Most folks, except, of course for Nancy and Chuck, seem to think the president gave a pretty good speech last week.
Wall Street liked it a lot. He ticked off all the buzz words for his base as Democrats sat on their hands, then got even their grudging approval by supporting NATO and offering up a trillion-dollar infrastructure proposal. Too bad it’s mostly puff.
The president may not know it, though I suspect the light is dawning, but he is headed full speed for the Washington brick wall — or swamp, if you prefer.
In the first place, the votes in Congress are not there. In the second, neither is the money. Reality is tough.
Mr. Trump can count on no votes from Democrats for anything except spending, and they will try to attach plenty of strings to that, especially when it comes to construction and “prevailing union wages.”
He can also count on many conservative Republicans to oppose the same spending, which will put him in the position of relying on legislators he has been attacking while alienating those who have supported him. This has not proven a successful formula in — oh, forever.
He will meet opposition from Congress and countless lobbyists when he tries to reduce departmental budgets. Cut State by 37 per cent? What are the odds?
He will get most of his military increase. While it is an easy argument to make that the military is in a bad state, part of the fix should be simplifying its bloated bureaucracy, streamlining weapons development and eliminating obsolete systems. That will happen over the dead electoral bodies of any congresspersons with military contractors in their districts.
Then there is health care. While in their secret hearts even Democrats probably realize that Obamacare isn’t working, that is where this realization will stay — in their secret hearts. It will fall to Republicans to try to improve things with no Democratic support, ever. Health care is a giant tangle of conflicting interests and escalating costs. How do you suppose that will work out?
We’re going to fix immigration. Build a wall. Hire thousands more border guards and ICE personnel. Dump thousands of deportation cases into the court system. Not unreasonable, perhaps; also not free.
Meanwhile, entitlement reform, as usual, is off the table. The most costly and fastest-growing component of the budget will continue to explode unabated. Thank your grandchildren.
And Republicans want to cut taxes.
The president, and Paul Ryan, claim that this can all be accomplished with accelerated economic growth. They have mentioned rates as high as 5 per cent, 3 points above current levels. Even if they are right, and for all I know they are, how do we get there?
Cut regulations. OK. Spend that trillion on infrastructure, spend more on the military, hire more people, boost consumer spending with lower taxes and more jobs. Do all this in the face of an opposition party obsessed with transgender bathrooms and sanctuary cities?
I realize that this column is a reliable source of gloom and doom regarding governmental competence. I wish it weren’t, but with no pride whatsoever I must point out that with depressing regularity it has been right.
This time, as usual, I hope it is wrong. We’ll find out soon enough.