By Steven R. Maher
President Donald J. Trump has received plaudits from conservative pundits for his February 28 address to Congress. Polling the day after shows the speech was well received by an extremely wary American public.
Why? Because Trump got through one speech without it deteriorating into a public relationships disaster. He didn’t ask the Republican Congressmen to sucker punch the Democrats sitting in the Capitol, as he asked supporters to do to dissenters at his campaign rallies. Trump controlled his emotions, and didn’t descend into a manic diatribe of rantings and ravings about his opponents. He spent the last several months launching personal attacks on Congressional Democrats, especially Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. But Trump had the nerve to ask the Democrats and Schumer to work with him, and compromise their deeply held beliefs.
Trump, of course, did not offer to compromise his beliefs. He didn’t offer not to build the wall on the Mexican border, if the Democrats agreed to other Trump border security proposals. He didn’t offer to not bankrupt the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in exchange for a military build-up. The only people Trump sees as having to compromise are the fools who don’t agree with him.
What he didn’t say
What Trump didn’t say was more important than what he did talk about. The biggest problem facing America isn’t Obamacare, which obviously needs to be reformed. America right now spends more on its military than the next seven top military spenders in the world combined. A military buildup isn’t necessary when NATO dependents are kicking in more money, as Trump claimed to Congress.
The biggest problem facing America right now is balancing the budget and saving Social Security and Medicare for the next generation.
During the campaign, Trump talked of America’s $22 trillion national debt in apocalyptic terms. He said another $2 trillion in deficits will put America beyond the point of no return. Trump is willing to rack up more debt for his trillion-dollar infrastructure plan alone. And how does Trump intend to pay for the trillions of dollars in tax cuts for wealthy Americans who don’t need the money?
What Trump is proposing has already been tried by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. One can excuse Reagan on the grounds that the country was mired in dire straits, the Soviet Union was winning the Cold War, and Americans had lost faith in their country. Reagan also agreed to raise taxes to reduce the deficits in his first term, a magnanimous flexibility Trump is totally unprepared to replicate.
George W. Bush in 2001 inherited an America at peace with a balanced budget. In a tremendous act of stupidity, Bush destroyed the budget surpluses with idiotic tax cuts and the invasion of Iraq.
And where was the Tea Party while this was going on? Totally silent. They didn’t care about the trillions of dollars in deficits Bush ran up. Only when Obama ran up deficits to save the country from going into a depression, did they suddenly discover deficits would hurt the country. Where is the Tea Party now? Noticeably silent as Trump prepares to add trillions to the national debt. These people were phonies all along.
Trump, having been elected without being the hostage of special interests, was in a unique position to take the politically unpopular steps to return America to budgetary surpluses: raising taxes and cutting spending. This writer was impressed by Trump’s saving the taxpayers $700 million on an airplane contract. This is where Trump could have done his best work, saving taxpayers’ money on inflated contracts and corrupt vendors.
Instead, Trump is taking America down the same sorry road of W. Bush. When countries like China and Japan stop buying American bonds, the bondholders will eventually cut off the money flow, and then this country will be facing problems we can only imagine.
This writer is not taking a scintilla of comfort from the fact that Trump finally got through a speech without making a total fool of himself.