Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

Donald Trump’s 100 days of u-turns, bombs and cake

The hundredth day of an American president’s term traditionally marks the end of the honeymoon period – a time to take stock of early achievements, launch new legislation, and set a new direction. But the score card for Donald Trump’s first 100 days doesn’t read well, and the direction for the next four years is looking so new as to radically contradict the premise of his campaign. The Conversation Trump hasn’t commenced the wall along the US-Mexican border, his signature campaign pledge. He has failed (and spectacularly) to repeal and replace the healthcare reforms collectively known as Obamacare, and the courts have thwarted his orders to ban foreign nationals from several mainly Muslim countries from the US. And on a moral front, his compassion for Syrian children killed in a horrific chemical attack was offset by his decision to turn away 10,000 Syrian refugees. The administration is under intense pressure from investigations into the Trump team’s Russian connections and purported Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The resignation of General Mike Flynn and the hapless antics of the investigating committees in Congress have only made the saga more damaging. All the while, American opinion remains divided as ever: Trump currently enjoys the approval of roughly 40% of his people. Trump’s image problem extends well beyond the US’s borders. In the past month, I spent a week in China while President Xi Jinping was visiting Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. I then visited the US, travelling from North Carolina through Virginia and on to Washington, DC. The Chinese are mostly bemused by the new president, who comes in for plenty of criticism in the Chinese media. In the US, meanwhile, the president is at the centre of a perpetual media frenzy, lurching from one decision to the next while providing byplay via his own tweets. And undoubtedly his most dramatic lurch has been away from isolationism and towards outright military adventurism.

Volte-face

Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump criticised “crooked Hillary” and Barack Obama for allowing the situation in Syria to deteriorate, but he also declared that he would not get involved. The “America First” philosophy he articulated in his inaugural address combined economic nationalism with international isolationism, and more recently, he reminded an audience of union members that he is “not the president of the world”. But as the makeup of his National Security Council changed, Trump broke out of his isolationist box. He now appears to favour regime change in Syria, and possibly even a direct confrontation with North Korea. Between my visits to China and the US, Trump retaliated to the deadly April 4 chemical attack on the Syrian rebel-held city of Khan Sheikhoun by authorising a direct missile strike on Syrian government airfields – this apparently while enjoying a “beautiful chocolate cake” with President Xi. The attack sharpened the main lines of contention in global politics between Russia and China, who continue to back Bashar al-Assad, and the G7 nations, who oppose him, but who have yet to come up with a coherent suggestion for removing him from power. Trump also said he’d ordered a US Navy carrier strike group on routine exercises to head from Australia to the waters off North Korea, while Pyongyang held a national day of celebration at which it showed off significant military hardware, some of it not seen before. In the days between the announced rerouting of the aircraft carrier group (the truth of which is now unclear) and North Korea’s celebrations, the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used on a network of tunnels in Afghanistan used by the so-called Islamic State (IS). The blast itself is estimated to have killed more than 90 IS militants, while at the same time sending a clear signal to IS, North Korea and others that Trump is ready to use devastating force. China’s Xi has since tried to calm tensions between the US and North Korea, but to little effect; the sabre-rattling continues, and a sixth North Korean nuclear test may not be far away.

Empty at the core

Throughout these last 100 days, I have been searching for some sort of signal in all the noise – some core commitment to a programme of change, with a clear set of organising principles and an underlying philosophy. I have struggled to argue that there must be something at the heart of all of this that makes coherent sense and that will genuinely benefit even Trump’s core supporters. Some of those supporters presumably see their president as a decisive leader using the full power of the presidency to tackle enormous domestic and foreign issues. To them, he’s doing precisely what he promised, and given time and space to act, he will deliver real change to America. Business leaders are waiting for his tax cuts to invigorate markets, while the core voters wait for their promised new jobs and cheaper healthcare. But if Trump is right that running America really is like running a business, he should be able to produce an income-expenditure model that indicates more is being achieved with less, with a surplus to show as a result. No such model is forthcoming. Yes, the proposed investments in infrastructure and the border wall are meant to be balanced by cuts to public programmes in science, health, welfare, and even the coast guard. But combined with promised tax cuts and increased defence spending, the books simply will not be balanced – especially with expensive new overseas military adventures now on the cards. In search of a metaphor with which to capture these first 100 days of the Trump presidency, I’ve landed on the Tasmanian devil. The real animal is described as having a “cantankerous disposition”; it will “fly into a maniacal rage when threatened by a predator, fighting for a mate, or defending a meal”. As rendered in cartoon form for Looney Tunes, it’s a swirling vortex of frenzied activity with an empty core.

The thrust and parry of politics is inevitable, as interests and power intersect in complex and contested ways – but actual change is achieved through consensus and compromise. Obamacare was only passed in 2010 after a year of face-to-face encounters, discussions, and compromises forged in committee rooms and caucus meetings. The bill that emerged wasn’t what everyone wanted, but it contained enough of what most of them wanted. If Trump’s first 100 days prove anything, it’s that politics is not business. CEOs and presidents need very different skills, and commanders-in-chief need to think about more than the bottom line. The self-proclaimed master of the Art of the Deal has much to learn if he is to thrive in his first term. Todd Landman, Professor of Political Science, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Social Sciences, University of Nottingham This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Trump, Clinton, and the Future of the United States of America

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On 29 September, I delivered a public lecture to over 300 staff and students at the University of Nottingham, where I am a Professor of Political Science and Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

I had delivered an earlier version of this lecture at our Ningbo campus in China on 1 June 2016.

