Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How do we assess Trump?

Donald Trump has been president for less than two weeks and people are already calling for his impeachment. The call is precipitate to say the least, but it was about this time in Barack Obama's presidency that he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize so it is no more of a rush to judgement than that. The timing is perhaps understandable given the extraordinary pace that Trump has set since assuming office on January 20th. I guess his opponents realise that if they leave the impeachment too long, there may not be a Constitution under which to impeach him!

Among the blitzkrieg of policy announcements and executive orders from Trump during his first week and a half in office we can count:

  • an order to “secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall”
  • the announcement of the US withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement
  • an immediate federal hiring freeze
  • an immediate freeze on new regulations
  • the reinstatement of George W. Bush's ban on US foreign aid to international organisations that "promote abortion"
  • the announcement of a new system to fast-track infrastructure projects
  • a call for a “major investigation” into voter fraud during the last election
  • advancing plans for the Keystone and Dakota pipelines
  • an order blocking all immigration from Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan for 120 days and from Syria indefinitely
  • an order withholding federal funds to cities that do not comply with federal immigration laws (i.e. that are 'sanctuary cities')
  • an order that allows agencies to eliminate Affordable Care Act taxes and requirements
  • a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May
  • the sacking of Acting US Attorney-General, Sally Yates.

As one wag put it, what the hell were all the other presidents doing during their first few days in office? You've got to hand it to Trump, he is not shy of wielding his presidential powers. I am sure he realises that frustration with politicians not following through on their promises is precisely one of the reasons people voted for him. But when it comes to political decision-making, quantity definitely does not equate to quality.

The immigration order has received the most comment internationally and I agree with most of the criticism in that it is short-sighted, discriminatory, ineffective and most likely to hurt the United States itself by costing American society far more than the impacts of the risks it attempts to address.

On the other hand some of what of Trump has already put into action, such as his resurrection of the Keystone pipeline - the first step in his promises on energy policy and climate change - has my support. It is expected that he will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and refocus the US Environmental Protection Agency on genuinely protecting the environment rather than being, as it is currently, an end run around the legal and constitutional barriers to Obama's global warming evangelism (and if you want to know more about this, I suggest you watch this video of a press conference by Trump's EPA transition chief, Myron Ebell).

So how do we judge Trump from a libertarian perspective? Do two environmental policy reforms outweigh one discriminatory immigration policy, or is it a case of dog-shit yoghurt where the bad contaminates all of the good? I think that overall Trump will not be good for the cause of freedom. This will be particularly true once the inevitable electoral backlash results in a swing back to the Democrats, who are likely to throw out any good policies Trump may have implemented and deal out more of their own bad medicine.

UPDATE: John Stossel describes the libertarian dilemma about Trump better than I do in this article, quoting Robert Higgs, who says "Trump talks about many things...but...there is one topic that he never mentions, and that is freedom". So true.

1 comment:

paul scott said...

There is no such thing as freedom. Its a word for dreamers, an illusion. It's a thing for libertarians. I don't think Trump is concerned with daydreams.
He should cancel Berkeley University funding, sack the sickling Oakland Police, and shoot the rioters.