What To Expect In Donald Trump’s America
On November 9th, the world woke up to a reality where Donald J. Trump is the most powerful citizen on Earth.
With a week gone by, that reality has still not sunk in for most. It has left many shaken and afraid as it’s unknown what is ahead for our country and its citizens.
A Trump Administration means entering uncharted waters. His campaign has not built out robust policy plans in large part because he refused to pay the people who initially turned out to help his campaign. Instead, Trump focused on painting a picture of a dystopian country that needed to be fixed without actually telling us how he actually planned to fix it. Lack of critical, consistent, or objective media coverage, meaningful debate substance, or in-depth policy plans on his website or while he was on the stump left a void of information.
While there is much we do not know about what will happen under a Trump Administration, here are some things that we can expect in Trump’s America. As the saying goes: knowledge is power.
Trump Tax Cuts
Some people will see their federal income tax rates decrease significantly. Those are not middle class or low-income Americans. Of the many blatant untruths Trump told during the course of his campaign, his claim that Hillary Clinton would raise taxes on everyone in America — and that America’s taxes were already the highest in the world — were among the worst. He used this lie to juxtapose his plan to cut taxes, and his lack of press availability toward the end of the campaign never put him in a position to give specific details about the plan after he raised his original proposal to get in line with the House GOP proposal.
Per the Trump campaign website his plan will: “Reduce taxes across-the-board, especially for working and middle-income Americans who will receive a massive tax reduction…ensure the rich will pay their fair share, but no one will pay so much that it destroys jobs or undermines our ability compete.”
The Trump Tax Plan is based on an idea of tax cuts, but it’s not that simple. A deeper dive shows that Trump’s rhetoric about “huge tax cuts” is not untrue, but inherently deceptive. For the sake of argument, call it a sin of rhetorical omission, like saying Mexico will pay for the wall versus Mexico will reimburse the USA for the wall. He will never be able to say he didn’t lower taxes but people seeing similar (or higher) tax bills will not be able to cry foul. It’s hard to imagine this move was not strategic, as what his plan means for the middle class in pure federal income tax rates is nearly identical to what Hillary Clinton’s plan offered.
His plan eliminates 4 income tax tiers, but the middle class tiers of 12% and 25% are not where those earners will find the real change in their tax bill. Rather, the mechanism in Trump’s plan that lowers tax bills for Americans is increased standard deductions. The increases in deduction amounts is $15,000 for single filers (up from $6,300) and $30,000 for joint filers (up from $12,600).
Married-joint filers making $75,000 per year (or less) will have their tax rate cut to a single rate of 12%, down from two thresholds of 10% (up to $18,500) and and 15% (up to $75,300), respectively. Cut those amounts in half for single filers.
The biggest benefactors of the Trump tax policy are those who are already very rich and will continue to be high earning individuals, as his tax policy effectively lowers the income tax rate of the highest earners from 39.6% to 33%. The richest 1% of Americans will see the biggest gains while the low and middle class sees middling returns.
Per the non-partisan Tax Foundation, “…all taxpayers would see an increase in after-tax income of at least 6.7 percent under the higher-rate assumption, or 7.9 percent under the lower-rate assumption. The top 1 percent of taxpayers would see an increase in after-tax income of 12.2 percent on a dynamic basis under the higher-rate assumption, or 19.9 percent under the lower-rate assumption.”
A separate article from the Tax Policy Center states that “the top 1 percent (will be) seeing an average tax cut of $215,000.” The same study references that 47% of an estimated 6.2 trillion dollars in tax cuts over the next ten years will go to the highest American earners while anyone earning less than $47,800 per year will get an average of about $400 back in taxes per year. Not exactly a game changer for the middle class.
And, finally, according to a study by Lily Batchelder, Professor of Law and Public Policy at NYU, “approximately 7.8 million low-income large families will experience increased tax bills under the Trump plan.”
The biggest losers under this policy are single earners formerly filing as head of household (the plan eliminates that designation) and large low income families with a single earner. This information would likely not play well with the average voter, but it’s an example of where lack of objective criticism of Trump during the final weeks of his campaign failed to deliver critical information to voters.