My intent with this lecture is to move beyond name calling and popular discourse on the race for the Presidency thus far, and to focus on the data and evidence that sit behind the roller coaster that we appear to be on during this contested time in American and global politics.

My lecture was structured into several sections, including (1) an overview of the electoral landscape, (2) the early primaries, (3) Super Tuesday, (4) the narrowing race, (5) the party conventions, (6) the Great Debate, (7) the shifting demographic, (8) the current position of each candidate, and (9) challenges for the future.

Since the 1950s and the Eisenhower elections, the American presidential electoral map has seen a large number of years and states ‘red’ for the Republican support that they have expressed. The 1964 Johnson election saw a large swathe of blue states, but not until the 1990s with the election of Bill Clinton, did the country see strong patches of Democratic support, mostly concentrated in the East and West Coast, as well as around the Midwest and Great Lakes area. Through the Bush years, the red returned, and with eight years of Obama, we see the same pattern as with Clinton: East and West Coast blue, south and middle of the US is red.

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I stressed in the lecture that these patterns are also based on the population size and an urban rural split. East and West Coast states are very populous and tend to vote Democrat, while county level data shows that cities vote Democrat and rural areas vote Republican. I also stressed the difference between the popular vote (in 2012 Obama won with 51% of the popular vote) and the Electoral College vote (Obama got 332 votes to Romney’s 206; a 61.7% to 38.3% difference). The difference between the popular vote and the Electoral College vote is crucial to understand the current race: Trump and Clinton have been neck and neck in the popular vote polls over the summer, but the Electoral College vote predictions still favour Clinton. The key to the outcome are key ‘swing’ states such as Ohio (Trump), Pennsylvania (Clinton), Michigan (Clinton), Colorado (Clinton), Wisconsin (Clinton), Virginia (Clinton), Minnesota (Clinton), Nevada (Trump), Iowa (Trump), New Hampshire (Clinton), Arizona (Trump), Georgia (Trump), North Carolina (Trump), and Florida (Trump).

The primaries began with a slate of candidates for both parties, but arguably more for the Republicans than the Democrats, where Trump found himself most challenged by Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich and where Clinton had only really to contend with Bernie Sanders. The early primaries had a strong showing for Trump and throughout the process he gained momentum to win the nomination, despite increasingly deep reservations from members across the party. Clinton’s lead was not a given, as she fought hard through the process. She did benefit from the so-called ‘superdelegates’ and secured the nomination once Sanders conceded rather late in the race. As part of the race during the primaries, it became clear to me as early as Super Tuesday on 2 March that the final contest for the presidency would be between Trump and Clinton, and that the presidency was Clinton’s to lose.

With the primary race over, the two candidates focussed their attention on the party conventions. The Republicans stumbled at first over protest groups not yet ready to endorse Trump and a candidate acceptance speech that painted a gloomy and dire picture of the state of America. This picture was brought into stark contrast by the Democratic convention, which was decidedly more positive and inclusive, but which was not entirely free of controversy, since it was revealed through an email hack that the Democratic National Committee was seeking to engineer the primary process toward Clinton. Trump made a populist appeal to the people – ‘I am your voice’ – and pledged that only he could make America great again. Clinton sought to show how America can work together and that her partnership with America would deliver greater benefits for a middle class that has lost out.

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Clinton enjoyed a post-convention bounce in the polls that was more sustainable than Trump’s slight rise in the polls, but the summer campaign saw her lead slip, and then almost collapse after her health issues were revealed at a 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York. By the time of the first debate on Monday of this week, her lead had all but evaporated and fell within the statistical margin of error. The debate itself was much anticipated and was reported to have had 84 million viewers. Trump came out strong and held his own for the first 20 minutes on issues concerning jobs and the effects of international trade, but stumbled through the second and third portions of the debate on matters concerning race relations, his tax returns, and securing America. Clinton delivered a measured and well-studied performance that saw her hit back with a number of barbed and incisive comments, and the general verdict was that she emerged the winner.

I have maintained throughout the campaign that Trump needs to reach out beyond his core supporters in order to win the presidency. He has been very effective as an outside candidate to work within the Republican Party to convert his populist message into the nomination. He has failed, however, to soften his tone or to garner support from groups outside his base. He repeated the same theme and message at the debate without capturing new support. Clinton is a centre-left candidate who enjoys a larger share of the changing demographic in the United States, with much more support among African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans and equal support among white Americans (but those that are educated and female).

The underlying changes in the demographic patterns in the US have presented a real challenge to the Republicans, who have not developed a strategy to respond in 2008, 2012, and now it looks like 2016. The white population is decreasing in size in America, the non-white population is showing increase in voter turnout, as well voting for Democrats, while America is become more socially liberal, less religious and less Christian. And it is these changes that are currently benefitting the Clinton campaign.

Three days out from the first debate, Clinton’s probability of winning has risen from 57.9% to 63.7% according to Nate Silver on his site Five Thirty Eight. For his part, Trump is facing continued pressure to release his tax returns, explain how his economic plan will actually work, and to answer questions on his financial dealings in Cuba during the period of the US embargo.

The next weeks will see two more head to head debates, more campaigning, and more polls. To win, Clinton needs to mobilise her base, and encourage high turnout from ethnic minority communities, as well as young, educated, women. For his part, Trump needs to mobilise his base and if he continues to stick to that base, then mobilise the ‘silent’ Trump supporters to register and vote.

The race is still very much in the balance, but is now tipping back toward a Clinton victory.

Please CLICK HERE for a PDF of the slides for this lecture: trump-clinton-and-the-future-of-the-usa