INAUGURATION OF MR. TRUMP AND HIS POLICY SPEECH
by Sunil J. Wimalawansa
Forgiveness, compassion and equanimity, not hatred, are the true character of a strong well-mined person. Secularism, fairness and transparency, but not relying on the law to govern, are the character of a strong nation.
(January 25, 2017, Washington DC, Sri Lanka Guardian) In his short inauguration speech, Mr. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, reaffirmed his campaign promises. In addition, he described the hard truth of pessimistic aspects of inner cities and rural America, illustrating the menace of poverty, violence, maldistribution of wealth, and the high unemployment among blue-collar workers. Some considered this a message of dark days, and others celebrated his comments as realistic.
The Trump presidency:
Mr. Trump, a business executive is one of the few billionaire presidents to walk into the White House with a strong business background. Other presidents include Warren Harding, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. They had either enough inherited wealth or earned wealth to pursue independent political careers.
However, all previous presidents previously held positions in the public arena or served in the military as a leader. Mr. Trump, held neither types of posts. He is a business leader, now must transform himself into the chief executive of the country, a much different job than his previous career as a business leader and one that encompasses deeper and broader responsibilities.
Rhetoric versus Policy statements:
Mr. Trump said, “We have defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own, and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We have made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their arms and redistributed all across the world.” These words are music to his supporters and irritating to his opponents.
U.S. presidents of both parties, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan in the past, and from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama in recent days, have defended the international vision of American interdependence. Nevertheless, the commitment to achieve this has varied among administrations. However, Mr. Trump seems to be moving away from this toward nationalism and minimizing his administration’s involvements internationally.
Stance on NATO and the United Nations:
President Trump hinted that his intentions of international agenda, moving away from free markets, foreign alliances, and trade; including a threat of abandoning the NATO However, for the near future, the existence of NATO is essential, especially with increasing threats from Russia and its involvement in the middle-east. Despite the rhetoric, it is highly unlikely that the Trump administration will dump NATO.
Following World War II, in 1949 the United States joined other Western countries in creating the institutions of economic and military interdependence: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations (in 1945). These were credible bodies designed to maintain world equity and peace. He believes U.S. foreign and domestic policies must operate as a zero-sum game: either American wins or the rest of the world wins—it cannot be both at the same time. However, this may not necessarily correct. Bilateral negotiations and trade agreements can position such a way that both parties gain; win: win situations.
As a businessman, Mr. Trump is positioning himself and his team to negotiate with the administrations of 27 NATO countries to increase the contributions from each alliance member country. The goal is to reduce significantly U.S. contributions to the NATO budget, perhaps by as much as $15 billion annually. Currently the United States contributes more than 32% of the NATO budget ($48 billion/year). The United States not only should not abandon the NATO but also cannot ignore the critically important contributions (support troops) made by NATO countries in Afghanistan.
Mr. Trump said, “Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.”
Many policies he mentioned are not in keeping with the traditional Republican agenda and may not tally with many current Republican Centremen. In fact, some of his proposals are closer to the Democratic party ideology and others are diametrically opposite to the policies of the Obama administration. Because many of the Republican law-makers are ardent conservatives, there are bound to be clashes between them and this populist president on policy issues in months to come.
On domestic issues, Mr. Trump focused on infrastructure spending, tough measures on immigration, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and controlling the prices of prescription drugs, etc. He said that decisions on trade, taxes, immigration, security, and border protection will be made for the benefit of American workers and American families. While getting these into action is very important to him and the progress of the country, it may not be that easy to get adequate votes to pass legislations in the Congress.
Regarding infrastructure development and labor, he stated, “We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.” However, president and the Congress need to identify funds to implement these.
The clock has started to tick. The new administration faces major challenges in international affairs/foreign policies, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, immigration issues, national security, the Supreme Court, infrastructure, energy and veterans’ affairs, entitlements (Social Security), environment, and balancing the budget. Many of the new policies to be implemented will be opposite to ones we had during the last eight years under the Obama administration and are likely to affect virtually all Americans.
Reassurance of the constituents:
Nevertheless, Mr. Trump reassured that the foundation of these policies will be full allegiance with the United States of America. To his critics, he said, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” However, Mr. Trump did not mention the Affordable Care Act, the Iranian nuclear deal, Cuba, North Korea, or signature accomplishments of president Obama. While he praised the outgoing president, his critiques were directed to the former president, George W. Bush who was in the audience, without mentioning his name. Parts of the criticisms were directed to the members of the Congress.
In contrast to Bush and Obama, Trump is going to allow the Center for Medicare and Medicaid to leverage its huge purchasing power to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industries to bring down the costs of medications and medical devises.
Action has started:
As per his campaign promises, one of the first executive orders Mr. Trump signed was to facilitate the repeal of some components of the Affordable Care Act initiative. Overall, many of his critiques were directed at traditional Republicans and to a certain extent expressed his anger at the leader of the Democratic party for stalling his cabinet nominations.
He made powerful populist statements that were not that different from his campaign slogans. Now the time for Mr. Trump, his cabinet, and associates to make words into actions.
To be Continued
Professor Sunil J. Wimalawansa MD, PhD, MBA, DSc, is a Physician-Scientist, Social Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, and Educator with strategic long-term vision.
The author can be reached via wimalawansa.org