By Sudip Bhattacharyya
In anticipating victory for Donald Trump in the US presidential election, I had written in my article ‘The last minute twist’ that ‘...He also touches the heart of such people when he vows to restore pride in Amercanism’.
After the initial turmoil of about 100 days, his Chief Strategist, Stephen Bannon, has outlined the lines of work that they would take up for renewal of the American spirit. These are 1) restoring security and sovereignty, 2) encompassing domestic control of the economy and finally 3) deconstruction of the administrative state.
In 1) sovereignty is seen as rooted in the nationalist premise that any nation state is built around a core cultural identity that it must protect. Open border is a danger to America’s culture and ‘reason for being’. Immigration is seen as undercutting the national identity – although he is now promising to initially focus on criminal undocumented immigrants.
By 2) one is referring to economic nationalism and this is to be seen as a way to declare opposition to the long held bipartisan consensus that favours trade and immigration.
In 3) the existing administrative dispensation state is seen as engineered by the Left to advance its agenda. It is, therefore, time to decisively look into the future and offer an alternative vision for how the government can and should serve the Americans. Now is the time to make the case that the Americans shouldn’t have to ask permission of bureaucrats in Washington and in their respective states before they can innovate, trade, shop, work, and consume goods and services. Now is the time to challenge the old, outdated, know-it-all model of government for one that fits the time better. Clearly, they need a government that spends less and does less but also appeals to most Americans of whatever ideological persuasion.
Trump later rolled out other policies and positions: a major tax code overhaul; repeal and replace Obamacare; renegotiate or "break" NAFTA; stop hedge funds from "getting away with murder" on taxes; reforming the Veterans Administration; and impose import tariffs as high as 35 per cent. All the while keeping the deficit in check, growing the economy and leaving entitlement programmes like Medicare and Social Security untouched.
“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families,” Trump promised.
But, all this would have enormous financial cost. The American Action Forum, a right-leaning policy institute based in Washington D.C., estimates that only immediately and fully enforcing current immigration law, as Trump has suggested, would cost the federal government from $400 billion to $600 billion. It would shrink the labour force by 11 million workers, reduce the real GDP by $1.6 trillion and take 20 years to complete (Trump has said he could do it in 18 months). But then, Bank of England predicted a poor result if Brexit happened. Yet, the outcome so far has been good.
The unpredictability of the Trump administration and the consequent turbulence is likely to continue unless he can set clearly and early his vision for the future and how he will feasibly implement it, and lucidly communicate it to the American people.
(The author is a commentator on contemporary issues in Economy, Politics and Society. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)