Has Trump lost the plot?
President Donald Trump appears to have lost the plot after less than a year into the job which Obama and many observers, including members in his own party had predicted. This was clearly evident on Tuesday, August 15 at a press conference which was supposed to be on infrastructure but quickly descended into a typical brawl with the media on the Charlottesville clash between KKK, neo-Nazis and White supremacists on one side and protesters against that group.
Trump reverted to type, equally blamed both groups to the consternation of politicians from both major parties and even the two former Bush (Republican) presidents. This event followed a tumultuous month including bellicose rhetoric on North Korea, fights with the Republican Senate majority leader regarding the failure of that body to pass a bill on healthcare, denigration of his Justice Secretary, the dismissal of key aides and the continuing Russian election investigation.
The administration appeared to have taken corrective action with the appointment of the well-respected General Kelly to replace Reinbus as chief of staff and then came Charlottesville. The Charlottesville crisis is however only one more of the constant barrage of chaotic events never seen before in this office.
Trump who came to fix America appears to bring chaos into the system, damaging his incoherent agenda, his party and America.
The Charlottesville fiasco has shown Trump’s real colours. The well prepared statement on Monday, which in line with mainstream politicians lambasted the neo-Nazis, was not really Trump. A combative Trump in the press conference on Tuesday in which he reiterated a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and protesters as he did in his first statement was the real Trump, rather than the caged animal on Monday.
It is hard to imagine that the President of the USA, which had fought wars to free enslaved African Americans and Nazi Germany, would refer to neo-Nazis as “good people”. It is hard to believe that a President of the USA would support a general who had rebelled against the Federal Government because the rebels wanted to keep a section of the populace in slavery and compared that general to heroes of the American Revolution. Where else in the world would you have a statue of a rebel who tried to break up a country getting the support of the President of that country? It is hard to believe that the President would support neo-Nazis who are advocating hatred and subjugation of non-Whites.
Trump claimed that his original statement and the delay in issuing the much appreciated denunciation of the neo-Nazis was because he was waiting for facts on what really happened. This goes against numerous actions he has taken regarding terrorist incidents around the world, when he has frequently tweeted condemnation and inflammatory statements about perpetuators almost in real time.
Indeed Trump had time to denounce the African American Chairman of Merck who had resigned from his manufacturing council because of Tump’s action almost immediately after the resignation, even before his denunciation of the neo-Nazis? And Trump has remained silent on attacks on Muslims, even in his own country, while lambasting attacks by Muslims abroad. The Charlottesville incident has confirmed that Trump is beholden to neo-Nazis who regard themselves as superior to all other races in this polyglot nation.
Crucially for the self-styled doyenne of the business world, the Charlottesville fiasco has resulted in a barrage of criticism from business leaders. Mass resignations from two councils on manufacturing and general business that he had set up have resulted in him disbanding both groups. However, the rot started even before this incident. He has yet to get any significant legislative win and is obsessed with Obama’s legacy, no doubt because of his racist tendency. His attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare has flopped and he faces major hurdles in his other legislative agenda, namely, tax reform and infrastructure. He has a crowded schedule in the next few months which, together with his lack of a clear and coherent vision and strategy, experience in politics, interest in in the intricacies policy formulation and his laziness will make him one of the most ineffectual leaders the country has had.
Republicans in congress are pushing the president to move on to tax reform even though Trump is still obsessed with health care. Tax reform is a minefield that Trump is ill prepared to deal with. It was assumed that savings from health care would have been used to part fund the tax give away that Republicans planned; that is no longer possible. There are many competing interests and Trump has shown that he is unable to deal with such complexities. Recent polls have shown that the public is not enamoured with huge tax reduction for corporations that the Republicans have been touting. The public appears to believe by and large that personal taxes are currently fair.
Crucially, observers have noted that the administration’s position in two areas have resulted in missed opportunities to raise revenue and conflict with Trump’s stated objective of making the U.S. more competitive. The administration, in its push for deregulation is reviewing Obama’s 385 tax rule and has postponed its implementation by a year from 2018. This rule was intended to combat tax avoidance but also make American companies more competitive.
It eliminates a major tax advantage foreign competitors have over U.S. businesses in the latter’s home market: the ability to avoid U.S. corporate taxes via interest stripping. The administration has also abandoned the Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) proposal that had been championed by Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House. That proposal which would tax imported goods consumed in the U.S. but not exports, much like the value added tax in most industrial countries, would have raised significant income for the Treasury while giving US based producers a competitive advantage, thereby also helping stem the country’s huge trade deficit.
Trump is therefore not adhering to his America first principle but also losing out on significant revenues.
The planned tax cuts will increase the budget deficit without spurring significant economic growth as has been the case in previous initiatives.
Both the Reagan and Bush tax cuts resulted in lacklustre growth, much less than under Clinton and Obama when the opposite happened in taxes, economic growth and employment. The increase in the deficit is likely to be a point of contention with Republican deficit hawks and Democrats are not going to be too keen on tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich. Trump’s infrastructure plan is as yet a vague idea as his press conference on Tuesday demonstrated. Suffice to say it will be another opportunity for corporations to have rich pickings, no doubt to the cost of tax payers and users. While Trump and members of his team view this as a bipartisan project, expect opposition from Democrats and Republican deficit hawks in Congress.
All is not gloom for Trump’s agenda because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently assaulting America’s environment by dismantling Obama’s rules and Executive orders which have protected country’s land, water and air. The Justice Secretary, like Trump, an ethno-nationalist, is tightening immigration to effectively stem the diversification of America – the majority of immigrants are non-White and the birth rate or non-Whites are higher than for Whites hence their concern. There will be tweaks with NAFTA, ironically using the tools that Obama created for TPP that Trump abandoned.
Trump has indeed lost the plot and it is hard to see how he can resuscitate this sick patient. His chaotic administration is embroiled in one scandal after another. He has antagonised and insulted members of his team, party and the business community. That and his lack of success and unpopularity are making it hard for him to lead his party even though they control both houses of congress. In 2018 the House of Representative and some Senators will be facing voters and he is likely to be an albatross on his party, if he has not been impeached by then.
Rogers is a principal consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO).
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