Trump’s tax plan will be undeniably more business friendly, as businesses of all size will have their tax rate cut from 35% to 15% — an unprecedented tax cut that will put money back in the pockets of Main Street and Wall Street alike (albeit at the expense of tax revenue). Small and mid-size businesses of 51–100 employees will stand to recoup the most financially should Obamacare be repealed and their onus of providing healthcare to employees amid continually skyrocketing premium costs is repealed.
There is a childcare tax credit available to low income earners ($62,400 married and $31,200 single) via a tax rebate of 7.65% for childcare expenses.
Finally, the very rich get another handout with the repeal of the Death Tax .
Whether this plan is the one enacted (his tax plan has changed multiple times during his campaign, including in recent months) remains will be seen.
The Trump Cabinet Will Be…Controversial
Following his election, voters and pundits alike wondered if Trump the candidate would be the different than Trump the President.
In the first major post-election move, Trump appointed RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff and Breitbart Editor Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist.
It turns out that President Trump will be a mixed bag of traditional Republican policymaking and Alt-Right nationalist leanings. Priebus is a natural choice as a well connected surrogate within the House and Senate, but Bannon is a lightning rod for controversy, having run a news site that acted as the defacto voice of the white nationalist, anti-Semite, anti-gay, anti-Muslim faction of the GOP.
There are already rumblings that President Trump will be appointing his inner circle to key cabinet positions. This includes Goldman Sachs executive and Trump campaign donor/finance chairman Steve Mnunchin as Secretary of Treasury and climate change denier/Trump campaign EPA adviser Myron Ebell as Administrator of the EPA.
Ebell, a conservative economist, heads a group called Cooler Heads Coalition that is “focused on dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.” He is not a scientist by education or training and largely dispels the evidence of climate change being caused by humans as an unfounded myth.
More alarming are the rumored appointments of Forrest Lucas (of Lucas Oil), Donald Jr., or Sarah Palin as Interior Secretary and John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani as Secretary of State.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has already come out in opposition of Bolton and Giuliani as Secretary of State choices due to their hyper-interventionist tendencies. Trump may have to bend to the whims of Congressional Republicans who won’t give his appointees a hearing.
There is a mandate within the Trump circle about hiring from the private sector for cabinet positions, but that might only apply to positions that won’t be filled by the inner circle of henchmen that stood by him during the election while so many other Republicans and policymaker elites jumped ship. The transition team effort has shown that Trump is more than willing to tap GOP policy makers and industry lobbyists to help make policy decisions.
This matters as much (or more) as a Trump presidency because his cabinet will be responsible for advising on key issues regarding governance of their respective departments. If Trump’s transition team of GOP policy elites and industry lobbyists — lead by VP-elect Mike Pence, a man who as a member of the House was not able to get a single bill passed in 90 attempts — are any indication, his promise of being the outsider’s candidate who “drains the swamp” in Washington may not come to fruition. Private sector stewards overseeing key positions in the Trump cabinet may in fact do nothing but eliminate the middle-man between lobbyist and president, inserting the former directly in to the cabinet and eliminating checks and balances associated with traditional public-private decision making.
Americans also should worry about an administration ripe with people eager to exploit every resource in America for profit while significantly deregulating their respective industries. It is not unreasonable to think that mass deregulation is coming (especially when it comes to fracking and oil pipelines) as part of Trump’s first 100 days plan is to subtract two regulations for every new one added while empowering the energy industry.
The financial crisis and Great Recession demonstrated that, given ultimate power of influence and lack of regulated oversight, insatiable greed and profit-at-all-cost mentality will always prevail over honest business practices in a capitalist-American society. Wall Street officials are already pushing to overturn laws about fiduciary duties, a measure aimed to eliminate conflict of interest about giving poor advice between broker and client.
Trump’s cabinet appointments will be telling about how he will govern and what Americans can expect.
Mike Pence And The Religious Right Will Have Its Day
With a Supreme Court vacancy and a supermajority in Congress, Mike Pence and the religious conservative legislators will work tirelessly during their window within a Republican controlled government to push their agenda.
Pence, self labeled “Christian, Conservative, and Republican — in that order”, is an Christian ideologue of the highest degree. As Governor of Indiana, Pence shut down five Planned Parenthood clinics amidst a HIV outbreak, signed a anti LGTBQ bill to law while refusing to defend it’s discriminatory tendencies, and passed anti-abortion legislation that required a fetus be cremated and buried (as opposed to used in research).
