The Trump Presidency – Peril And Opportunity

Donald Trump’s victory in the electoral college was one of the greatest surprises and upsets in American political history.  Even Trump’s campaign didn’t think he would win.  That’s why Trump appeared to be overwhelmed and humbled when he visited President Obama shortly after the election.  It was obvious from that visit that Trump only has the  haziest understanding of what his duties will be as President.  As a matter of fact, Trump’s advisers were visibily surprised when they learned that the entire White House staff had to be replaced at the end of Obama’s term.  After the meeting, Obama concluded that Trump needed more guidance and planned to spend more time with his successor than outgoing Presidents typically do.


Already, the Presidential transition is off to a rocky start.  Trump representatives were late in meeting with Obama Administration personnel at such key departments as State and Defense.  Moreover, Trump’s transition team was riven with internecine fighting over posts in the upcoming Administration.  The first appointments tended to be extreme, controversial and in some cases even racist.   This is far from an encouraging start.


There has already been a lot of discussion about Trump and the GOP’s upcoming legislative agenda.  It appears as though the first thing out of the chute will be a $6 trillion deficit financed tax cut largely for the wealthy and a $1 trillion infrastructure program.   The infrastructure plan appears to be one in which private investors will receive government subsidies and/or tax breaks in order to construct roads and bridges.  Those investors will collect money from the tolls that citizens will pay to use this infrastructure.


What this means is that we will have the worst of both worlds.  We will add $7 trillion to the national debt for tax cuts and infrastructure projects that are unlikely to stimulate the economy.  The wealthy will most likely just sit on their tax cuts due to a lack of consumer demand.  The infrastructure projects won’t create many jobs and will be built in places where the infrastructure isn’t even needed.  If a President-Elect Hillary Clinton proposed a deficit financed $7 trillion stimulus plan, Congressional Republicans would be preparing for all-out war.  Instead, they may just roll over and rubber stamp Trump’s plan.


The other item at the top of the GOP wish list is the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Any repeal and replacement must be done with great care, otherwise 20 million Americans could lose their insurance and 16% of the economy could be thrown into utter chaos.  I don’t expect a thoughtful or careful GOP approach to the ACA since they aren’t reality based.  Representative Steve King (R-IA) recently said that the country would be better off without the ACA even if it wasn’t replaced!  Back in 2010, Representative Tom Price (R-GA) – who is considered to be the front runner for HHS Secretary – told President Obama that the GOP plan to sell insurance across state lines and limit medical malpractice lawsuits would insure all Americans at no extra cost!  (The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the Price plan would only insure 3 million additional Americans.)


If the Republicans are serious about an early repeal and replacement of the ACA, they (and the American people) are in for a nasty surprise.  Health care is a devishly complex topic and it is easy to make a mistake.  For example, if the GOP ends the individual mandate but maintains the ban on pre-existing condition clauses, insurance premiums will soar like a rocket.  I’m concerned the GOP has no appreciation for the kind of buzzsaw they are about ready to walk through on health care.  Just remember, these are the same people who told us we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq and that Iraqi oil would finance the reconstruction.


After the GOP finishes dealing with these early (and controversial) legislative priorities, they are gearing up to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher plan.  Senior citizens would be required to buy private health insurance on an Obama Care like exchange.  This kind of privatization plan would cost senior citizens thousands of dollars every year in additional out of pocket medical expenses.  Seniors would end up paying a lot more for vastly inferior coverage.


Medicare is a fight that we must and can win.  It would only take three Republican Senators to stop Trump’s Medicare privatization scheme.  Back in 2005, when Bush was popular and had 55 GOP Senators, he made an effort to privatize Social Security and turn it over to Wall Street.  The proposal turned out to be so toxic that most Republicans wouldn’t come out in support of it.  The defeat of Bush’s Social Security scheme also marked the beginning of  his political decline.  We can turn the Medicare fight into a similar defeat for Trump and the GOP.


After we win the Medicare fight (and hopefully some other fights), we will have an opportunity in 2018 and 2020 to re-take the White House and the Congress.  This upcoming experiment in radical government by the GOP can’t end well.  History teaches us that trickle down economics simply doesn’t work.


As Democrats, we are well positioned for a comeback.  Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and our candidates received more votes in the Senate races than their Republican opponents. We also have a popular platform that is the most Progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.  We must begin our comeback by emphasizing our plans to help the struggling the middle class. Unfortunately, that wasn’t adequately addressed in the recent elections.  We have a good program – we just need to message it better.


As Senator Bernie Sanders recently said: “Let’s rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of well-paying jobs. Let’s raise the minimum wage to a living wage, help students afford to go to college, provide paid family and medical leave and expand Social Security. Let’s reform an economic system that enables billionaires like Mr. Trump not to pay a nickel in federal income taxes. And most important, let’s end the ability of wealthy campaign contributors to buy elections.”  If we run on that kind of message in 2018 and 2020, I’m confident that we will and win big.   But first let’s do everything in our power to stop the agenda of the radical right of the GOP!

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