With President Trump’s relatively successful first year in the books it’s time to set the agenda for 2018 that builds on the conservative principles and American priorities approach that really took hold in the final months of 2017.
This is particularly important because the opposition party seems to have an empty idea tank for 2018. Their entire agenda is undermine Trump, smear Trump, run against Trump, impeach Trump and remove Trump, while whipping up division and anger based on race and wealth. That’s it and it’s not attractive.
In this complete vacuum of ideas and principles, President Trump and Republicans have the fantastical opportunity to continue to shape the landscape and show what real, solid, foundational principles can accomplish for all Americans — black, brown and white; rich, middle class and poor; men and women — and not just for the ones whose votes you want to get.
This is not pie in the sky. Look past the media coverage of 2017 for a moment at some very real facts. Pew Research places Trump as the most popular president in modern history among Republican voters. (Of course, the opposite is true among Democrat voters, but that is in large part media driven.) Further, and critically important on the ground for the 2018 midterm elections and reflecting the bases in each party, the Republican National Committee saw record-breaking fundraising during 2017, crushing the pace of Democratic National Committee fundraising during the first year of the Obama presidency, and actually pushing the DNC today into debt. No, you don’t read much about that.
Given this opportune moment of Democratic nothingness and Trump-Republican momentum, here are five agenda ideas for President Trump and Republicans to pursue in 2018 that are good for all Americans and put even more distance between the party of ideas and the party of division and strife. These are in order of importance.
This starts with building the wall on America’s southern border and reforming immigration throughout the system to protect America, Americans and American ideals, forming a system that brings in people who are good for America and Americans and who believe in the American ideals encompassed in the U.S. Constitution.
The Wall was a primary rallying cry during the 2016 campaign as it highlighted the frustration of many Americans with millions of illegals streaming into the country, taking jobs, depressing wages, increasing crime and straining hospitals, schools, prisons and other taxpayer-funded programs. Americans understand innately this is a terrible system and support Trump’s efforts.
Beltway Republicans have been less enthusiastic to do anything and Democrats howl at racism or some such thing.
However, Trump has real leverage on this one because the Democrats have promised their base to have a fix for DACA — Deferred Action and Childhood Arrivals — program that grants legal status for all the children who came here illegally. And Trump understands leverage. He tweeted this Dec. 29:
“The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!”
But if Republicans can do it without granting legal status to the so-called “Dreamers” under the Obama-reelection legislation, all the better. Not surprisingly, the DACA program is ripe with cheating and corruption as perhaps half of the people on it obtained their permits fraudulently. Just build the Wall. But if there must be a DACA fix — repeal it. That fixes it.
2) Welfare reform
This is imperative for America’s long-term (and maybe not-so-long-term) financial viability. Because the truth is, we are on an unsustainable fiscal path even if we took 100 percent of the top 1 percenter’s income. Don’t let anyone claim it can be fixed by raising taxes on the rich. It cannot be.
The problem is entirely on the spending side and if we don’t correct it, the system will collapse and millions of Americans will be hurt. This has to be done despite the fact that Democrats will demagogue it like they do every time with commercials against Republicans pushing grandma off a cliff and making grandma eat dog food. Just shameless. But someone needs to look out for Americans and not just personal re-election.
Social Security has got to be on the table at some point. However, that can’t work in Congress in an election year, because of the aforementioned demagoguing. But someone needs to step up and make sustainable the unsustainable. Kicking this can down the road is irresponsible.
So the talk has largely been about programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps and Housing Assistance, which all need major reforming. Trump said in November: “We’re looking very strongly at welfare reform, and that’ll all take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes.”
The Trump administration’s goals are to make welfare programs a short-term safety net aimed at getting Americans back to work and out of poverty. So changes strengthening work requirements and getting freeloaders off the dole could get some crossover support from Democrats — although in this atmosphere, it’s hard to be optimistic.
3) Public education liberation
Freeing poor and minority children from the prison of failing public schools through robust school choice and public vouchers is right and might be — with the right messaging campaign — more popular than is known, as the media skews reporting on this toward public schools and teachers unions. The numbers on the success of this for inner city kids are indisputable.
It’s a straightforward battle between what is best for poor children’s education and what is best for public school unions — one of the largest Democrat special interests and financiers. That should be a winning framing of the issue. But it is cast instead through the lense of taking money away from public education, rather than letting money follow students.
So many Americans still need convincing on this. The numbers are overwhelming that vouchers and private school choice work for students and even in improving nearby public schools. But people glaze over with facts, particularly when the media can always find some study somewhere that shows the opposite.
Putting faces on this issue is the key to winning public support. There should be a broad public information campaign featuring inner city children (and their parents) who were failing or learning nothing at their public schools and are now thriving students at charter or private schools through vouchers. And maybe include what happened to some students after Obama and Democrats caved to the unions and took away vouchers in Washington, D.C., sentencing those children to dangerous, failing schools.
This actually is one of the few areas where it would be possible to see strong minority support for a Republican agenda item.
4) Housing reform
It’s past time to get the federal government out of the home mortgage business by totally reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“I am determined that we have housing reform and that we come up with a permanent solution for Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac] so that they’re not in the current form, which is essentially owned by the government,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said to the Economic Club of New York.
Mnuchin believes this will be done on a bipartisan basis, but that seems unlikely.
Don’t expect such reform to win a lot of votes from Democrats, who will be tempted to demagogue it like they do everything. But this is necessary to avoid the 2006 mortgage meltdown and to keep the American taxpayer from being on the hook for trillions of home mortgages. Mnuchin of course is talking about reforming when he probably should be talking about ending, but…baby steps.
5) Infrastructure focused on transportation
Trump is determined to pursue infrastructure investments. This makes sense as a businessman, maybe particularly a real estate developer. It’s just hard not to be skeptical of any government infrastructure spending after Obama blew about half a trillion dollars in 2009 to “stimulate” the economy. Government generally does all things badly.
But the one area where it does makes sense is in transportation, specifically airports and water ports, which account for so much economic activity. But this could also include roads and bridges and perhaps digital connectivity infrastructure. Trump’s plan to be released in January or February is expected to spend at least $200 billion in direct spending over a decade, which will probably leverage more from the private sector.
While complicated by the tax reform package that could add $1.5 trillion to the national debt — although such estimates are notoriously wrong on tax cuts because of the static model analysis that is used — an infrastructure bill could get real bipartisan support. In part that is because individual congressional districts will get projects and in part because it is more in line with progressive concepts of government doing stuff.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao outlined a conceptual program where states and municipalities compete for government funds based on the most innovative and future-looking projects.
The order in which this agenda is pursued
The order in which these issues are pursued makes a difference. Success tends to breed more success and create legislative momentum. That momentum — and lack thereof — is surprisingly important.
So, here would be the best order for this agenda based on most likely to succeed legislatively and create momentum.
Some of these agenda items are a much bigger lift than others. But getting any two will be a good year and track record going into November. Three or more would be awesome.
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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act.