Is Trump Now the GOP?

What, now, is the Republican Party? Last night, in his most conventional moment to date, President Trump challenged the soul of the GOP. Based on applause, is it now safe to say the Republican Party stands for protectionism, a $1 trillion infrastructure project, paid family and medical leave, and governmental restrictions on drug prices and corporate mobility? To be fair, Mr. Trump included several traditionally conservative proposals, including increased military spending, reduced corporate and middle-class taxes, school vouchers, and the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. So, where does this leave the GOP? Will Mr. Trump become more Republican, or will Republicans become more like Donald Trump? Both?

Here are a few small observations in no particular order:

  1. Trump must have a gold-plated wand to pay for his agenda unless he plans on expanding the national debt–which he lamented during the speech. Trump’s calculation seems to be to keep social spending in place + increase for military + paid family and medical leave + more access to child care + $1 trillion for infrastructure – reduced business taxes – reduced middle class taxes = reduced national debt. Yeah, I am not sure how that makes any sense.
  2. Trump has, in his own mind, completely disconnected political and economic freedom. This would be a transformation for Republicans.
  3. Trump’s infrastructure spending has the potential to end up just like previous stimulus spending–falling into the big, black federal hole with little to show for it. If we are going down this road, let’s get something tangible out of if that will benefit the nation, like ultra high-speed internet everywhere for everyone, a high-speed rail, or something that will demonstrably benefit America, just as Eisenhower’s national highway system did. If there are a few obvious, tangible goals attached, it could work (even though we cannot afford it), whereas a million little jobs with no accountability will surely fail.
  4. There was zero mention of any social issue unless you consider the Supreme Court appointment.
  5. Trump has a real opportunity to get Democratic votes for a big chunk of his agenda (family and medical leave, subsidized child care, infrastructure spending, and some degree of protectionism). Will that create unity or will it fracture the GOP?
  6. Trump, if he is as shrewd as he says, will cobble some of these together so he can trade votes on issues back and forth. If he is skillful about it, he could break both parties in the process and solidify his popular support.
  7. While I disagree with massive elements of his agenda, I am not sure Trump will get much public pushback. He could create even more of a fissure between the elites and the people, thereby empowering himself in the process.
  8. Trump’s reference to Ryan Owens’ sacrifice and his widow’s presence was moving and powerful. At the same time, in her shoes, I would have refused Trump’s invitation. I understand Trump’s desire, and her willingness to celebrate her husband’s service by attending, but such fresh grief deserves the dignity of privacy. I feel for her and the rest of Owens’ family.
  9. No matter the president, Congress always comes off as servile in that setting. The President is elevated above the members, who cheer him at every opportunity. While members should show due respect, some level of institutional pride would be welcome. For instance, he should speak from the floor and they should require him to take questions directly.
  10. Trump’s handling of the Affordable Care Act will probably result in its repeal at some level. But his conditions for replacement suggest something even more expensive will result.

4 thoughts on “Is Trump Now the GOP?”

  1. Dr. Smith, your “equation” in #1 did not take into account reduction of the regulatory state and reduced spending in other agencies. For instance. Trump’s proposal for increased military spending supposedly will be offset by cuts in the State Department and the EPA. In addition, as demonstrated by the reduction in prices for the F-35, Air Force One, etc. Trump is demonstrating that what he wants to get done, he will do for less. Will it work? Maybe, maybe not? I am just noting that this wasn’t taken into account.

    Also, reduced taxes can, in fact, often lead to increased revenue. I know on the face of it, it doesn’t make much sense, but to use an example (probably a lousy one but it will serve as an illustration) on the game SimCity when managing your city (yes, I know, not real life, but just bear with me) sometimes lowering taxes would grow the city, increasing the tax base, so that in the end, revenue was actually higher than it was before.

    There is no sure fire way of knowing that this will happen, but I think this is where Trump’s hopes lay, that reduced taxes will result in growth of business which will in the end actually increase revenue. Is it worth the risk? At this point, I am not sure, but as the saying goes, greater the risk, greater the reward.

    My great concern is that all the benefits I see coming from Trump’s agenda will be offset by the protectionism, but in the end, I think more good than bad will come of it.

    Regarding #3, on one hand I do question the wisdom of such an large infrastructure bill, on the other, I think it is needed. I agree it has the potential to end up like the stimulus, but if the money actually goes to infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.) rather than crony projects like Solyndra, it will have more success than Obama’s stimulus.

    On #4, I see where conservatives might be concerned, but yet at the same time, on social issues like abortion, the Supreme Court is really the only meaningful way to combat it. Could be wrong, but maybe Trump just doesn’t want to waste time (and raise hopes) on issues that only the court can at this point meaningfully impact.

    Anyway, some of my thoughts.

  2. A couple of responding points:

    1. Whoever wrote Trump’s speech deserves a promotion (unless he wrote, in which case a pat on the back will suffice). Given all the controversy that has surrounded his first month, I was shocked to see such a positive response to the speech. When Van Jones is applauding Trump’s performance, there is something to be said for his actions.

    2. Speaking of performance, I don’t doubt that some of the applauding was mere pageantry. In that sense, I think we can count on the Congress to push back on some of Trump’s proposals.

    3. My biggest sticking point with him continues to be his stance on free trade, which he still seems to be falling short on. His regulation stance is excellent, his enforcement of laws is welcome, and his desire to redo Obamacare and taxes has great potential. The trade policy is simply holding him back. He says, “I like free trade, but I also like fair trade.” Yet, by definition, free trade has to be fair trade, which he still misses.

    4. Trump needs to cut spending somewhere. If we can average 3% GDP growth (which hasn’t been done for a while), that will help a great deal, but I doubt it’s enough. Entitlements, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid need to be cut and reformed (maybe make it merit-based). They make up a substantial part of spending, and even moderate cuts will lead to a large deficit reduction.

  3. In reference to #10, you were spot on. Two weeks and a proposed plan later, increased spending will be absolutely necessary if he’s going to do what he said he would: decrease the cost on premiums and total, nationwide coverage.

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