Pence is also a fervent a denier of evolution and staunch opponent of civil rights for people who identify as LGBTQ. It can be expected that Pence and the GOP will massacre rights for women’s health and the LGBTQ community on the grounds of religious-driven legislation.
In the supreme court, Roe v. Wade will stand, but it will be back in the spotlight when a new Supreme Court Justice is appointed, especially should one or more remaining judge decide to retire.
For Better Or Worse, Massive Education Reform Is Coming
Trump’s K-12 education policy is one that is largely built around the plan his running mate implemented in Indiana. In addition to wanting to eliminate the department of education, Trump has said he wants to bring educational supervision back to local communities via a system of vouchers and charter school, and “getting rid of Common Core — fast.”, as VP-Elect Pence did as governor of Indiana.
Per his first 100 days plan he will implement the School Choice And Education Opportunity Act, which “Redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2 and 4-year college more affordable.”
Trump has not offered a concrete plan on how to make college more accessible or affordable aside from colleges “getting some skin in the game”, and lowering costs through tax incentives.
He has indicated that he cares about the student debt issue and will cap income-based repayment plans at 12.5% and institute forgiveness after 15 years of repayment (compared to 10% and 20 years in the Clinton plan).
His theoretical plan makes sense. However, he has not addressed how to curb climbing tuition costs or allow refinancing for existing student debt. GOP officials have been critical of his plan as it will “cost the government quite a bit of money”, per the Washington Post.
What should cause skepticism of the Trump administration’s plan is their willingness to once again allow private financial institutions to re-take control of student loan programs, a move that would undo the Obama administration’s work to control college lending via the federal government and will likely gut the Pell Grant program. When previously unregulated, student debt began to skyrocket as lenders acted recklessly, giving money knowing that students would never be able to pay back their loans.
A Stronghold Is Being Built Around The 2nd Amendment
That is, at least at the federal level. States will still make their own laws regarding gun regulation. Many states, like Washington, California, and Nevada, passed more strict gun laws this election cycle, while Missouri actually expanded concealed carry laws recently.
The NRA and the gun lobby has long owned the Republican party, donating a significant amount of money to GOP legislators at the state and government level while threatening to fund opponents should they not comply with their agenda.
Obamacare Is Over
Obamacare will begin its death march in January 2017, and, with no official plan in place as its successor, there will be more uncertainty surrounding healthcare in America than ever. The Republicans have worked to repeal Obamacare since its inception while offering no single idea or plan to replace it during that time.
What might not be known to the American people (because the Trump campaign never talked about it) is that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has been promoting his party’s “Better Way” plan for American, in which healthcare reform is a staple. The plan is very detailed on what will change and everyone should read the plan to understand what they can expect and what they can hold Ryan and the Trump administration accountable for should it not be delivered on.
The plan has many elements of Obamacare in it, including allowing dependents to stay on a parent’s plan until they’re 26 and not allowing denial of coverage for a pre-existing condition. This will go a long way to ensuring that 20 million Americans will not lose critical healthcare coverage. If the GOP chooses to repeal Obamacare, they will be responsible simultaneously replacing it and ensuring that sick Americans will not die because they cannot get coverage for a pre-existing condition.
The real challenge for the GOP, of course, is bringing premium costs down. They are betting big on the idea that creating a complete open market without restrictive state lines along with a government mandate for everyone to be insured (on their own or through an employer) will create enough free market competition to lower prices. Insurers will again need to compete for the business of the American people, but if insurers instead choose to collude and keep their prices high, or increase them, it will be a disaster for Trump and Republicans.
What Will America’s Place In The World Be?
The United States foreign policy under Trump figures to be far different than what was experienced under President Obama. This New York Times piece attempts to make sense of 17 months of Trump spitballing on how he would position America in the world.
As the Times piece says, Trump promised to abandon security alliances within NATO, demand higher payments for American protection from our allies, “rip up” NAFTA, withdraw from the TPP and the Paris Agreement on climate change, impose tariffs on Mexico and China, and renegotiate on the Iran Nuclear Deal.
The Times states that “…many foreign policy analysts wonder whether he may be entering office without a plan.”
Since Trump has not offered any concrete policy plans on foreign policy and his Secretary of State choices appear at philosophical odds with him, it appears this may in fact be true. Only time will tell how he intends to approach foreign policy. In the mean time, we can be thankful control mechanisms exist and will steer him keep him in check with regard to imperialistic policy.
