Thursday, April 27, 2017

Editorial: 100 Days in the Hole

As Donald Trump neared his 100th day in the White House, he began to downplay the importance of legislative achievements scored by that arbitrary milestone.

In a rambling and sometimes unintelligible interview with the Associated Press published April 23, Trump said the 100-day mark “is an important story. I’ve done a lot. I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days and I think the first 100 days is an artificial barrier.”

Of course, Trump’s claim that he had done more than any other president is preposterous. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first 100 days are the score by which all others are judged. Taking office March 4, 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, with unemployment estimated at one-quarter of the nation’s work force, FDR focused on the nation’s economic plight and the Democratic Congress approved 76 bills, including 15 landmark acts that formed the basis of FDR’s New Deal. One of Roosevelt’s first acts on March 6 was to order the entire American banking system shut down to restore order. Congress on March 9 passed the Emergency Banking Act, which authorized federal deposit insurance and restored depositors’ confidence in banks. Congress also created the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the the National Industrial Recovery Act, which set up the Public Works Administration and the National Recovery Administration. Congress also gave federal agencies broad new regulatory authority. FDR was credited with saving capitalism with government regulation, for which some socialists and free-market ideologues never forgave him.

When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the economy was in a freefall after deregulation of financial markets during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Abuses of mortgage securities created a housing bubble whose bust in 2008 threatened Wall Street banks that were judged “too big to fail.” The unemployment rate was 7.8% and rising when Obama was sworn in. Obama and the Democratic Congress passed an $800 billion economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Over the next year, it pulled the economy out of the dive and put it back on a course toward recovery. Obama also ordered restructuring of General Moters and Chrysler in bankruptcy, starting in March 2009, in a bailout that saved an estimated one million jobs at the automakers and suppliers.

The stimulus primed the economy, which created 11.3 million jobs, including private job gains for the last 75 months, resulting ultimately in 4.7% unemployment when Obama left office.

During his first 100 days, Obama also signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which relaxed the statute of limitations for equal-pay lawsuits; he signed the expanded State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), which helped four million additional working families; he got Congress to approve a budget resolution that put it on course to tackle major health care reform; he implemented new ethics guidelines designed to significantly curtail the influence of lobbyists on the executive branch; he followed through on George W. Bush’s plan to withdraw US troops from Iraq; and lifted the 7½-year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

During his election campaign, Trump claimed that he would enact many of his promises during the first few days after his inauguration. Then he discovered that getting Congress to defer to his commands was harder than he thought, even when both chambers are controlled by fellow Republicans. Federal judges also proved pesky. Trump was able to reverse some of the executive orders that were issued in the closing months of Obama’s administration. Trump’s own executive order revived the controversial Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines; he signed a congressional resolution that repealed an Obama-era regulation that protected US waterways from coal mining pollution. He reversed an Obama-era rule that required financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients.

Trump struck out in his first major legislative effort, to repeal and replace Obama’s Affordable Care Act. House Republicans split over whether House Speaker Paul Ryan’s replacement bill, which would have caused an estimated 24 million Americans to lose their health coverage, was stingy enough to the working poor. Democrats wanted no part of the deal to dismantle the ACA, which helped 20 million Americans get health coverage and reduced the uninsured rate to an all-time low of 8.8% in 2016.

Trump said in a Wall Street Journal interview on April 12 that insurers might end up losing a key subsidy they now receive unless Democrats sit down with him to negotiate over repeal. “I don’t want people to get hurt,” Trump said. “What I think should happen and will happen is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”

Democrats appear willing to call Trump’s bluff. But merely by making statements like these, Jonathan Cohn noted at (April 17), Trump is rattling insurers. It increases the chances that they’ll raise premiums a lot more than they would have otherwise, or abandon the markets altogether. Which suits the “GOP.”

Trump’s one major legislative “victory” was the Senate confirmation of of right-wing judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, on a 54-45 vote, but that required the Republican majority to change the rules, doing away with the filibuster in cases of judicial nominations, which would have required 60 votes to pass.

Trump hoped to start working on a “massive” tax cut, mainly to benefit rich people like him. But Democrats have indicated they won’t play ball on tax “reforms” until Trump finally releases his long-awaited tax returns. “Until President Trump releases his full tax returns, a cloud of suspicion will remain and make it much more difficult to get tax reform legislation through the Congress,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Gallup has been tracking presidential approval ratings after the first quarter since Eisenhower in 1953. President Kennedy received the highest in April 1961 with a 74% rating. Obama’s 63% approval after three months is the fourth highest and the highest since President Carter with a 69%. President Reagan’s first quarter had 60% approval in 1981, President George.H.W. Bush with 57% in 1989, President Clinton with 55% in 1993, and President George W. Bush with 58% in 2001. Gallup on April 23 reported Trump’s approval at 40% while 54% disapproved.

Lack of productivity isn’t the only thing that has hurt Trump. He also is exposed as the most reckless and unfounded liar ever to inhabit the White House, along with reports that the FBI is investigating ties of campaign aides to Russian officials before his election.

As of Jan. 22, PolitiFact had examined 394 statements by Trump dating back to 2011 and found 64, or 16%, were “Pants on Fire” lies; 130, or 33%, were false (making 49% entirely unfounded); 78, (205) mostly false; 57 (20%) half true; 49 (12%) were mostly true and just 16 (4%) were true.

As of April 20, the Washington Post Fact Checker had counted 417 false or misleading claims by Trump as president.

Trump also has threatened not to sign a resolution to keep the government running past the end of April if it did not provide funding for the wall across the Southern border that he had promised Mexico would pay for. Sahil Kapur, national political reporter for Bloomberg News, noted on April 23 that if Congress fails to pass a continuing resolution on April 29, it would be the first time in the modern era that a party in control of the White House and Congress shut down its own government.

Maybe we should celebrate that Trump and his minions aren’t better at passing laws. Barring impeachment, which could find a groundswell of support among Republicans in Congress if Democrats continue to perform well in special elections — and perhaps win a few districts that previously were considered to be reliably Republican — we have 15 quarters remaining under the misrule of Trump. Continue to build the resistance! — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2017

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Selections from the May 15, 2017 issue

COVER/Sophia A. McClennen
Trump’s millenium problem: Snowflakes are becoming a blizzard.

100 days in the hole


Are we witnessing remaking of religion in America?

Small-scale farming is our best hope for restoring rural America

Under Trump, coal communities stuck between rock and hard place;
Illinois Dems unseat R’s in local races;
Ky. working poor to lose Medicaid coverage;
Cllimate change poses ‘nightmare scenario’ for Fla. coast;
Anti-semitism soars;
Medicare for All need not increase taxes;
US taunted over aircraft carrier tale;
Lack of US attorneys hampers 'tough on crime' efforts ...

Crusading for everyday Americans 

A great clucking idea

You pay your fair share. Shouldn’t Wall Street?

Real solutions for tax day, not bogus tax reforms

Trump’s budget director declares class war on the American people

He told me to get a job

While the media slept

If I had a hammer

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Making America sick again: A swarm of midges

Superbugs at the gate

The originalist

Who’s the crazy here?

The war president

Fox News: the official state propaganda arm

War no more

Printed matter will survive

MOVIES/Ed Rampell
Strong women and new paradigms highlight native women in film festival

Trump acts to reform employment visa program

and more ...

Trump Kong

Graphic by Kevin Kreneck