Who is Pres­i­dent-elect Trump?

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - JEF­FREY FRANKEL news­room@mm­times.com Jef­frey Frankel, a pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Univer­sity’s Kennedy School of Govern­ment, pre­vi­ously served as a mem­ber of Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s Coun­cil of Eco­nomic Ad­vis­ers. He di­rects the Pro­gram in In­ter­na­tional Fi­nanc

DON­ALD Trump’s stun­ning elec­tion vic­tory has pushed the United States – and the world – into un­charted ter­ri­tory. The US has never be­fore had a pres­i­dent with no po­lit­i­cal or mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence, nor one who so rou­tinely shirks the truth, em­braces con­spir­acy the­o­ries and con­tra­dicts him­self. All of this makes it al­most im­pos­si­ble to know how he will gov­ern.

But Trump’s loom­ing pres­i­dency does have a prece­dent: Ge­orge W Bush’s. Sev­eral par­al­lels stand out. For starters, like Bush, Trump did not win the pop­u­lar vote, but may none­the­less as­sume that he has a man­date for sweep­ing change. And the di­rec­tion of that change may pro­duce re­sults that not even his sup­port­ers like.

Among Trump’s eco­nomic-pol­icy prom­ises, his fis­cal pro­pos­als are most likely to be en­acted: big tax cuts for the rich and in­creased spend­ing on de­fence and other items. The re­sult will prob­a­bly be the same as when Bush pur­sued sim­i­lar poli­cies: In­come in­equal­ity will widen, and bud­get deficits will grow.

More­over, the stock mar­ket’s seven-year bullish streak may end. And it is very likely that Trump, who at­tacked the US Fed­eral Re­serve’s easy mone­tary pol­icy dur­ing his cam­paign, will quickly re­verse that po­si­tion and press the Fed not to raise in­ter­est rates.

Trump will prob­a­bly be un­able to ful­fill his prom­ise to in­crease the US econ­omy’s ex­port share. And he cer­tainly will not be able to bring back the man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs that the US, like all in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries, has lost in re­cent decades. In­come in­equal­ity will likely start widen­ing again, de­spite strik­ing im­prove­ments in me­dian fam­ily in­come and the poverty rate last year.

A re­ces­sion at some point dur­ing Trump’s pres­i­dency is prob­a­ble, judg­ing from Repub­li­can pres­i­dents’ re­mark­able historical track record. Two re­ces­sions be­gan dur­ing Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion; in fact, most of the re­ces­sions since the Great De­pres­sion be­gan un­der Repub­li­can pres­i­dents.

Trump’s pres­i­dency is most wor­ri­some on the for­eign-pol­icy front, where many po­ten­tial dis­as­ters await. We have rea­son to fear that mis­cal­cu­la­tions will lead to tragedies, just as Bush fum­bled the re­sponse to the Septem­ber 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tack, failed to cap­ture Osama bin Laden, and in­vaded Iraq.

Amer­ica’s role as a global leader will surely suf­fer, as will the “soft power” that it pre­vi­ously de­rived from be­ing a model of lib­eral democ­racy for oth­ers to em­u­late. Mean­while, Trump’s clue­less­ness will likely em­bolden tra­di­tional US ad­ver­saries, such as Rus­sia, Syria and North Korea.

The Repub­li­cans kept con­trol of both the Se­nate and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, so Trump will be able to ful­fill his prom­ises to roll back Obama’s big­gest leg­isla­tive achieve­ments, start­ing with the Af­ford­able Care Act (Oba­macare). But this will be an in­ter­est­ing test. How will Trump han­dle the back­lash when peo­ple start los­ing their health in­sur­ance?

Trump and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans will also try to roll back the Dodd-Frank fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tions that were en­acted af­ter the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis, thereby giv­ing banks and other fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions freer rein. And, be­yond Wall Street, they will try to cut back on anti-trust and en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, es­pe­cially those lim­it­ing green­house-gas emis­sions.

Fi­nally, Trump will nom­i­nate con­ser­va­tive jus­tices for the Supreme Court, which has had one va­cancy since Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia died in Fe­bru­ary.

We should be thank­ful, how­ever, that at least Trump’s more out­ra­geous cam­paign pro­pos­als will likely never be en­acted. He will not build a “big, beau­ti­ful” new wall along the USMex­ico bor­der, and Mex­ico cer­tainly wouldn’t pay for it if he did. Like­wise, he will not ban Mus­lim im­mi­grants, be­cause do­ing so would vi­o­late bedrock Amer­i­can prin­ci­ples, and would be struck down even by a right-wing Supreme Court.

It is also un­likely that Trump will fol­low through on his pro­posal to de­port 6-11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants. But he will prob­a­bly end Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, which granted tem­po­rary work per­mits to many “Dream­ers” (young peo­ple with­out le­gal sta­tus who grew up in the US).

Sim­i­larly, Trump may not ac­tu­ally tear up the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment or raise tar­iffs dra­mat­i­cally. Nor will he scrap NATO, other im­por­tant al­liances, or the Geneva Con­ven­tion (au­tho­ris­ing the mil­i­tary and CIA to use tor­ture). Though Trump seemed to sug­gest dur­ing the cam­paign that he would do all of th­ese things, he will in­evitably be con­fronted with the far-reach­ing con­se­quences of de­ci­sions that would de­stroy the global order.

The US is about to ex­pe­ri­ence life un­der a fully Repub­li­can govern­ment led by a cal­low and mer­cu­rial pop­ulist ty­coon. Let us hope that vot­ers hold the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and its con­gres­sional en­ablers ac­count­able for the set­backs that Amer­i­cans will suf­fer. – Project Syn­di­cate

Photo: AFP

US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump leaves fol­low­ing meet­ings at the US Capi­tol in Wash­ing­ton, DC, on Novem­ber 10.

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