I’m not punishing anybody. This is about everybody paying their fair share.”

– Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, in an interview with ABC News’s David Muir. Biden also said that “there will be no raising taxes” on businesses that employ less than 50 people.

The House Approved $25 Billion for USPS, but Senate Has No Plans to Vote on Bill

The House passed a bill Saturday that would provide $25 billion to support U.S. Postal Service operations and prevent the agency from making a variety of operational changes in the run-up to the election.

The vote was largely along party lines, although 26 Republicans crossed the aisle to support the measure, defying GOP leadership and President Trump, who had encouraged lawmakers to oppose the bill in support of his effort to delegitimize mail-in voting.

A mail slowdown:
The bill, which received a vote during a rare Saturday session by representatives called back to Washington from their summer break, comes amid charges from Democrats that the Trump administration is intentionally sabotaging the mail system, both for short-term political gain ahead of an election that is expected to involve record levels of mail-in voting and as part of a longer-term, ideologically-driven effort to privatize the postal service.

Whatever the motivation — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy says he simply wants to increase efficiency and improve the agency’s finances — the USPS has made a series of operational changes in recent months, including a reduction in overtime hours for postal workers and the removal of sorting machines and mailboxes. There have been reports of a slowdown in mail delivery in the wake of these changes, and on Saturday the House Oversight Committee released internal USPS communications that documented recent delays in first-class mail.

Postmaster General says no thanks:
DeJoy, a wealthy Trump donor who assumed his position as Postmaster General in June, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Friday that he doesn’t want the funds that the bill would provide, despite the fact that the Postal Service Board of Governors had requested that amount earlier this year. “If we just throw $25 billion at us this year and we don’t do anything, we’ll be back in two years,” DeJoy said.

What’s next for the USPS:
The White House threated to veto the bill last week, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he does not plan to take it up in the Senate. While the bill has virtually no chance of becoming law, additional funds for the USPS could play a role in the stalled negotiations over the next coronavirus relief bill.

Op-Ed of the Day: A Major Problem for the $26.5 Trillion National Debt

The national debt is rapidly running higher as Congress spends trillions on coronavirus relief efforts, but James Clark, the deputy assistant secretary for federal finance in the Treasury Department during the Obama administration, says there are more serious issues than the cost of servicing what is now $26.5 trillion worth of U.S. debt.

Writing at Bloomberg Monday, Clark says that the most pressing issue for the debt is more political than financial. In his experience managing the nation’s public finances, the major purchasers of Treasury offerings typically have been more concerned about the health of the U.S. political system than the ability of the country to make its payments, since the former defines the latter:

“When my team and I met with the biggest buyers of U.S. debt, our conversations centered on the way in which our government functioned. The cost of servicing the debt and the structure of our portfolio took a back seat to questions about how our government operated. After the debt limit crisis’ of 2013 and 2015, our creditors focused almost exclusively on how we would correct a problematic system that turned fulfilling our financial commitments into a domestic political bargaining chip.”

Clark says that debt investors were also interested in how the U.S. spends its public funds: “Repairing the damage from the 2008 financial crisis, buttressing housing, building infrastructure and expanding access to healthcare were rightly understood by our creditors to pay dividends over the long haul,” he says, and confidence in the U.S. spending wisely and competently has a lot to do with the low interest rates the U.S. pays on its debt.

While this interest in the political underpinning of debt issuance has worked in the country’s favor over the last few decades, current political conditions are making some observers worry about what comes next:

“Creditors’ confidence in the U.S. government is being tested on an almost daily basis. President Donald Trump’s tax cuts were supposed to ‘pay for themselves’ and help the middle class, but cost $1.9 trillion and contributed to greater income inequality. Although a few cases of fraud have been uncovered, the full extent of fraud and misuse of funds within the Paycheck Protection Program is unknown, as the vast majority of the recipient names have not been released.”

Clark warns that the corrosive political polarization the U.S. is experiencing, along with the degradation of public services, is likely a greater threat to the country’s standing than the growing debt: “Rebuilding confidence in our democratic institutions and transparently demonstrating that any stimulus package is used productively is the best way to ensure the sustainability of our national debt, no matter its size.”

Read Clark’s full op-ed here.

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