Tax Cuts and Wars Are Not Enough, Mr. President

In 2017, the president had a handful of successes that should make all Trump supporters proud. He managed to engage in the greatest rollback of the regulatory state in recent memory, as well as to enact a decent tax cut that likely has goosed and will continue to improve the growth of the country’s GDP. Since taking office, unemployment has reached historic lows (especially for minorities); consumer confidence is up, and the stock market continues to soar.

President Trump has managed also to destroy the Islamic State’s physical caliphate in the Middle East; he has stood up to Russia in Syria and in Ukraine (how’s that, for a purported Russian stooge?); held firm against North Korea; and reaffirmed our alliance with both Israel and the Sunni Arab states, in order better to contain Iran. All of these are great successes for the president.

Yet, the president’s first year also left much to be desired for Trump’s most loyal supporters.

On the key themes of immigration and trade, the president’s record has been mixed. Yes, illegal immigration has precipitously declined since the president took office. But, the absence of any real movement on the border wall a year into the administration (or the lack of proper funding even for the wall) is troubling. And while Trump has pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a major victory and a movement away from globalist assumptions about trade—the president is shying away from greater protectionist measures that will protect American workers and critical industries.

Thus far, Trump has been a very effective conventional Republican president: we’ve gotten good again at winning in war and we’ve mercilessly slashed taxes (as well as regulations). But, the Trump agenda that I voted for transcended the dominant Republican ideology of the last several decades that was primarily concerned with winning wars and cutting taxes. Trump did not win by convincing Americans he would be better at these things than Hillary Clinton would have been. He also didn’t win by promising to make sure the country’s top wage earners got to keep more of their money (though they are).

Trump won in 2016 because he recognized, as did Ronald Reagan, that “there was no such thing as a left or a right” in America, but rather there was only an “up or down.” It was Trump’s appeal to the interests and well-being of ordinary American citizens, not his technocratic policy prescriptions that won him office.

Take the recent tax cut bill (which was needed to goose GDP in the short-term). When campaigning, the president described a tax plan that would give us comprehensive tax reform, not merely a tax cut. Would not raising some taxes on the upper one-percent (those making $5 million a year or more) to help shore up our ailing entitlement programs, or better yet, to help pay down our out-of-control debt been a good idea? Why was raising the marginal tax rate on those “one-percenters” from 39 percent marginal tax rates to 44 percent not something considered? Instead, we got a massive tax cut for everyone (good in the near-term) that actually added to the debt. Not everything in the Republican tax bill was bad and it did help in the near-term, but Trump’s election was not just about the here-and-now; it was about the future.

Unfortunately, in terms of real reform, the president has mostly come up short. That doesn’t mean that the president won’t do these things, or that he is entirely to blame for these things not happening (the Republican Congress continues to march out of step with the stated Trump agenda). What is most concerning is that the president seems intent on deferring to a Congress that is populated mostly by “Never Trump” Republicans and Democrats. While we can applaud the president’s desire to respect the constitutional separation of powers and leaving the legislating to the legislative branch, the fact remains that many (if not all) of the elected leaders in Congress favor amnesty and oppose the basic components of the Trump agenda. It is a mistake to leave the legislative details to these elected leaders, especially considering how poorly the Obamacare repeal went.

Speaking at an historic, televised meeting between himself and Congressional leaders, Trump said that he was going to “pass whatever” bill Congress came up with on immigration. Yet, there is nothing in Congress’ recent history indicating that they will craft a bill that seriously enforces immigration law; ensures a permanent decline of all forms of migration to the United States; or builds a “big, beautiful wall,” as per Trump’s campaign promises. Instead, if left to their own devices, Congress will not only push a bill that legalizes the “dreamers,” but also undercuts the core of Trump’s immigration plan. This is but one example of how the Trump legislative agenda has effectively stalled on the issues that we Trump supporters voted for (and that most Beltway types abhor).

