Recession. Repression. Regression.
It seems fitting that 3R’s characterize the Trump-GOP legislative program since it was the lack of 3R’s—an old-fashioned, old-timey way to say education—that catapulted Trump to the White House, as uneducated white voters, and many educated ones, too, were so blinded by fear of “the other” that they believed Trump’s lies.
What we see in Trump’s legislative ideas is a wish list from the extreme right that will please very wealthy people and eventually disappoint everyone else accept those that think the function of government is to suppress minorities. If fully implemented, Trump’s legislative program will lead to a worldwide recession or depression, repression of civil rights and a regression backwards in time that erases the economic and social progress we have made over the past eight years.
Let’s take the proposals Trump and the GOP have put on the table topic by topic.
Trump and the GOP may engineer the largest tax break for the wealthy in American history, including the Reagan and Bush II cuts. If Trump gets his way, the tax cuts will skew in favor of those whose wealth is tied up in land, but those who own financial assets will also make out like bandits. Large multinational companies storing billions of dollars in profit abroad will be able to repatriate their earnings at a bargain-basement rate of 10%.
Lower taxes on the wealthy and less revenue for the federal government to dispense will eventually lead to a deep recession, as it did under Bush II. Rich folk will invest their wealth in financial and collectible bubbles, as they always do. No new jobs will be created, because it is not money that is holding back big companies from investing in growth today, but the lack of market growth potential. That lack of a market derives because the middle class and poor have less money than they used to, partially because the government, starved of resources, does not funnel as much money to these groups—AKA the 99%--as they could if taxes were higher. Lower taxes on the wealthy means less money for education, infrastructure maintenance, food stamps, mass transit. Lower taxes on the wealthy also means more money to feed financial bubbles. We’ve seen this before, not just in the United States but throughout history. The asset bubble bursts and it always turns out badly for the economy.
Trump is living in a free-market dream world if he thinks that his infrastructure financing plan will work. He wants to provide tax incentives to the private sector, which will then rebuild our highways and bridges and expand our mass transit systems. How will the private sector make money on roads and trolley lines? Only by jacking up prices, ignoring the public benefit of building certain roads and routes because they’re unprofitable and hammering down employee wages. The private sector always goes after the money, which may result in rebuilding municipal water systems only in wealthy communities. We’ve tried private sector solutions to prisons and the military and failed miserably. Advanced studies show that when you take into account the wealth and disabilities of the student base, private schools underperform public schools in educating children. There are just certain basic societal needs that government must finance, address and manage, and infrastructure is first among them.
Trump is still talking about funding a wall between the United States and Mexico and he still thinks Mexico will “reimburse” us for its construction. While he intends to have the private sector pay for roads, bridges, mass transit, waterways and sewers, he wants Congress to pass a law that has our taxes laying out the money for this unneeded monstrosity, this money pit that will provide no benefit save a temporary spike in construction jobs. I said “laying out money,” but only a died-in-wool, brainwashed Trumpsterite could believe that Mexico will pay even one penny for Trump’s folly. The rest of his immigration program presents new harsh penalties for breaking existing immigration laws, but nothing else.
If not stopped by healthcare industry lobbyists, Trump and the GOP could plunge the U.S. healthcare system into chaos, especially if they rescind Obamacare before replacing it. Getting rid of Obamacare will not only take away the health insurance of 20 million people, it will precipitously end three policies that helped everyone: 1) The removal of the cap on lifetime coverage; 2) the rule that someone cannot be denied insurance for a pre-existing condition; 3) allowing children to remain on their parent’s health insurance policy until age 26. Now if Congress should pass a law that keeps these important benefits but doesn’t mandate the kind of universal coverage that Obamacare does, health insurers will be forced to jack up rates.
As with everything else, Trump and the GOP favor what they call “market-based” and private solutions to address America’s healthcare needs. They think that making it easier for health insurers to cross state lines (they already do so, but with unique corporate entities in each state responding to the local regulations in each state) and letting people create tax-free Health Savings Accounts will bring down the cost of healthcare. It won’t happen, but it will shift the burden of paying for health insurance from the government and businesses to individuals. Another proposal, to let states manage Medicaid funds, will enable those in right-wing states to reallocate dollars from helping the poor to other uses.
Obamacare isn’t perfect, but building on it makes a lot more sense than ripping it up in favor of “market” solutions shown not to work. I’m guessing that once the healthcare lobby gets through beating up Congress that whatever they call healthcare reform will end up keeping just about all of Obamacare.
Trump wants to end the sequestration of funds that has automatically cut federal government spending every year since 2013 for the military only and begin expanding military investment. He doesn’t really have a plan for what he will do with the extra money, but we do know that the Pentagon wants to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons and continue development of robot weapons that would make seek-and-kill decisions. Narcissists like Trump always like shiny new toys. Congressional Republicans are still following the Reagan playbook, which consists of cutting taxes primarily on the wealthy while increasing defense spending to starve the social services part of the government and at the same time create enormous deficits which, when interest rates are high, translate into safe bond investments for the wealthy. I will give Trump the benefit of the doubt and say that I am unsure whether he will ever want to use American military might, but there is no doubt that he joins fellow Republicans in wanting to build it up and never pay for it.
Safety and Security
This part is where the scary repression comes in. Trump has proposed a number of laws that he says will address “surging crime, drugs and violence.” Of course, crime is not surging, nor is violence, except in households that own firearms. But much of Trump’s demagoguery revolves around the notion that we are unsafe. Here is an area in which Trump could take ownership of Obama-era statistics and declare victory, but I believe that Congressional Republicans relish the opportunity to grab more civil rights, to create more selling opportunities for gun manufacturers by underwriting greater weaponization of local police and to encourage harsh police-state tactics in minority areas. The racist undertones of the Trump campaign, his own history of racism and the desire for Republicans to disenfranchise the African-American community may lead to a generation of federal Jim Crow laws that also affect Latinos and Muslims, all in the guise of protecting us from a non-existent crime wave.
The Trump legislative plan marks the apotheosis of the Reagan political strategy: Play on the racism, nativism and religiosity of working and middle class whites to make them believe that their best interests lie with the wealthy, pretend that the social service network being shredded only serves minorities, while pretending that tax cuts help everyone and not just those at the top.