What has been made remarkably clear through the long campaign and especially through the three presidential debates is that Donald Trump has little to no knowledge concerning policy issues. Trump has a paper thin understanding of what appeals to a conservative audience and he tailored his campaign around those very narrow concerns. However, if examined in depth, then his policy positions can be shown to be hollow and illogical. The domestic policies that Trump has championed most strenuously are building the wall along the border with Mexico (and somehow making Mexico pay for it), temporarily banning all Muslims from entering the United States, renegotiating all trade treaties to Make America Great Again, and re-establishing “Law and Order” in the United States. He also has tax and healthcare plans that deserve scrutiny. He also threatened to undermine the full faith and credit of the United States by defaulting on the National Debt. All of these policy positions if examined closely fall apart at the seams.
Trump’s immigration policies do not solve the current problem of illegal immigration and would introduce many new problems.[i] First off, no matter what Trump says, Mexico will never pay for the wall;[ii] nor is it their responsibility to pay for a border wall that the United States wants to erect on its side of the border. Second, the costs of the initial construction would be tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars and the maintenance costs over the decades and centuries that followed would be astronomical.[iii] Third, constructing the wall along the border is not as simple as it sounds; private lands would have to be seized by eminent domain, geological and topographical features would have to be navigated around, because of this certain parcels of US land would be beyond the wall.[iv] Fourth, much of illegal immigrants come into to this country via airplane and overstay their visas so a wall would do nothing to prevent those cases. Finally, to round up and deport the 12 million already here would involve the largest increase in federal power since FDR and the New Deal.[v] It would introduce a deportation force who would potentially invade every business, every school, and every home creating a 21st century Gestapo or Stasi. In order to carry out these 12 million deportations using the current system would take decades. It is an inhumane and totally impractical solution.
Trump’s understanding of trade policy and Macroeconomics as a whole is very thin and basically illogical. In the neoliberal world we live in, multinational corporations move their factories and headquarters where the regulatory, labor, and tax climate generates the most profits for that corporation.[vi] In the 20th century, the labor movement used collective bargaining to negotiate for higher wages and benefits such as healthcare and paid vacation, etc. Well, this situation eventually drove corporations in manufacturing out of the United States. This can be seen early on by the clothing industry moving from factories in the Northeast with a heavy union presence to the union-free US South; eventually these companies would move to Third World nations that had no labor or business regulations and generous tax packages. The steel and auto industries lasted slightly longer into the 1970s and 1980s but eventually Detroit the center of the American auto industry largely abandoned all factories in the United States because of the huge Union presence. Trump argues that NAFTA led to the glut of American manufacturing in places like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.[vii] While NAFTA may have accelerated it, that process was decades in the making and a natural consequence of deindustrialization.[viii] Modern America now has an economy driven by consumer demand for American designed technologies like the iPhone. It is also driven by low-wage service jobs.[ix] Renegotiating NAFTA will not bring back those manufacturing jobs.[x] Trump cannot compel multinational corporations to build new factories in the United States and if they built new factories here instead of hiring humans to do those jobs they could build robots to replace their human workers, as most companies who stayed in the United States have done. Trump needs to promote technological innovation and improving the wages of minimum wage workers who could then invest that disposable income back into the economy.
Trump’s banning of all Muslims from entering the United States is unenforceable and would introduce numerous problems if it was attempted.[xi] How would he even enforce this crazy policy?[xii] Would he institute a religious test to every person who entered the United States? Couldn’t they just lie? How could he prove that any person was or was not Muslim; it is a universal religion with adherents all over the world. Being Muslim is like being Jewish or Christian or Buddhist, there is not a predominant race, ethnicity, or skin color associated with that religion. Nor is their a particular region of the world where Muslims reside; Muslims exist in nearly every nation. Also it is a bad policy because it feeds into the propaganda of terrorist organizations that the United States of America is at war with their religion; it feeds into the image of the Crusaders invading the Holy Land and engaging in a holy war persecuting Islam.[xiii] George W. Bush, despite his failed policies in Iraq, made it absolutely clear that the United States was not at war with Islam, only with the terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda who espoused a corrupted interpretation of Islam and directly threatened the United States.[xiv]
Trump’s use of “Law and Order” rhetoric framed within the proper context of the racial impact of the American criminal justice system demonstrates his demagogic call toward the most racist supporters within his own ranks.[xv] The Trump campaign scoffs at the notion of “implicit bias” [xvi] in particular police departments[xvii] or the criminal justice system as a whole; however, it is clear from the evidence that black men are punished at higher rates for the same crime and are given harsher sentences if convicted of the same crime as white men.[xviii] Trump advocated for a policy of “Stop and Frisk” nationwide.[xix] If conducted on everyone equally, “Stop and Frisk” would introduce a martial law world where anybody at any time could be stopped for any reason. If implemented as it had been done in New York City under Guliani and Bloomberg, it would be administered targeting overwhelmingly black and Latino men; 87% of those stopped were black or Latino and only ten percent were ever arrested or charged with a crime, meaning 90% were completely innocent.[xx] “Stop and Frisk” policies do nothing but drive a wedge between the police and the communities they administer.[xxi] While created to confiscate illegal guns, from 2004-2011, out of 524,000 stops, police only found 176 guns. Since the decline of “Stop and Frisk” and under Judge Scheindlin’s ruling, violent crime has gone down significantly proving that “Stop and Frisk” was not necessary to lower crime rates.[xxii] The criminal justice system has seeped into our schools where instead of in the past where children were punished within the walls of the school and at home, now we as a society turn to law enforcement to handle troubled kids.[xxiii] Zero tolerance policies place criminal records on children at an early age crippling their ability to find gainful employment later in life leading to more crime. This school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately falls on minority students who do not have the resources in many cases to send their kids to expensive alternative schools or to hire lawyers to contest the charges their children face.
