Tuesday, President Trump delivered his views on the state of the union and what his administration accomplished during his first year in office.
This should not be a surprise to anyone, but the Modern Whig Party will tend to agree with Republicans on economic issues and tend to agree with Democrats on ecological and social issues. In the spirit of cooperation and civility, we always want to acknowledge the good work of others as well and give constructive criticism when we feel it is needed. Our prescription for the country follows, divided into areas improving and areas needing improvements.
Of the things going well, the economy is definitely the most welcome. As a businessman, Trump knows what business wants to hear before risking capital on new projects. He delivers confidence and confidence grows the economy. He has taken a regulation busting policy of removing two regulations for every one passed. This will help the economy, but we need to be sure to maintain our responsibilities to the consumer and to employees. The pendulum had swung too far in the direction of over-regulation in many areas but we need to watch that it does not come back too far in the other direction. There is an optimum in the middle.
ISIS’s demise is another high point of Trump’s first year. ISIS was certainly dying at the start of 2017, but much too slowly for a group responsible for so much misery and death. The United States worked with Russia, Syria, China and many other countries to accelerate their demise, which has now been effectively accomplished. This was not a total victory as one group of very bad people is gone but Assad is back in total control with powerful allies (not us) to support him. We wish things could have worked out better for democracy but the outcome for Assad was cast in stone by the actions and inactions leading up to Russia’s involvement.
Trump also mentioned his four point immigration plan. In it he reaches out to Democrats offering some rare compromises to help push through immigration reform. Modern Whigs like the plan to extend DACA and provide a way for 1.8 million people who came here as children to obtain citizenship. Of course he also wants provisions in the plan to secure the border. This is a worthy goal, but we disagree with him that the best way to achieve this is by building a wall. It is a very expensive solution targeting one selected group, which appears prejudicial. We prefer increasing border security forces and improving our handling of visitors from other countries here illegally, mainly those overstaying visas. Regardless of method of arrival or country of origin, however, immigrants all come here with dreams. When immigrants can achieve those dreams we are a stronger society for it. It has worked that way in the past and it will always work that way in the future. We would like for legal immigration to be greatly increased. We would also like for the immigration process to treat all potential immigrants with one of this countries founding principles: namely, that all of us are created equal.
On the Republican tax cuts, there are some winners and losers. If you are an average American, you will pay less taxes. Of course if you depend heavily on the deductions that are being cut, you may be paying more. Also, as a whole, the country also goes deeper into debt. Here is an Op-ed by our party's economist: The US is dead broke and the tax bill does nothing to help matters
Modern Whigs have had a plank for infrastructure repairs for years so we are quite pleased with the 1.8 trillion dollars the President wants to set aside for infrastructure. This is a good start, but it needs to be followed with a long term plan to completely fund infrastructure improvement and maintenance.
Modern Whigs consider national defense the number one priority of government so we agree with the President that it is time to end sequestering the defense budget. President Trump also gave a word of support to the Iranians seeking democratic improvements in that country. We hope President Trump’s message of support is followed by more verbal and diplomatic support.
Finally, we feel the national response to several natural disasters within the 48 contiguous states was appropriate in 2017. Obviously the devastation caused by hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands caught everyone by surprise. The response to that level of disaster of course needs improvement. A lesson learned may be that when all infrastructure is destroyed in an isolated area, only the military is really equipped to handle the logistics, search and rescue, and engineering aspects of such a huge problem.
Another take-away would be how embarrassing the political blame games were to most Americans. People were suffering and it was highly inappropriate to use air time to blame others. Modern Whigs also believe that better preparation for natural disasters will give those affected more comfort and safety while waiting days or months for help to arrive in response to a natural disaster. We would like to see community leaders involved in getting their neighborhoods prepared to flee or to hold out until help arrives. We are creating our own preparation teams in 2018 and will be expanding them rapidly in 2019.
We also see several areas needing significant improvement, with healthcare at the top of that list. Rather than watch it slowly spin down, we would like to see both major parties work together to fix it. We would like for Congress to stop trying to rush through highly partisan bills and work together to come up with a compromise Americans can live with. The country and its citizens will suffer if they cannot put aside politics and work together.
Also it has been a while since we have had leadership that sought to heal wounds rather than foster divisions. We do not need a movement, but if our leaders would simply foster understanding on both sides the hard feelings our citizens have been developing would begin to be assuaged.
In foreign policy, top of the list would be to have an honest appraisal and solution of the North Korean situation. Despite the seriousness of a situation where one of our most implacable foes has developed the capability to incinerate several American cities, the President is unable to be diplomatic or pragmatic on this subject. Granted, he inherited a situation mishandled for decades, but instead of offering constructive solutions, he only offers exchanges of tough rhetoric with Kim Jong-Un.
One of President Trump’s worst diplomacy moments was in pulling out of the Paris Climate accord. Even if you put aside the facts that the science is fairly solid on Anthropogenic Global Warming and that The Paris Agreement allowed participants to set their own goals, it was still a huge diplomatic mistake. It was not necessary for the US to abandon the agreement. We could have just set conservative goals and relied on gains in fracking efficiencies to make them. Even if we failed there would not have been consequences and we would have appeared cooperative. Of course better still would be to take AGW seriously and take some positive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A slow but effective approach would be to replace old technology with less polluting technology as old power plants, factories, and cars are naturally retired.
Domestically, the “Me Too” movement has pointed a finger at President Trump several times as well as producing a video from a few years ago where he refers to women with rather misogynist language. The last time a President was accused of sexual misconduct in office, he was not only given a pass, but his accusers were vilified and threatened for coming forward. We have “progressed” to where today we just sweep it under the rug. We are still a long way from justice or even support for the victims. Being in charge of carrying out the nation’s laws should make you more culpable for breaking them, not less.
Another domestic issue in need of immediate attention is extreme poverty. When world leaders talk about plans to eliminate extreme poverty in the world by 2030, they are speaking of over 700 million of the world’s absolute poorest people; those living on an average of $1.90 a day or less. This number includes 3.2 million Americans who live under the extreme poverty line. If we want to make America great (again), we believe this problem must not only be solved but must be a priority.
Political polarization is also a significant domestic threat to our country. The visible tip of the iceberg is in the makeup of the Supreme Court. With the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court is now balanced with four conservatives, four liberals, and one swing vote. With Supreme Court Justices having so much power over our lives and with lifetime appointments, there is real fear when the ideological balance of the court is threatened. Any power the party opposing the appointing President can muster will be used to stop the confirmation of any nominee. This was the case in 2016. If the party in the majority then forces a nomination through, either by having 60 votes or by changing the cloture rules, the balance will be broken with severe consequences in our polarized political climate. We believe in appointing candidates without conservative or liberal leanings to remove this threat.
Not mentioned by Trump is the debt issue. We all know the deficit is over 20 Trillion dollars, but this number does not include money we are obligated to pay later, only what we owe that is on the books today. The money we must pay out in the next 50 years brings our obligations to over 200 Trillion dollars. Neither major political party has any plan to come up with that amount of money. Economist Laurence Kotlikoff has a workable plan. We believe planning to meet these obligations is the only responsible policy.
In conclusion, as anyone would expect, a businessman and a Republican President is strong on the economy and weak on environmental and social issues. We give President Trump kudos, however, for reaching out to the other side on immigration. As Modern Whigs we wish we did not have to choose whether economic responsibility would be honored to the detriment of ecological and social responsibility or vice-versa. We would like to see all three respected equally. We expect to get a chance to show Americans the benefits of a balanced approach to responsibilities in government one day soon.
Dale Ritchie is the National Chair of the Modern Whig Party