It almost seems like an alternative universe in an episode of The Twilight Zone – Donald J. Trump is President of The United States. He gave a short message via YouTube on Monday to the American people (a trend started by our current standing President; thanks, Obama), briefly going over what he and his transition team plan to do in their first 100 days after inauguration. This preview certainly seems to be consistent with what he ran on during his campaign, but what do these talking points mean, and how will they affect the average American?
Trade: A Notification of Intent to withdraw from the TPP.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a multinational trade deal that aims to cut tariffs between 12 nations: US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Peru. It was signed by all of these nations in February and would cover about 40% of the world’s economy. The goal behind TPP is simple – ‘globalism is good,' and slashing tariffs between all of these countries around the Pacific rim would allow for increased trade and growth. Most goods and services that are traded between the nations are named in the pact. In total, around 18,000 tariffs would be affected by this deal.
The kicker is that all 12 nations would have to sign it in order for it to be enacted, and Trump just tore this thing to shreds. With the US being the largest and most influential economy on the list, this essentially kills the TPP. President Obama was a big proponent of the TPP (as was Hillary Clinton initially), until Bernie Sanders, Trump, and a number of activists started stepping all over it. Opponents of the deal claim that it would undercut American workers and jobs, further shrinking the declining middle-class in the US.
Trump has not been bashful in his hatred for the TPP. On June 28th, at a campaign rally in St. Clairsville, Ohio, he said that this deal would rape America:
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country, just a continuing rape of our country. That’s what it is, too. It’s a harsh word: It’s a rape of our country.”
How many times can you use the word rape in one statement? We get it, Donald- we’re all going to be raped if this thing goes through.
Even Bernie Sanders is against the TPP – and when Bernie Sanders actually agrees with Trump on something, you know it’s bad. On July 3rd, he wrote a piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer, ensuring that he was working internally with the Democratic party to bring the deal to an end:
Every trade union in this country is strongly opposed to the pact. They understand that this agreement will make it easier for corporations to throw American workers out on the street and move factories to Vietnam, where workers are paid 65 cents an hour.
This agreement also threatens our democracy. We cannot give multinational corporations the ability to challenge our nation's labor and environmental laws simply because they might reduce expected future profits through the very flawed Investor State Dispute Settlement system. That would undermine the democratic values that our country was founded on.
Upon Obama’s realization that this pact was pissing off Republicans, Democrats, activists, grass-roots progressives, and even rock stars, he backed off completely. Shortly after the Presidential Election, Obama’s administration suspended its efforts to win congressional approval for the deal. It looks like, in a move that most Americans can agree on, Trump wins this round. Instead, Trump has proposed more fair, bilateral (traditional) trade deals that will not hinder the US labor force.
Energy: Open up shale and clean coal. Burn baby, burn.
Trump went on to say that he will kill restrictions on shale and clean coal, which in turn will create millions of high-paying jobs for the American people. Of course, Trump didn’t outline how pumping oil and burning coal will provide Americans six-figure incomes. Further, Tom McGarity, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin (who specializes in the regulatory process), claims that there aren’t any regulations on ‘clean coal’:
“There aren’t any restrictions on clean coal, on the research on making coal cleaner. I don’t think that there’s restrictions on that. Indeed the Department of Energy has been actively funding research on clean coal. So what he must be implying there is that any restrictions on coal are restrictions on clean coal.”
How the oil and gas industry will produce “millions of high-paying jobs” is also a mystery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 352,800 people are currently working in the field. Unless we begin setting up oil rigs and natural gas refineries throughout middle-America, multiplying the current labor force by a factor of 5-10 seems like a pipe dream.
Perhaps Trump will reintroduce an application to build the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,179-mile pipe that would run oil from Alberta to a pre-existing pipe in Nebraska. It would be capable of carrying 830,000 barrels of oil a day. This won’t come without controversy – President Obama vetoed it 2015, claiming that it undermined the necessary review process.
Activists and anti-pipeline environmentalists rejoiced, as they claimed that building and running the Keystone pipeline would harm local environments and allow for potential spills throughout the region. Supporting the extraction of natural resources in the US has always been a polarizing topic, and will only get hotter during Trump’s first term. Judging by his comments and general opinions on the environment, chances are that Trump will want to capitalize on the economic opportunities that the Keystone XL pipeline will bring- consequences be damned. He even appointed Myron Ebell in his transition team to take on the EPA, a guy who denies basic science and claims that global warming isn’t real. Idiot.
