The Four Year Mystery
What America’s course will be over the next four years is a mystery unlikely to be solved until it is nearly over. It appears that the new president, Donald Trump doesn’t even know himself what to expect and has not formulated a fixed foreign and domestic policy yet. He is a guy accustomed to shooting from the hip and suggesting policy on the fly. In all probability, he did not anticipate winning the election and did not take the time to decide in any depth what his programs would be.
There are a few things Trump has recently said that give us an inkling of some of his ideas. He stated that the TPP is dead and he will kill it his first day in office. It is too bad he did not opt to change it more to his liking instead of rejecting it completely, because his actions provide China with the ability to dominate trade in the Pacific region. He wants to have bilateral trading agreements with a host of partners. But his move will make other nations question America’s reliability as both an economic partner and a military ally, given the country’s willingness to destroy a carefully negotiated deal that required a lot of effort to put together. Trump had campaigned against trade deals but as a businessman must realize that there are many positive aspects to these agreements, including American jobs for exporters.
His promise to bring back American manufacturing jobs from China and other nations can be considered dead, as these jobs are not coming back. Robotization and computers have already replaced many American workers on factory floors, so fewer are needed to produce more goods. In fact, American manufacturing is at an all time high, though workers in this sector have dropped from close to 30 percent of the work force to less than 10 percent over the last forty years. Of course, the benefits of manufacturing go more to the executives and stockholders of these companies rather than the workers, increasing inequality.
In foreign policy issues during the campaign, Trump promised to crush ISIS saying that he knew more how to do so than the generals. But he has not elucidated a specific plan showing how he will go after ISIS. He has also had friendly words for Putin and would like Russia and the U.S. to work together to eliminate ISIS, but it is unclear how America’s relationship with Russia will evolve. Will America increase the number of troops it has in the Middle East? The low level Ukrainian conflict also has to be resolved and the U.S. relationship with its NATO allies has to be clarified.
NAFTA and trade relations with Mexico are also a matter of uncertainty as is the idea of tariffs on Chinese goods. This would elicit a backlash from China and restrictions in their marketplace which could cost American exports and jobs. (Trump has to realize that for every action there may be a reaction.)
How immigration will be handled also needs to be revealed. Trump appeared initially to be backing off from his pledge to deport all undocumented immigrants and said that he would just go after the “two to three million criminal immigrants.” What will happen to the other nine or ten million that are desperately needed by the American economy? And his wall along the Mexican border appears to be morphing into a fence.
He has said he will not pursue criminal indictments against Hillary, but that does not mean that Congress will not go after her. We can assume that the improprieties by the Trump Foundation will be disregarded by the Republicans in Congress, even though they appear to be more serious than Hillary’s indiscretions. And how will Trump’s conflict of interest with his multiple businesses be handled?
A major thrust of infrastructure building has been one of Trump’s promises to produce jobs and help a neglected aspect of the American economy. How this will be paid for is unknown and some Republicans are questioning the size of the effort. It is also unclear how this will be structured, which areas and requirements will be addressed, and how private companies will fit into this equation. Hopefully, it will be started soon as the construction jobs and the repairs to a crumbling infrastructure are badly needed.
Tax reform, control of multi-nationals and large banks, consumer protection, a reasonable minimum wage, moves to increase inequality are all areas that should be addressed, but whether they will and how they will is yet to be determined.
Trump’s appointments to the Supreme Court will keep it conservative for the next fifty years and shape the nation even more than Trump’s presidency. But with Trump’s vacillation and change over the last few years on many issues, how the next four years will turn out remains a continuing mystery.
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