Trump’s tax proposals benefit only the top 1% and are just a repeat of the supply side trickledown economics from the Reagan era.[xxiv] Trump vows to simplify the tax code and he does this by cutting the seven current tax brackets to three; 10, 20 and 25 percent. He would cut the top marginal tax rate from 39.6% to 25% which would be the largest tax cut for the wealthiest Americans ever. Trump quintuples the standard deduction from $5,100 to $25,000. He caps the capital gains rate at 20%. He eliminates the estate tax, which currently only kicked in for estates exceeding $5 million. He will cut the corporate tax rate to 15% from 35%. He will also eliminate the alternative minimum tax for individuals and businesses. While Trump does plan to eliminate some tax loopholes on individuals and corporations these reforms do not make up for the massive tax cuts he proposes. While he claims that he can cut tax revenue without adding to the debt or deficit that is a lie, especially if he does not make significant cuts to discretionary spending. Trump actually proposes to vastly increase defense spending, well beyond current levels. While he has proposed privatizing social security, funding Medicaid through block grants to the states, and making cuts to Medicare; these cuts to entitlements do not make up for his tax revenue shortfall and defense spending. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center concluded that Trump’s tax plan would add $9.5 trillion to the deficit in the first decade and another $15 trillion in the subsequent decade; well on our way to Greece’s debt death spiral.[xxv] Although Trump has refused to release his tax returns, defying an American tradition going back to Nixon, three pages from his 1995 return surfaced and it showed a $915 million loss.[xxvi] Under a then current law, Trump could avoid taxes up to that amount of money for the next 18 years.[xxvii] He tacitly admitted to paying no federal income taxes and that means no taxes for the military, vets, schools, healthcare for that whole period.[xxviii]
Trump proposes with his healthcare policy to get rid of and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare); replace it with what is never specified.[xxix] Getting rid of Obamacare would throw off every person who attained insurance through the exchanges created by the law. There is also no guarantee that Trump’s new policy would keep all the positive aspects Obamacare achieved such as no lifetime limits, insurance companies being forced to insure people with pre-existing conditions, not charging women higher premiums, young people staying on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26, etc. He has also not articulated his own plan with the exception of arguing that insurance companies should be able to sell across state lines. Selling across state lines will not necessarily increase competition because it is not so simple to start new local hospital and physician insurance networks, hundreds or thousands or miles from your headquarters. He is also opposed to expanding Medicaid and wants to fund the program by block grants which would cost less but cover fewer people.[xxx]
Donald Trump actually threatened to default on the National Debt because he thought it would allow him to renegotiate the debt and allow the US to get out of some of that debt as he has done numerous times during his business career with his own company.[xxxi] However enacting this policy would have severe consequences.[xxxii] First, US interest rates and currency value are tied to the idea that the United States will always make payments on time on its national debt. If Trump messed with that by missing payments then the value of US currency would plummet and interest rates on those loans would go up drastically which would make paying back those loans even more difficult. Second, his proposal to negotiate down the debt by arguing to our debtors that if you want any of your money back you have to accept less than the full amount does not work. That policy would crater the global economy as many countries are invested heavily in US treasury bonds. Third, the US Dollar would cease to be the Reserve currency of the world, which depends on the dollar being the most reliable currency in the world. Finally, inflation and interest rates on home loans, student debts, and car loans just to name a few would go through the roof ruining the lives of countless Americans.
In Conclusion, in my opinion, Trump’s domestic policies if implemented as he describes them would be detrimental if not entirely destructive of American society. First, building a Wall with Mexico and creating a deportation force to target a large Latino population, instituting a nationwide “Stop and Frisk” policy, and banning all Muslims from entering the United States and surveilling those within; all these policies will create racial tensions between the white majority and racial minorities within our society. This could lead to race riots or the break out of a racial war. Trump’s economic policies fundamentally misunderstand our economic system. His tax policy largely benefits the top 1% and only gives smaller tax cuts to the 99%; it also cuts government revenue roughly in half and since he is increasing spending his policies will add trillions to the national debt over the next few decades. His threat to default and then renegotiate the payments on the national debt would: lead to a global recession; drastically raise interest rates at home on student, auto, and home loans; weaken the US dollar and remove it as the global reserve currency; and would just raise the interest rates on the treasury bonds that make up the national debt increasing the difficulty of paying it back. His healthcare policy would get rid of all the positive aspects of Obamacare, throw off all the people who bought insurance through Obamacare, and would not necessarily ever be replaced by something else. American society would never be the same after a Trump Presidency.