All in all, the president’s first year has been good—far better than his critics are inclined to give him credit. As an early (and vocal) supporter of the president’s, I am mostly happy with the (limited) progress that he’s made. I continue to be concerned, however, that the president’s full reform agenda will never pass at this rate. He simply has to be more assertive with Congress (beyond public displays, such as the one yesterday). The president has to hit the ground running in 2018, and keep the entrenched elite off-balance, by pushing for policies that appeal to the average voters of both political parties. He needs to build his coalition among the people and put the pressure on those elements within Washington who continue to resist him. Protectionism and immigration need to be seriously addressed.

Trump needs to return to the core themes that made him president. Tax cuts and more wars are simply insufficient for America today.

About Brandon J. Weichert

Brandon J. Weichert is a geopolitical analyst who manages The Weichert Report. He is a contributing editor at American Greatness and a contributor at Asia Times . He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers). His second book, The Shadow War: Iran's Quest for Supremacy (Republic Book Publishers) is due in Fall of 2022. Weichert is an educator who travels the country speaking to military and business audiences about space, geopolitics, technology, and the future of war. He can be followed via Twitter: @WeTheBrandon.

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6 responses to “Tax Cuts and Wars Are Not Enough, Mr. President”

  1. McConnell made it clear from the moment of the election that he was not going to do anything except what McConnell wanted, typified by his preemptive surrender on removing the filibuster. Trump can’t make Congress do anything. It’s up to voters to quit electing legislators who shirk their duties and oppose the President’s agenda.

  2. Completely agree with you. I am very worried that this “fighter” keeps picking the wrong fights. How can a soccer-mom outsider like me know what Diane Feinstein meant by a “Clean DACA bill” in yesterday’s meeting, yet he appeared clueless while nodding along with her. Yesterday I saw that his ignorance of the history of this issue and his naïveté about obvious attempts at political manipulation could (and perhaps will) torpedo real immigration reform or any other real legislative reform. He looked completely out of his depth to me. I can’t say that I’m shocked…it was never clear what he really knew about the issue. But, I dearly hope I’m wrong. We need him to succeed. Thanks for making your fine points.

  3. Brandon, you are far too well educated to believe that presidents have the kind of Deep State bunker-busting power that you appear to be soliciting from the man.

    As you well know, We The People stipulate in our supreme Law of the Land that Congress has most of the power. This extends to almost total veto/control over the SCOTUS by stripping its subject-matter jurisdiction (see US Constitution 3.2.2), on which subject the late Phyllis Schlafly wrote a superb little book, ‘The Supremacists’ back in 2004.

    Imagine, if you will, We The People ourselves deciding to exercise the almost unlimited powers that we reserve to ourselves as we stipulate in Amendment X. As former Stanford Law dean Larry Kramer posited in his 2012 book, ‘The People Themselves’, this has always been our prerogative. To find and deploy a mechanism — ah, therein lies the rub!

    But say, for instance, that we decided to ram through the last 27 ratification votes needed from state legislatures to finally limit the size of congressional districts — the original ‘Article the First’ in our Bill of Rights, gathering dust with 11 states having ratified back in 1789-92. The amendment is still open under Article V, and in our little 12-page free PDF booklet, ‘Our First Right Now’, we explain how TACTICAL CIVICS™ is going about it.

    No president — in fact, no governors, nor Congress itself — can stop this first, tectonic step. Then, the 6,400 members of our new Congress — normal, productive citizen-statesmen — will go to D.C. for only a few days, enact our proposed ‘Bring Congress Home Act’ (a far more draconian version of the 2013 MOBILE Act that died in committee), and *then* you will see Mr. Trump make history, when he signs it and sends Congress forever out of the world’s most ruthless, powerful city-state!

    D.M. Zuniga

  4. If the author thinks that adding taxes to those who pay the lions share of taxes now will help the economy, the author is an idiot.

  5. In other words do not succumb to Potomac Fever. Trump would do well to take note of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s highly successful big and bold approach. If anything Trump, after all, is both bigger and bolder. Now is the worst possible time to fall back, which is how anything less than steadfast and aggressive will be seen.