National Politics

An Emphasis on Action: The 2018 S.O.T.U.

Donald_Trump_State_of_the_Union_2018_(26133528958)

President Trump’s Trail of Broken KEPT Campaign Promises

On January 30th, 2018, President Trump delivered to Congress the first State of the Union address of his presidency. It started at 9:00pm EST, lasted an hour and twenty minutes, and was viewed by a whopping 45.6 million people nationwide. A large variety of policy was discussed, and many special guests were in attendance and were recognized throughout the course of the address.

Two clear themes shone through during the address, and these two themes are, in my mind, the chief drivers of his supporter base and the embodiment of the message that resonated and continues to resonate with so many people. These themes are:

  • President Trump’s tendency away from politics, towards action, and towards a headstrong effort to keep every promise he made throughout his campaign.
  • An unapologetic agenda to put America first (which often gets misconstrued as some combination of xenophobia, misanthropy, and apathy towards the plight of people around the world. We’ll soon examine in the context of the S.O.T.U address why this view of President Trump’s “America first” action plan is entirely incorrect).

Let’s take a look at the address and point out the many instances where these two themes surface. We will move roughly chronologically through the speech.

 

Job Creation

From day one of his campaign, President Trump made clear that an utmost priority of his was bringing jobs that had moved overseas back stateside while creating new jobs here simultaneously; he even promised to be the “greatest jobs president God ever created.” In total lockstep with this strong prioritization of job recovery and growth, Trump’s presidency thus far has worked wonders for the job market. As he noted, we have created over 2.4 million jobs since he took office, including 200,000 in manufacturing – an industry that he promised to revive and strengthen while campaigning. Unemployment claims, a crucial macroeconomic indicator, are at a 45-year low, and unemployment rates for both African Americans and Hispanic Americans are at all-time lows.

The president also announced that on the corporate level, Apple, which has announced its intention to invest $350 billion in the U.S., plans on hiring an additional 20,000 workers. Furthermore, Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan, and Toyota and Mazda are both opening plants in Alabama, all of which will necessitate the hiring of many, many Americans.

Long story short, the President has stayed true to his word: he ran on the claim that jobs were an utmost priority to him, and now that he’s taken office, he’s walked the walk, having created and brought back millions of jobs domestically.

 

The Economy, Trade, and Tax Reform

Throughout his campaign, President Trump echoed and emphasized traditional conservative fiscal policy, while also promising, above all, that compromise would be reached and that legislation would be passed. He made clear that everyone had a plan, had a bill in mind, and had ideas – but the he would come into office with tax principles he stood by, and get tax reform through Congress. In his own words: “Just as I promised the American people from this podium eleven months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.

This skill in negotiation, this way of being crystal clear and uncompromising in his viewpoints, yet not uncompromising in meshing them with those of others, is what Trump claimed he would employ in order to enact policy and get the wheels turning on Capitol Hill again. The stagnation and inability to reach consensus in Washington had caused a rift between voters and their representatives, and left countless Americans disenchanted and fed up with politics at large. President Trump swore to defy this immobile government, and in his doing so and passing his tax package, he has made meaningful change for American people and businesses. Some highlights:

  • Under the reform, the first $24,000 that any married couple makes is completely tax free.
  • The child tax credit has been doubled.
  • A typical family of four making $75,000 a year will now see their taxes halved.
  • The Obamacare individual mandate is now gone.
  • The business tax rate has been cut from 35% to 21%, and small businesses can deduct 20% of their business income.

This legislation has already had tangible impacts. According to the president, “Over three million workers have gotten tax-cut raises” since the package was passed.

Additionally, Trump brought in as guests Steve Staub and Sandy Keplinger of Staub Manufacturing Solutions, an Ohio small business, as well as Corey Adams, an employee of theirs. The firm had just finished its best year in its 20-year history, and was “handing out raises, hiring an additional 14 people, and expanding into the building next door.” Meanwhile, Adams, according to the President, “plans to invest his tax cut raise into his new home and his two daughters’ education.” These are hard-working Americans right in the center of our nation, earning their keep and driving the heartbeat of our country. These are the people President Trump promised he would have at the forefront of his mind when crafting fiscal policy, and we see here that palpable effects of the tax package the president has passed are already being felt throughout the nation.

Economically, as the president cited, the numbers speak for themselves: in addition to the business investment flooding into the States, the stock market has climbed relentlessly over the course of his presidency thus far, demolishing record after record. As far as our trade balance goes, President Trump had consistently touted his ability to negotiate fair, equitable trade deals for the U.S. over the course of his campaign. Now, sure enough, we are exporters of energy to the rest of the world, and maintain an overall trade balance far less skewed toward imports: in the president’s words, “The era of economic surrender is over.” Trump promised on the economic and trade fronts, and as of right now, he’s delivered.