However, lack of a plan or even guiding principles will create economic instability and diplomatic tension in many countries, including the United States.
Mass Deportations And Other Immigration Promises
Although it has already disappeared and reappeared on his website since election day, Trump’s rhetoric surrounding Muslim entry bans and Muslim community surveillance shows that his administration will not be as friendly to Muslim communities on a domestic or international level. Hopefully, this will not evolve in to Muslim-American persecution in anything close to resembling Japanese internment during World War II.
There seems to be differing agendas within the Trump administration regarding immigration already. Some speculate his plan to build a wall will not in fact come to pass, while others insist it is happening.
While Priebus says mass deportations will not come to pass, Trump’s talking points regarding his agenda suggest otherwise. Meanwhile, the LAPD has come out to say they will not assist with mass deportations if instructed.
There have already been 250+ reported hate crimes since the election, and promises of community surveillance will likely lead to renegade vigilantes committing violent acts in the name of patriotism.
How immigration policy under Trump is both created and practiced remains to be seen. His rhetoric on the campaign trail bordered on unconstitutional, and he may find that what he promised is unlawful and impossible.
We Will Find Out What Kind Of Negotiator Trump Really Is
Candidate Trump is carpet bombing nearly every US treaty struck over the past two decades. He is pushing to renegotiate trade deals like NAFTA, withdraw from TPP, kill free trade, take on China for alleged currency manipulation, build a wall on the US-Mexican border (and make Mexico pay for it).
While Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated a willingness to renegotiate terms of NAFTA, Chinese officials have already threatened a trade war.
Chinese communist run newspaper the Global Times claimed any new tariffs would trigger immediate “countermeasures” and “tit-for-tat approach” from Beijing, and “A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US.”
As the United States owes such a huge trade debt to China, Trump’s ability to strike a favorable deal on US-Chinese trade will be a large indicator of his ability as a negotiator.
Trump Will Go Nuclear On Congress
Part of Trump’s plan for his first 100 days in office is starting to “drain the swamp” by imposing term limits for members of Congress. Of Trump’s many insane proposals, it’s hard to disagree with this being anything other than good for the American people.
Stagnation within Washington has caused a lot of the unrest and political gridlock that exists today. Term limits of 2 or 3 terms, restrictions on lobbying, and more emphasis on creating a robust “farm” system in state legislatures will create an impetus for elected officials to get work done while in office rather than obstruct and wait to win back the White House.
Trump’s prospective cabinet shows that he may just be re-allocating parts of one swamp to another.
Speaking Of Nuclear…
Trump’s temperament and ability (or lack thereof) to keep composure in critical moments has been a major concern for many Americans. He has reportedly needed the philosophy of maintaining a nuclear arsenal as a deterrent to nuclear war explained to him multiple times by his military advisers, even saying in multiple interviews “why do we even make them (if we can’t use them)?”
What has been most terrifying about Trump’s lack of a foreign policy plan has been his flippant approach to rhetoric around use of nuclear weapons and continued nuclear proliferation. He clearly does not understand the consequences of triggering a nuclear event, maintaining he “wants to remain unpredictable”. He has also suggested peace among nations on the Korean peninsula would be better achieved if countries like Japan were armed with nuclear weapons of their own.
The fact is, he has full control of both the United States military and its entire nuclear capability, and his capacity to be diplomatic with foreign leaders and agendas is paramount to maintaining global peace.
Democrats Have A Chance To Take The High Road
Many prominent Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have already released statements promising to work with Trump and his administration.
Sanders has been vocal in support of protesters while encouraging people to give Trump a chance to work. He has done that while reminding Americans what is at stake and that they must hold Trump accountable.
President Obama and Hillary Clinton have also both told the American people we owe Trump support for a good faith effort to enact his agenda and improve the quality of life in America.
This is a stark contrast to the obstructionist temper tantrums thrown by house and senatorial GOP members for the last 4 years, who as recently as a week before the election vowed to keep the Supreme Court seat empty should Clinton be elected. Republicans and Democrats stopped working across the aisle long ago, and a liberal agenda will need to be fought for by taking the high road, conceding in some areas, and, for the first time in a long time, placing partisanship aside in order to better life in America.
It will soon be known whether Trump can uphold his promise of making America great. If he fails, it will be on all Americans to hold him — and Republicans — accountable and push for change.