Trump has done a lot for the super wealthy. What about the rest of us?
The president has taken to bragging about all his early accomplishments. But for most voters, they don't translate into positive change.
It may seem a little early to ask this, but: What has President Trump ever done for you?
Less than 100 days into his term, that question sounds a little unfair, right? But by the way he talks, Trump makes it sound like he has already done what he came to Washington to do. "I can say that after four weeks," Trump said on Feb. 26, "we've accomplished almost everything we've started out to accomplish." He mentioned border security, specifically. "We're doing a really good job," he said. "We've made a lot of promises over the last two years and many of those promises already are kept." Compared with his predecessors in the Oval Office, Trump said on Fox & Friends the next morning, "I think I've done just about more than anybody in the first four weeks."
Trump has "done" a lot in his first 79 days — anyone who has tried to keep up with his flurry of activity, much less his Twitter feed, knows that. But let's look at what Trump has actually accomplished so far, and who has benefitted.
As of April 10, Trump has signed 19 pieces of legislation and issued 23 executive orders, 18 proclamations, and 20 presidential memoranda. That compares with 10 laws Obama had signed at this point in his presidency — though, as The Washington Post notes, Obama's 10 bills authorized nearly $1.3 trillion in spending versus Trump's almost $20 billion, and included major legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. the "stimulus").
You've probably never heard of the vast majority of Trump's laws and executive actions, partly because many of them won't affect you in the least. Unless you are a veteran who lives in Pago Pago, American Samoa, for example, you probably would never notice H.R.1362, which names an outpatient facility the Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin VA Clinic.
The bulk of Trump's laws undo rules finalized in the last months of the Obama administration, using a hitherto obscure 1996 law called the Congressional Review Act. So far, Trump has signed nine such "resolutions of disapproval." These are the actions that will most likely have the most immediate effect on you. Almost all the rules permanently nullified at the stroke of a pen went through long public comment periods and debate at the Federal Communications Commission, the Social Security Administration, Labor Department, Education Department, Interior Department, and other federal agencies.
Trump has made it easier to shoot hibernating bears, allowed more mentally ill people to qualify for firearm purchases, removed restrictions on states drug-testing people who receive unemployment benefits, let coal mining companies dump waste more freely in local waterways, opened public lands to more potential exploitation, made it easier for federal contractors and other companies to hide mistreatment of workers, and, most recently, killed a rule that would have prevented broadband internet service providers from selling your browsing history and app usage without your permission. (Jeff Spross has more details at The Week.)
The executive orders Trump has signed are longer-term, many of them requiring their own bureaucratic processes to come to fruition. The end result will likely be an at least temporary rollback of abortion rights, ditching of a policy that would require financial advisers to put your best interests first, weakening fuel efficiency standards, an end to Obama's Clean Power Plan and other anti–climate change measures, and a costly Mexico border wall. Trump has also approved two controversial oil pipelines and ordered a crackdown on immigrants.
While it's true that Trump has also persuaded a few companies to keep their factories in the U.S., saving a few hundred jobs (at least for now), on the other hand, the health-care bill he tried to push through Congress would end up with 24 million fewer people with health coverage and lower taxes on the wealthy, among other unpopular results. His proposed budget would make deep cuts to everything but the Pentagon and his border wall. Next, he wants to pursue a tax policy that would probably cut everyone's taxes a bit, the taxes of the rich a lot, and those of the super-rich even more.
Does any of this help you? Unless you already meet Trump's definition of success — and Trump appears to have an almost religious devotion to financial and other measurable metrics of success (TV ratings, crowd sizes, etc.) — chances are, not so much.
Plenty of people will be happy with some of those actions — abortion opponents, those strongly opposed to illegal immigration, some gun enthusiasts, dozens of factory workers, maybe coal miners — but most of the beneficiaries will be the elite. If you look at what he's actually done, Trump's driving policy animus so far is slashing regulation. He talks about it all the time.
The idea is that less regulation will free businesses to act in their own interests, allowing them to earn more money, and, if they choose, hire more workers. His policies should be great, specifically, for coal executives, Comcast and Time Warner, large banks, oil and gas companies, and the super-rich.
Maybe this is just Trump's opening act. Maybe he's just making the most of the short time window to undo Obama's policies. Perhaps it's the natural consequence of appointing and hiring an unusually wealthy group of advisers and department heads — Trump seems to believe that success in one part of life is transferable to other disciplines (see: Kushner, Jared). Or it's possible Trump has just outsourced much of his policy to the congressional Republicans he clashed with during the election.
But in his inaugural address, Trump pledge that "Jan. 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again," when "the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer." Many of Trump's forgotten people may be sticking with him, for now. But Trump would be wise to remember the words of a bestselling real estate tycoon.
The clock is ticking.