 

Veterans’ Affairs

This one is as open and shut as it gets. Throughout his campaign trail, President Trump made clear his intention to clean up the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. He saw the neglect and lack of competency that the department was rife with, and he intended to do something about it the moment he reached office.

To boot, Congress passed the VA Accountability Act this past June, a bipartisan and almost ubiquitously supported effort led by the president. In short, the Act allows employees not pulling their weight or performing up to snuff to be promptly fired, and holds VA employees accountable for the care they provide. Since the passing of the Act, over 1,500 VA employees not performing satisfactorily have been removed.

Yet another action that President Trump has taken, yet another significant, much needed piece of legislation passed through Congress, and yet another campaign promise President Trump has kept.

 

Immigration and “America First”

This component is perhaps the most notorious of President Trump’s platform, among supporters and detractors alike. Nevertheless, we’re not examining the policies and evaluating whether we agree or not; rather, my point remains: President Trump has set himself apart from previous presidents by being a president of action who rejects traditional political stagnation and aims to make good on every last campaign promise he’s made. Let’s examine this claim within the realm of immigration and analyze the “America first” platform in the meantime.

President Trump has sent a proposal to Congress meant to address the vast and multi-faceted issue of immigration. He’s already done his part by staying true to his values, promises, and beliefs while simultaneously introducing enough compromise to give this thing a shot in Congress. We now just need to hope Capitol Hill is inspired by this recent and unprecedented flurry of activity and successful legislation under President Trump to send this bill through. In any event, here are the four pillars of this bipartisan proposal that President Trump outlined during his address:

  1. Offering a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants brought here by their parents at a young age. Those who meet education and work requirements and show good moral character will be able to become full citizens in a 12-year period. This component in particular should prove to many who doubt him that our president, while as steadfast as any in his views, is also an extremely competent and willing negotiator, who will work across the aisle to ensure that what needs to get addressed by the passage of new legislature gets addressed.
  2. Full securing of the border. This includes building the wall and beefing up ICE and border patrol.
  3. An end to the Visa lottery system, and a move towards an intentional, merit-based system. This meshes with pillar one.
  4. An end to chain migration, and a limiting of sponsorships to spouses and minor children.

Do 2, 3, and 4 sound familiar? They should, since they’re exactly what President Trump promised repeatedly throughout his campaign. As for pillar 1, we recognize again here the broader promise President Trump made in campaigning, arguably more important than any one policy or proposed bill: an end to the seemingly eternal impasse in Washington that was leaving many Americans fed up with our nation’s politicians. What we are seeing is a total and genuine effort to keep every last promise made to the American people on the part of President Trump. In his own words: “These four pillars represent a down-the-middle compromise, and one that will create a safe, modern, and lawful immigration system. For over thirty years, Washington has tried and failed to solve this this problem. This Congress can be the one that finally makes it happen. Most importantly, these four pillars will produce legislation that fulfills my iron-clad pledge to sign a bill that puts America first. So let’s come together, set politics aside, and finally get the job done.” At this point, we truly grasp the extent to which President Trump seeks to eschew politics, and to which he’s willing to go to keep his word. This seems to me an utter contrast to Washington’s M.O., and the many who voted for and support our president probably do so in large part because he operates so unlike any current politician or previous presidential candidate.

President Trump continued his powerful “America first” message, staying consistent with his longtime adage and encapsulating it in only a few short sentences:

The United States is a compassionate nation. We are proud that we do more than any other country anywhere in the world to help the needy, the struggling, and the underprivileged all over the world. But as president of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, my constant concern is for America’s children, America’s struggling workers, and America’s forgotten communities…so tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed…My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.

This platform is the “America first” platform. It doesn’t neglect the plight, need, and struggle of those abroad, and even still embraces America’s inherent role as a nation that is so involved in solving these issues around the world. It doesn’t hate, and it doesn’t discriminate in the slightest; but it does, at the end of the day, recognize that as the government of America, our government—president included—owes its primary attention and efforts towards America. In many ways, all the beliefs, policy efforts, and stances of the Trump campaign have all been centered around this one tenet, that we’ve got to serve ourselves before we turn our attention outwards. Because “Americans are dreamers, too.”

The address touched on many more issues than the four given above, but the message at this point is crystal clear: we have a president who ran on a set of principles, and on a promised set of policies, that he has adhered to and pursued with rigorous intent. More so than for any candidate in recent history, voters for Donald Trump truly got exactly what they voted for – and there is something admirable to be said about that level of honesty, commitment, and transparency. President Trump has acted on many of the promises he made throughout his campaign, and is aggressively in pursuit of keeping good on the rest.

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