With stroke of pen signing major bill, Trump caps a consequential first year | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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With stroke of pen signing major bill, Trump caps a consequential first year

President Donald Trump displays the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul package he had just signed, Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Trump touted the size of the tax cut, declaring to reporters in the Oval Office before he signed it Friday that "the numbers will speak."
Image Credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
December 23, 2017 - 2:30 PM

WASHINGTON - Love him, hate him, debate all you want about him. But with the stroke of a pen Friday, before he hopped onto a helicopter and left Washington for the holidays, Donald Trump cemented one truth about his presidency.

He had a consequential first year.

A lengthy legislative dry spell that had prompted so much chortling from critics and consternation from colleagues ended Friday as he signed into law his first major piece of legislation, passed by Congress earlier this week.

That pen-stroke codified the biggest corporate tax cuts in decades. It upended the health system, dismantling a key pillar propping up the Obamacare insurance markets. It cut most Americans' taxes for a few years, added an estimated five per cent to the national debt and allowed the oil industry to indulge a long-thwarted dream — to drill, baby drill in Alaska's wildlife refuge.

This was after a year where he reopened NAFTA, left the Trans-Pacific Partnernship, packed the courts with die-hard conservatives, slashed regulations, withdrew from the Paris climate accord, left UNESCO, approved the Keystone pipeline, recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and ended an amnesty program for migrants' children leaving 800,000 young people in limbo.

Trump convened media at his office where he marvelled at his own successes.

"It never got done — now it's being done," he said of the corporate tax cut. "I think Obamacare is over," he added. Of Arctic oil drilling: "They've tried to get that for 40 years... Even during the Reagan administration — they could never get it."

He also dropped a whopper, one of hundreds of demonstrable falsehoods this year: "This is the biggest tax cuts and reform in the history of our country. This is bigger than, actually, President Reagan's."

That's not even close to true, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. It ranks Trump's tax cuts as the eighth over the past century as percentage of the economy after 1921, 1945, 1948, 1964, 1981, and smaller than two under Obama in 2009 and 2013, and still smaller than Ronald Reagan's and Obama's in actual dollars, even adjusted for inflation.

Yet Republicans now have something big to point to, instead of legislative goose eggs. That buoyant mood was reflected in a piece by conservative columnist Byron York in the Washington Examiner.

"Something is happening in the final days of 2017," York wrote.

"People are noticing that Donald Trump has gotten a lot done."

It's unclear Americans like what they're noticing. Surveys say the tax bill is unpopular, as were Trump's repeated attempts to gut Obamacare, and there's a pile of policy analysis suggesting his agenda widens the gap between haves and have-nots.

He ends 2017 with the worst polling for a first-year president ever. His party is losing elections, and increasingly fears losing at least one of the two houses of Congress next year.

A presidential historian said it's partly unfair. He said Trump gets a rough ride in the press. Trump alludes to this almost daily — though in the spirit of the season Friday, he handed out some pens from his bill-signing to media in his office.

"I think most journalists, and historians, they're not favourable to Trump — let's be honest about that," said Terry Madonna, a historian and pollster in Pennsylvania.

He places Trump's first-year record, in terms of impact on the country, somewhere in the middle — beneath the society-shifting achievements of Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt, above the ho-hum first years of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr.

"There's no doubt about it. It's consequential — and controversial," Madonna said.

He situates Trump somewhere around a more recent president, who also named a Supreme Court justice, and who enacted a raft of financial and spending measures amid an economic crisis — though neither man will appreciate this comparison: Barack Obama.

Another reason for poor polling among moderates: Trump has been, with exceptions on rare issues like free trade, far more conservative than the Manhattan political chameleon his right-wing skeptics feared.

"Whether you agree with him or not, he's been conservative," Madonna said.

"He has held onto that base... But, by his style, he's alienated a lot of people."

Therein lies his challenge for Year Two.

Trump's base is 30-something per cent of the country. That wasn't enough in recent legislative elections in Virginia, Alabama and eleswhere. The November midterm polls are looking bleak.

His advisers keep urging him to stop alienating the rest of the country by picking social-media fights.

He has an opportunity to reach out to moderates with two upcoming policy fights: infrastructure spending and a bill providing amnesty for young migrants, though the latter risks angering some supporters.

Then there's the Russia probe.

Trump left Washington, and arrived in Florida on Friday, driving past protest signs alluding to his political troubles: One said, "The Manchurian President," another said, "Real News. Fake President."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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