Thursday, January 19, 2017

Rain or Shine, Donald J. Trump Takes Control Friday

As surely as the sun will rise Friday morning (though rain is in the midday forecast for Washington, D.C.), Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America at noon.

Under Trump’s presidency we’re going to see if the government can be run as a business or like a business. There’s a difference. 

To be run as a business requires a balanced budget (even a surplus), which means tough decisions on how revenues are raised and appropriated. The last president to produce a surplus was Bill Clinton. Generally speaking, Republican dogma has called for lower taxes tied to reduced expenditure allocations to social welfare programs. The GOP also advocates diluted, if not eliminated,  protections for consumers, workers, the environment, civil liberties and voting rights.

To run the government like a business implies leeway in strict adherence to capitalism, layering in programs to help the less fortunate and vulnerable. As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his second inaugural address in 1937, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

A few months prior, in the acceptance speech for his renomination, FDR said, “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.” 

Those are compelling thoughts during a time when health care coverage for 20 million people hangs in the balance, when environmental regulations may be stripped away in the name of creating a better business climate, and social service initiatives, such as Medicare and Medicaid, may be severely cut back because Republicans have never been supporters of FDR’s New Deal or Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society programs.

Trump can claim he saved jobs at Carrier (700 or 1,100 depending on whom you believe) and 700 more at Ford, both rescues the result of pressuring those companies to jettison projected job relocations to plants in Mexico. Whether you like Trump or not, you’ve got to be happy for those who will continue to receive paychecks.

But Trump’s bully pulpit to end globalization that kills American jobs, coupled with his determination to Make America Great Again, ignores seismic changes occurring throughout the national and international economies. As much as he might want us to return to a simpler time, progress—the future—will not be stopped.

Take, for example, what is happening in the retail industry. More and more sales are transpiring over the Internet. The industry has known for decades that it is overstored. Macy’s is but one of many chains that will shutter stores. It will close 100 of its 730 units and lay off 10,000 workers. Their jobs are not going south or to some other exotic locale. The jobs are lost to cyberspace. 

King-of-electronic-retailing Amazon says it will hire 100,000 workers, an impressive sum, but hardly as many as the workers at brick and mortar retailers dislocated by the emergence of electronic retailing. 

Retailing is like the taxi/limousine field affected by Uber and Lyft, like the hotel business assaulted by Airbnb, like the newspaper business devastated first by Craig’s List and then by Web news sites, real and fake—it is being intermediated by technology. No amount of jawboning or handwringing will slow the inevitable adaptation of our  economy. 

Going forward we are also going to see how thick is the Trump straw that stirs the drink, or if Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, in concert or separately, can sway Republican control of the government. Trump’s stated views on a replacement for Obamacare, for example, differ markedly from Ryan’s and McConnell’s. 

In addition, we will wait to see which John McCain will show up for what probably is his last term in the Senate. Will it be the maverick straight shooter who charmed the electorate in the mid-2000s, or the sycophantic senator who clutched Trump’s coattails to win reelection last year?

It’s politics as usual down in the swamp. After campaigning he would drain the swamp Trump is the head of a muck mired in self-aggrandizement, ethical challenges and broken campaign promises. 

Throughout his campaign he railed against the influence of Wall Street and specifically Goldman Sachs. Yet since the election he has proposed filling three key financial spots with men affiliated with Goldman Sachs and is in favor of reducing constraints on the financial community. 

Politics will color our interpretation of events during the next four years. But hard facts will provide an objective report card on Trump’s vow to “make America great again.”

Trump will be judged on the state of the country and the world in 2020, so here are markers, financial and global, we should check in September 2020 against September 2016, with specific attention to results in the four swing states that chose him over Hillary Clinton—Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio:

*Annual domestic economic growth rate
*Size of national debt
*Size of annual deficit 
*Size of trade imbalance
*Small business growth rate overall 
*Small business growth rates in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio
*Level of Dow Jones Industrial Averages 
*Unemployment rate overall
*Unemployment rates in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio
*Black/African-American unemployment rate overall
*Black/African-American unemployment rate (16-19 year olds)
*Labor force participation rate overall
*Labor force participation rate among Black/Afro-Americans
*Jobs created last four years nationally
*Civilian jobs in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio
*Number of manufacturing jobs nationally
*Number of manufacturing jobs Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio
*Average weekly earnings manufacturing jobs
*Number of construction jobs nationally
*Number of construction jobs Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio
*Average weekly earnings construction jobs
*Number of mining/logging/oil/gas jobs nationally
*Number of mining/logging/oil/gas jobs Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio
*Average weekly earnings mining/logging/oil/gas jobs
*Number of federal government jobs
*Number of government jobs nationally
*Number of uninsured for health care
*Average tax bill for middle class family
*Average national price of gallon of regular gasoline
*Inflation rate
*30 year mortgage rate
*Number of homicides
*Number of hate crimes
*Number of people living in poverty
*Number of military personnel in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Germany, Japan, South Korea
*Status of wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan
*Status of Iran nuclear deal
*Level of imports from China
*Status of North Korea
*Status of Israel-Palestinian conflict
*Number of police officers killed nationally
*Number of minorities killed by police

Four years is a long time to wait for results. But they need not be filled with cowering. If you want to see how Trump and his advisors, particularly Kellyanne Conway, can be handled politely but appropriately, watch how Seth Meyers interviewed her last week. It’s a seminar in solid interviewing/reporting all journalists and TV/radio talk show hosts should study and learn from: https://youtu.be/U_dv5qAsJMU

That said, there is reason to not be comfortable after 12:01 pm Friday. Take the time to read Politico’s roundtable discussion with three of Trump’s biographers about what to expect from the new president: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/trump-biographers-presidency-legitimate-214655

If you made it through the depths of that article, you might not be criticized for believing this is a time to worry and fret. But do not despair. For encouragement read David Leonhardt’s analysis of President Obama’s impact and the difficulty Republicans will have in trying to knock down his legacy: https://nyti.ms/2jAji0t

Beyond that, take heart in Orphan Annie’s ballad to FDR: “The sun will come out tomorrow …”


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