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Trump: not so easy, after all

Trump: not so easy, after all

What happened

As Donald Trump marked his first 100 days in office, the White House announced a tax reform package featuring “one of the biggest tax cuts in American history”: if approved, federal income tax would be capped at 33%, and corporation tax at 15%. It also reached a five-month funding deal with Congress, the first bipartisan compromise since Trump’s inauguration, thereby averting an imminent government shutdown. But the trillion-dollar deal came at the expense of key elements of Trump’s agenda; there will be no extra cash for a Mexican border wall, and only half the amount that Trump requested for a renewed military buildup.

Trump, who admitted that he’d thought his new job “would be easier”, raged against the Constitution’s “archaic” checks on presidential power. He urged Republican leaders to try to change the Senate rules that thwart his policies and to call the Democrats’ bluff by forcing a shutdown in September.

What the editorials said

Donald Trump’s inauguration speech “shocked” both enemies and allies with its unashamed “America First” rhetoric, said The Times. But fears he would turn America isolationist were misplaced. Trump is prepared to engage with the world. Witness his “well-considered” air strikes in Syria: Obama never sent such a clear signal of US intent. On the contrary, Trump has betrayed America’s ideals by cosying up to the world’s autocrats, said The New York Times. He praised Turkey’s President Erdogan for winning a disputed referendum that will vastly increase his power; and has offered a man infamous for running vigilante death squads – the Philippines’ President Duterte – an invitation to the White House.

Trump has been a “disaster for American democracy”, said The Guardian. He has shown himself to be ignorant, incompetent and a “serial liar”. Only last week he backtracked on a pledge to pull out of the Nafta free trade agreement: he had belatedly realised US jobs were at stake. No wonder his approval ratings – around 40% – are the worst for any modern president at the 100-day mark.

What the commentators said

Trump promised “to be a different sort of Republican”, said Martin Wolf in the FT. He isn’t. He has junked the idea of rebuilding US infrastructure; his trade protectionist plans look “half-hearted”. His main policy thrust is now deregulation and tax cuts. More’s the pity. Trump’s proposed cuts are “astoundingly regressive”: they’d hand the “top 0.1%” an average 14.2% cut in post-tax income, compared to an average of just 1.8% for middle income households. And it’s “magical thinking” to imagine this won’t lead to a ballooning of the government deficit. Like Reagan, only far more so, Trump won votes by reaching out to ordinary Americans on cultural issues, but legislates for the upper 1%. This is “pluto-populism”: an effective but highly dangerous strategy. Trump “is playing with political fire”. We’ve seen enough of Trump to know he’s as bad as feared – “delusional, dangerous, dishonest”, said Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian. The only good news is that legal challenges and public protests have ensured that Obamacare remains in place and that the travel ban on immigrants from Muslim countries has been halted. The lesson must be that “resistance is not futile”.

Trump has no cause to worry just yet, said Jonathan S. Tobin in National Review. A recent poll found that 96% of those who voted for him would do so again. That’s because Trump appeals to a vast but forgotten chunk of inland America, said Justin Webb in The Times – the people outside the big coastal cities and Chicago, the places where jobs, wealth and “anything modern and zingy” are concentrated. By contrast, the Democrats seem to despise their former base in the socially conservative working class, said Marc A. Thiessen in The Washington Post. All they do is obstruct the administration. “We loathe your president and all of you who put him into office”, is the message sent out to millions of voters. To strike a blow against Trump in next year’s mid-term elections, they’ll need to change their tune. Fast.

What next?

Under pressure from the White House, Congress is shortly expected to hold another vote on the overhaul of Obamacare. But the administration’s revised healthcare package has no guarantee of success: its proposal to dilute protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions has alienated moderate Republicans.

The administration says it will again ask Congress for funds to build the border wall with Mexico later in the year. But the latest polls suggest that a majority of Americans now believe that the barrier will never be built.

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