Regulations: For every one new regulation introduced, two must go.
President Trump didn’t go into details here, but there isn’t that much to discuss. He is proposing that we would have to wipe two regulations for every new one introduced. That’s it. No detailed or finer points, just a general sweeping statement that if we introduce one regulation, two get chopped. I don’t understand how this would work in reality, as chopping a regulation should require an equally good reason as for creating one. I understand that his appeal includes using verbiage that the common person can understand, but for God’s sake Donald, give us something that we can sink our teeth into.
National Defense: Work with DoD & Joint Chiefs of Staff to protect against cyber attacks.
This statement is pretty cut and dry and doesn’t differ from what any other Commander-In-Chief has said. Working with the Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff, Trump has said that we must protect the United States against malicious cyber attacks, and all other forms of attacks from other nations. It’s not exactly a statement that should shock the world, as Russian and Chinese hackers have been known to tamper with American-owned websites and servers. It will be interesting to see whether or not Trump takes a more aggressive approach to combating the global plague that is cyber warfare.
Immigration: DoL to investigate all abuses of Visa programs that undercut American workers.
Trump has said that he will work with the Department of Labor to investigate the abuse of Visa programs. This is actually a pretty moderate statement, considering the source. Having the DoL look into immigrants who abuse their Visa status (which is already something they do, by the way) is a hell of a lot more on-par with mainstream politics than building a wall. It’s certainly more civil than flatly deporting millions of undocumented immigrants from the United States – but is this just the initial stage of “rounding them up” and booting them out of the nation, or will Trump back-peddle on his immigration platform to deport illegal aliens entirely? Only time will tell, but if I were an undocumented immigrant in America, I’d still be concerned.
Ethics Reform: Let’s drain the swamp.
Finally, President-elect Trump said that he wants to impose a five-year ban on executive officials becoming lobbyists after leaving administration. He also said that he would put a lifetime ban on executive officials lobbying for foreign governments. This is a great move in my opinion, which Democrats, Republicans, and Independents should all agree on.
There is an epidemic in the US - former Federal employees turning to lobbying for special interests in the private sector. This can be incredibly dangerous, as a person can use their knowledge, connections, and influence from public service to promote private interests. There is a well-known “revolving door” of former government employees becoming the talking heads of the private sector, and there are currently some measures in place to prevent corruption.
Criminal statutes dictate that Members of Congress and employees of both the Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal government have a one-year “cooling off period” from lobbying. This prohibits them from making direct contact (to promote lobbying interests) with former colleagues for one year after leaving service. This statute intends to remove the possibility of a servant-turned-lobbyist having any influence over government actions. Currently, there is also a two-year ban on any supervisory staff of the executive branch making lobbying contacts after leaving office, as well as a lifetime ban for Senior staff.
It seems as though the proper measures are in place, but Trump wants to take it a step further. His actions would extend the current two-year ban for executive officials to five, extending the cool-down. He would also permanently disallow former officials to lobby for foreign governments, which seems like an all-around good move. Would you want a former government employee (one with potential state secrets) working for the benefit of another nation? I wouldn’t either. Luckily, according to our new President, this won’t take place on his watch. It seems like great news for America, unless of course, you’re a Federal employee looking for a fat payday. I’m personally excited to see lobbyists and special-interest groups shake in fury as Trump pushes for further regulations on lobbying in the United States.
In general Trump’s message is all over the place and covers a lot of ground. Whether you love him or hate him, Trump’s planning to shake up America like a martini in a James Bond flick, and the positive or negative effects will depend on your position. Are you anti-globalist? Trump’s your man, he’s kicking the TPP to the curb. Do you run an oil rig? You’re in luck- our President has promised you riches. If you’re an environmentalist, immigrating to Canada or Europe may be the best option for you at this point. Do you hate rules and regulations? Poof, they’re gone, baby. Tired of lobbyists and special interest groups using their power to influence the government? Not on Donald’s watch. Are you an undocumented immigrant? Uh… better pack your bags and get the hell out.