Now We'll See
By Stephen Tuttle | June 9, 2018
With all the chatter about self-pardoning, justice being obstructed, and witches being hunted, maybe we should see if President Trump is doing anything else.
His three big issues during the campaign were immigration, tax reform, and trade.
Let's see what he's done.
President Trump is still demanding his border wall be built: “... a real wall, a great wall, not just a fence ...” He occasionally still says Mexico will pay for it, but his latest comments indicated he thought the U.S. military should foot the bill of about $35 billion.
We all know Mexico isn't going to pay for a wall. Congress doesn't seem very anxious to contribute much, either. The current budget calls for $1.5 billion for repairs and upgrades to existing barriers and some expansion previously planned. It specifically excludes funding for the president's wall. There are those who now believe he will shut down the government during the next round of budget approvals if he doesn't get his wall.
He has changed immigration policy considerably, as he promised. The Obama administration directive was to pursue illegal immigrants who had committed crimes while here. They basically ignored or released those whose only crime was being here illegally — a civil offense, not a felony — and protected those who had been brought here illegally as children.
The Trump administration has a less nuanced policy: If you're here illegally, you will be sent back to your country of origin. That includes those brought here as children and those who were here illegally but now have children who are natural-born U.S. citizens. Some illegal immigrant children are still being separated from families and kept in juvenile detention centers, a policy started during the Obama administration and lately condemned by the United Nations.
The “flood” of illegal immigration we keep hearing about isn't even a trickle. More illegal immigrants are leaving here, either voluntarily or involuntarily, than entering, a trend that started more than three years ago.
It is a bit ironic that, for all its rhetoric, the Trump administration actually deported 177,000 fewer illegal immigrants in its first year than Barack Obama did in his.
President Trump did convince Congress to pass a large tax cut, the eighth or tenth largest, depending on who's talking, in a century.
The politicians who supported it told us the massive corporate tax cuts, down from 35 percent to 21 percent, would be used to spur economic development, business expansion, and create new jobs. Corporate executives said otherwise.
The executives were right. The politicians either lied or were just wrong.
Publicly traded companies used the tax windfall to buy back their own stock, increase dividends to shareholders, pay off debt and pay some bonuses, mostly to executives — none of which should be a surprise since they told us that's what they were going to do.
Forbes now estimates U.S. companies will buy back a staggering $800 billion in their own stock, with Apple leading the charge at over $100 billion. Fewer shares outstanding increases the value of those that the company holds, it gives the company greater control and leverage, and is a real boon to executives for whom stock options are part of their compensation.
Individuals with an income of $50,000 annually will save about $570 in reduced taxes from the same reform legislation. Those tax breaks expire in 2025; the corporate cuts are permanent.
The president also said he was going to change our trade agreements, and he has touched off a nascent trade war in the process. The theory, apparently, is we can somehow balance our $556 billion trade deficit by slapping tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other imported products, boosting American-made goods in the process. This includes our three largest trading partners, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. We've done so, the president claims, for “national security” reasons. Yes, those pesky Canadians are quite the security threat.
Every country impacted by the Trump tariffs, save Australia, Brazil, and Argentina, have levied or will levy retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports. The proposed Canadian tariffs alone could impact more than $1.1 billion worth of goods exported from Michigan.
It will help our steel industry, at least temporarily. Some steelworkers are now headed back to work — 500 alone this month at a U.S. Steel plant in Granite City, Illinois. But small- and medium-sized companies, like Michigan-based auto parts distributor Lucerne, that import products from Asian manufacturers, could be crippled.
President Trump said he was going to limit immigration, enact corporate tax breaks, and renegotiate trade deals. As promised, he continues his push against illegal immigrants, he did sign a tax reform law, and he seems intent on blowing up our trade relations. He said it would make us great.
Now we'll see how that works out.