[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU8dCYocuyI; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wk6rswxQro; http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jul/26/how-trump-plans-build-wall-along-us-mexico-border/.
[v] https://thinkprogress.org/trump-deportation-force-b81539c0cd10#.d84vi23rj; http://www.breitbart.com/video/2015/11/11/donald-trump-we-will-have-a-deportation-force/; http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-deport-20160822-snap-story.html.
[ix] https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjA-K_RsfDPAhXG4yYKHQHeBXkQFggrMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fi.cfr.org%2Fcontent%2Fpublications%2Fattachments%2FCGS_WorkingPaper13_USEconomy.pdf&usg=AFQjCNF93Fe1TvBkRf6lncZGE_0FK_Fclw&sig2=wI86rNHCNLdze0J1Mh4GUQ&bvm=bv.136593572,d.eWE; http://www.cfr.org/industrial-policy/evolving-structure-american-economy-employment-challenge/p24366.
[xi] http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/07/politics/donald-trump-muslim-ban-immigration/; http://fortune.com/2016/06/28/donald-trump-muslim-ban/; http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/10/10/trump-muslim-ban-morphs-into-extreme-vetting-clinton-presidential-debate/91844000/;
[xiii] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/may/20/hillary-clinton/donald-trump-now-being-used-terrorist-propaganda-v/; http://mediamatters.org/video/2016/08/15/cnn-international-correspondent-trumps-muslim-ban-alienates-muslim-allies-and-harms-fight-against/212404; https://thinkprogress.org/trumps-muslim-ban-is-exactly-what-isis-wants-847d73f3c796#.mcbp4rb03.
[xvi] http://blog.oup.com/2016/04/implicit-bias-racism-trump/; https://www.colorlines.com/articles/implicit-bias-time-trump; http://www.politicususa.com/2016/09/28/fox-news-melts-stop-frisks-bias-minorities.html; https://www.wired.com/2016/10/vp-debate-mike-pence-got-implicit-bias-pretty-wrong/.
[xvii] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/13/us/ferguson-missouri-town-under-siege-after-police-shooting.html; http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/nyregion/eric-garner-police-chokehold-staten-island.html; http://www.gq.com/story/tamir-rice-story; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUdHIatS36A.
[xviii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kim-farbota/black-crime-rates-your-st_b_8078586.html; http://www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/; https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/criminal-justice-reform; http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/congress-obama-criminal-justice-reform/398045/;
[xx] http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/research/published/frisk9.pdf; http://www.nyclu.org/content/stop-and-frisk-data; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/08/13/heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-stop-and-frisk-and-why-the-courts-shut-it-down/.
[xxiii] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2013/0331/School-suspensions-Does-racial-bias-feed-the-school-to-prison-pipeline; http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-school-to-prison-pipeline-a-nationwide-problem-for-equal-rights-20131107; http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-43-spring-2013/school-to-prison; http://neatoday.org/2015/01/05/school-prison-pipeline-time-shut/; http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/education-under-arrest/school-to-prison-pipeline-fact-sheet/;
[xxiv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgicDQHbV3M; http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/analysis-donald-trumps-tax-plan/full; http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/analysis-donald-trumps-revised-tax-plan; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/14/who-would-win-and-lose-under-donald-trump-and-hillary-clintons-tax-plans/.
[xxviii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/09/27/does-donald-trump-not-pay-taxes-he-sure-made-it-sound-that-way/; http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/10/09/donal_trump_admitted_he_didn_t_pay_taxes_and_then_blamed_hillary.html.
[xxix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3mYrOnq2Z4;http://crfb.org/blogs/analysis-donald-trumps-health-care-plan; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/23/25-million-people-could-lose-health-insurance-under-donald-trumps-plan-analysis-shows/.
[xxxi]On Trump’s own bankruptcies: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/sep/21/carly-fiorina/trumps-four-bankruptcies/; http://thelawdictionary.org/article/how-is-donald-trump-able-to-file-for-bankruptcy-so-many-times/; http://www.snopes.com/2016/08/01/donald-trumps-bankruptcies/; On Trump’s claims about defaulting on the Debt: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/may/16/closer-look-donald-trumps-comments-about-refinanci/; http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/donald-trump-brings-back-the-default-talk/488270/.
[xxxii] http://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-ultimate-economic-nightmare-default-the-debt-13989; http://www.nbcnews.com/business/whats-worst-could-happen-7-debt-default-doomsday-scenarios-8c11366851; http://www.bbc.com/news/business-24453400; http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/10/what-happens-if-we-actually-truly-default.html; http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2015/10/22/ask-an-economist-what-happens-if-congress-doesnt-raise-the-debt-ceiling.