June 18, 2017

NEVER LET IT BE SAID THAT DONALD ISN'T AN INNOVATOR...:

Trump Is Offering Populism, Minus the Free Candy (Neil Irwin, JUNE 17, 2017, NY Times)

[C]onsider an alternate history of the Trump administration: one in which the president embraced the lessons of right-wing populists from abroad.

It's Jan. 21, and Mr. Trump is newly sworn in. Shrugging off the snark from liberals on Twitter about the size of his inauguration crowds, he directs his staff to go to work on the Make America Great Again Act of 2017.

They dust off the policy white paper that the campaign staff issued months earlier, and spend their time on Capitol Hill trying to cobble together a coalition to pass a bill aimed at helping the people who put Mr. Trump in the White House.

The bill has lots of money to fight the opioid epidemic and to invest in communities left behind by the modern economy. There is money to prop up troubled health insurance markets, so that Mr. Trump can say he has replaced Obamacare with something better. There are a trillion dollars for public infrastructure -- not some complex tax credit that favors revenue-generating projects in affluent areas, but the brute force of government dollars to build roads and bridges in every corner of the nation.

Each project, of course, will have a big sign crediting the Make America Great Again Act with a big photo of Mr. Trump flashing a thumbs up.

To help keep conservatives and business interests on board with all that spending, the bill loosens environmental laws and bank regulations, among other policy goodies that make C.E.O.s' hearts flutter. But it wouldn't achieve a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate unless packaged with those aforementioned goodies that appeal to Democrats. Maybe it could increase the minimum wage, but also include a tax credit for companies that hire American workers to offset the cost to businesses.

The government would pay for it all with higher deficits. Free candy for everyone! [...]

Based on the early policy moves of the Trump administration, spending too much on goodies for his working-class supporters isn't something Americans need to fear. He has chosen a very different path -- even when following through would be more consistent with his campaign promises.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump promised not to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. As president, his budget would cut the Social Security disability insurance program and Medicaid.

His first major legislative effort was a health care bill that would cause 23 million people to lose coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office's estimate, while cutting taxes for the affluent. It would hit older Americans, who disproportionately voted for Mr. Trump, particularly hard in the form of higher health insurance costs. The bill, which is being revised by the Senate, is deeply unpopular, according to public opinion polls.

Despite the president's talk of a bold $1 trillion infrastructure plan, there is not yet an actual legislative proposal, and the approach the administration has described relies heavily on tax credits to encourage private investment. That tends to limit the scope of any projects to those that can generate revenue to pay off investors.

On taxes there is also no legislative proposal yet, and the bullet points the administration has released imply much bigger advantages for corporations and the highest earners than for middle-class Americans.

On opioid addiction and other problems facing some of the troubled communities that heavily favored Mr. Trump at the voting booth, the most visible thing the administration has done is appoint a task force. His budget would slash regional development funds, through the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority, for example, both of which benefit areas that voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump.

On top of it all, Mr. Trump has set a political tone that makes it harder to change course and find bipartisan support for something like the MAGA Act later. Instead of putting Democrats in a jam by proposing something broadly popular, the president has made it easy for them to be united in opposition.

He's the world's first UnPopulist.

Posted by at June 18, 2017 7:36 AM

  

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