Day 19 1,443 24 hour news cycles to go
In their rush toward “action” to show Trump’s voters that he is going to be different – and I admit he is very different, who could say he isn’t? – his administration, such as it is, has relied on executive orders. Most things take a long time for government to do, because you’re supposed to try to make sure it makes sense, is Constitutional, and will, you hope, work. None of those three are relevant to either Trump or Bannon, it is all about the show for the former and the Constitution is trash to be disposed to the latter. While some executive orders have had immediate effect, most have been more in the way of first steps. At some point they have to slow down because there is only so much low hanging fruit out there to pick. But slowing down doesn’t fit who they say they are, or what their more vehement supporters expect.
First for the things that could take some effect right away. Trump has put forward a Supreme Court nomination who fits one of my first post’s list of ten things I feared he would do, the most likely to happen, a judge to the right of Scalia. And he has tried to ban people from seven largely Muslim nations, while leaving out others that actually have sent terrorists here, presumably because he has business ties in them. This is now in the Court system with an unprecedented array of opponents, from state governments to major businesses to actual national security experts. The court system will be where a great deal of what he wants to do, especially things he thinks he can do without Congress, will wind up. Pundits are already wondering what happens when he decides to ignore a court order. Will Congress intervene and stop him? Judging by their comments so far, I think that is unlikely. I fear that if Trump will let Ryan and McConnell screw the public on taxes, which he will, they’ll let him screw the public, and the Constitution, in many other ways. When Trump and Bannon go for the Courts, will Congress realize it is next if it doesn’t act? Will the public act effectively? Of course Trump and Bannon have hit other, easier, targets, such as removing basic scientific evidence of climate change from various government websites. The creation of alt groups to preserve that information has been heartening. And finally got me on twitter.
Then there is the long term. An executive order to build a wall is largely symbolic, but Ryan has already said they’ll pay for it, a first step toward his eventual decision that deficits don’t matter after all. The only certain thing is that Mexico will not pay for it. Loosening regulations on oil and gas will play out in Congress and/or the courts, as will loosening regulations on Wall Street. Meanwhile industries that actually could see (and have already seen) enormous job growth with a little government encouragement, such as solar, will be ignored. Obamacare will not be completely dismantled any time soon because they don’t have a replacement and some Republican Senators understand they will pay a price for taking away tens of millions of people’s health care without a replacement, but their actions have already weakened it. Ryan will present a tax plan designed to tax the wealthy as little as possible, and say the estimates of a huge deficit increase (currently $9 trillion over the next decade, based on what he seems to want to do) are wrong because this tax cut will make the economy boom. Trump will embrace it. Like Bush’s, it won’t help the economy but will hurt the deficit. Though Trump said early in his campaign that the wealthy should pay more taxes, he has since reverted to standard Republican orthodoxy; like his tax returns, we will never see Trump try to increase taxes on the wealthy. After all, if he did his entire Cabinet would be hurt.
Without more easy targets what will Trump do? Nuke Syria or Iraq? Insult as many more foreign leaders as he can? Issue an executive order mandating that all Americans have to follow him on Twitter? As appalling as the Muslim ban is, I suspect the real problems haven’t even started yet. What do simple minded narcissists and hard-working racist nativists (that’s right Bannon, I’m talking about you) do when the going gets tougher and the issues get more complicated? They stay who they are, no matter the consequences.