As we approach the end of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office (Saturday, April 29th), it’s time to assess the progress he has made. During an October speech in Gettysburg, then-candidate Trump thought the 100-day benchmark was appropriate and released his Contract with the American Voter, which contained a “100-day action plan.” He now says 100 days is a “ridiculous standard” on which to be judged.
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The benchmark, however, has been used since Franklin Roosevelt was president and will continue to be used. President Trump’s reluctance to embrace what he heretofore deemed an appropriate yardstick might mean he doesn’t believe an assessment at this time would laud him in a praiseworthy and positive limelight, for good reason. On myriad matters the rhetoric of candidate Trump has not matched the reality of what he has sought to accomplish. Some of his supporters might now be wondering if he is, as The Beatles sang, a big teaser. Did he just take them half way there, now? Is President Trump a day tripper —- a one way ticket, yeah?
In fairness, by any reasonable standard he has endeavored to work mightily. Despite his hot campaign hyperbole about staying at the White House and not playing golf, he’s played a lot of golf…and not at the White House. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to argue that he doesn’t work hard. Heck his tweets alone are proof that he’s thinking about the job during most of his waking hours but that doesn’t mean he’s been efficient nor effective with his time. Nevertheless, I’d give him an A for effort.
While many of his executive orders and presidential directives are more symbolic than anything else, he’s laid out the beginning of a positive path (an action plan, if you like) to fulfill some of his campaign promises. Other such promises have simply been unaccomplished so far (for example, repealing and replacing ObamaCare), or the president has flip-flopped on his positions (for example, naming China a currency manipulator or taking military action in Syria).
He did nominate and get confirmed a new Supreme Court Justice (Neil Gorsuch — his first day on the job was Monday). That, however, was done through Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changing governmental precedent to only require a simple majority for such confirmations (as opposed to the historic 60-vote requirement).
For some really important things — critical and key to our economy and our people — he has failed and pretty miserably…at least, so far. He promised tax relief and reform. In fact, his contract specified he’d work with Congress to have legislation introduced within the first 100 days. That has not, and will not, occur this week (or even in the near future). He also spoke during the campaign and since as president about the importance of infrastructure improvements, calling for a $1 trillion investment in roads, bridges, rails and other areas that provide a firm footing for our nation’s economy. On both of these key campaign components — things that could do more good for growth than just about anything else — I’d give him a D. (We can average out his first 100 days as a high C, but with an admonishment to complete all his homework!)
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Financial market traders have, on the whole, been more positive in their outlook about the president’s progress. In fact, markets had risen 18% since the election, although they have somewhat scaled back in recent days.
It’s getting late, but not too late, for these key action items (tax reform and infrastructure) to be focussed upon and approved yet this year. Nothing is more important to our domestic economy. I’ve long argued they should be done in tandem, which would garner bipartisan support. My 30 years in government tells me that governing from the center is most effective. To date, with Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, the president has sought solely to rely upon only those within his own party. That didn’t work out so well when efforting to repeal and replace ObamaCare (at least, not yet).
This week, the president and Republican majorities will once again be tested as approval is needed to keep the government functioning through what is termed a “continuing resolution" (or CR). The president has sought to include in the CR funds for his infamous U.S.-Mexico border wall. (Note: He seeks such funds despite his promise Mexico would pay the tab. It appears he needs a loan from the Treasury to get work started.)
Border wall funding in the CR would be a poison pill provision for many Democrats and dozens of congressional Republicans. My prediction is the government will not shut down. The border wall funding will either not be included, or will be hidden in an overall border protection package. The stakes are too high for the Republicans on this. To close the government down would be deeply devastating and enormously embarrassing.
For the sake of our people and our country, let’s hope the president’s seemingly tireless work ethic translates into more positive policy accomplishments — particularly if they help fuel-inject our economy like tax reform and infrastructure improvements would achieve. To get there, he should do what he has failed to do so far: work with both parties and govern from the middle. If he does so, he won’t just be teasing us with false hopes and empty rhetoric. He can take us all the way there.
(About the Author: Former US Trading Commissioner Bart Chilton is a policy and political commentator and author of Ponzimonium: How Scam Artists Are Ripping Off America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)