In a video message on his Transition 2017 YouTube Channel, President-elect Donald Trump set out a list of five things that he intends to do in his first 100 days in office. To be brutally honest, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Given the recent nomination of a confirmed racist as Attorney General and a white nationalist and anti-Semite as his Chief Strategist, I was expecting the rhetoric to be front and centre. As it turns out he’s decided to focus on the few policy areas we knew he cared about in the campaign.
Trump began his list of priorities with trade, an issue which resonated with people across the Rust Belt and in my view won him the election. This is an area were working people, both on the Left and on the Right, are largely in agreement: free trade should be scrapped as a concept. Because Trump is a populist and has no ideological convictions whatsoever, he has adopted this view and said: “I’m going to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership”. As someone who opposes free trade, I’m fine with that and this is actually an issue where Trump is better than most Democratic politicians. He also said that he wanted to negotiate bilateral trade agreements that bring jobs back to the US, but it is less clear how he will do this. Obviously nobody is against creating jobs in principle, but because it’s Trump orchestrating the negotiations he’ll probably try and cut business taxes and/or regulations to encourage companies to return to the US.
The President-elect then moved on to energy, and this is where I knew it was going to go downhill fast. Trump said he wanted to get rid of “job-killing restrictions” on the American energy industry, which he said included restrictions on clean coal, which incidentally isn’t real, and shale gas, AKA fracking. He’s also said that he would tear up the Paris Climate Agreement on day one of being in office. It’s unclear if he will do this as TV host and personal friend Bill O’Reilly said that he shouldn’t tear up the agreement. We knew that such horrific environmental policies were going to come from a Trump White House so we shouldn’t be surprised, but we can take a strange positive out of this situation in that many countries around the world have recently ratified the Paris Agreement in fear of America reneging on their promises.
Next, Trump spoke about regulations of the economy in which he came up with a ‘nifty’ rule: for every one new regulation that is passed, two old ones have to go. This is inane, but if you believe that regulations are an inherently bad thing that obviously this will play well with you. The question I would have is this: what are you going to do about the water crisis in Flint? A normal person would introduce stronger regulations about water management and safety, but if regulations are inherently bad this is a non-starter. He could respond that in this case water regulation is fine, to which I would respond: what two regulations will you then cut? An easy answer would be on fossil fuels, which he has said he is in favour of exploiting, but this would be catastrophic for the world. If you buy his premises then the policy makes sense, but if you don’t it’s appalling.
The New York businessman/Mussolini-wannabe then spoke about national security. Again this was less controversial because his statement didn’t really have any meaning behind it. He said “I will ask the Department of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a comprehensive plan to protect America’s vital infrastructure from cyber and all other form of attacks”. This is the sort of thing that all Presidents would do in their role as Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces. The only difference between Trump and other Presidents is that he said he knew “more than the generals” so surely he should be the one drawing up the plan. But I digress.
On immigration Trump said that he would “instruct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programmes that undercut the American worker”. There is nothing inherently wrong with what Trump is saying because wage suppression is a real issue. The problem is that we know what Trump is going to do with this information: stop all those visa programmes and deport a metric shit-ton of undocumented immigrants.
The final thing that Trump talked about is important because it is a litmus test for his Presidency. One of things he said on the campaign trail was that he wanted to “drain the swamp” of Washington insiders and lobbyists, which is universally popular across the political spectrum. Trump’s final priority was to impose a five-year ban on executive officials becoming lobbyists after they leave the administration, and a life-time ban on former executive officials lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. If Trump does do this nobody will complain about it, but if he continue hiring Washington insiders, as he did for his Chief of Staff, he would have failed by his own criteria.
As I alluded to in the introduction this was a strange mixed bag. He maintained his populist rhetoric on lobbyists and trade, which will win him backing from people across the political spectrum. The things he wants to do in terms of the environment will have an irreparably damaging impact on the earth and should be opposed at every turn, as should his ridiculous fascination with cutting business regulations. It remains to be seen what he will do about immigration, but if you go by what he’s said on the campaign trail it’s not going to be pretty.