Friday, February 17, 2017

Neither side appears much interested in diplomacy.

Rise and shine, Amsterdam!

Just kidding. It's 10:45 a.m. Everyone rose and shone a few hours ago -- except for the sun, which is hidden somewhere up there behind all the clouds -- and I'm sitting on a couch in my pajamas, blogging. Spring break, y'all.

It's a lovely city, even in winter. On today's itinerary is the Verzetsmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, a lot of Pod Save America, and... I'm not sure what else. Hot chocolate?

Anyway, I know a lot of you -- like, 2 of you -- were deeply disappointed in my failure to make deadline last week. Fortunately for everybody, despite a great deal of talk about "rolling back" Dodd-Frank, drug price negotiation, and federal funding cuts to sanctuary cities, little policy actually went through last week. Notable exceptions are the confirmations of profoundly inexperienced Betsy DeVos and white supremacist Jeff Sessions as Secretary of Education and Attorney General, respectively.

This week was kind of a different story.

44. Order every federal government department head to “provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first 100 days.” Review each agency and then decrease the size of the “bloated government,” making it “leaner and more responsive to the public.”
Kept, but only for programs that do not align with President Trump's platform, such as women's issues programs at the Department of State and climate research programs at NASA. This has, understandably, stoked fears of federal agency witch hunts, especially given the administration's interference with and rumors of planned cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency. (A bit of good news: coders across the country have been working tirelessly to preserve climate data out of the hands of the federal government to ensure that decades of research will not be lost.)
49. Dismantle the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which aims to prevent the excessive risk-taking that led to the financial crisis and was signed into law by Obama in 2010.
In progress. On Galentine's Day, President Trump signed his first piece of legislation, nullifying a component of Dodd-Frank that requires oil and mining companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments. It was originally created as an anti-corruption measure, which is why it's a little odd that Trump described the effects of the signing as "bringing back jobs big league. We're bringing them back at the plant level. We're bringing them back at the mine level. The energy jobs are coming back." (See also: previous post on the role of automation in working class job destruction)
62. Bring down drug prices by importing cheaper medications from overseas and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
Broken. And kept? Who knows? On January 31, after a meeting with pharmaceutical lobbyists, President Trump made a 180-degree turn on this promise, referring to the idea as "price fixing" that would hurt "smaller, younger companies." He said the new plan is to lower taxes and get rid of regulations. However, one week later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded to a question about the government negotiating directly with drug companies on prices for drugs covered by the Medicare insurance programs by saying, "He's for it."
85. Allow “tremendous numbers” of legal immigrants based on a “merit system,” selecting immigrants who will help grow the country’s economy.
86. Reduce the number of legal immigrants because it is “simply too large to perform adequate screening,” and these immigrants could be taking jobs away from American workers.
Broken by their mutually exclusive nature. I'm no rhetorician, but this kind of televised self-contradiction is not good for winning arguments and building credibility as a policymaker. President Trump must now create parallel universes in order to fulfill campaign promises. TOO BAD.
90. Institute “extreme vetting” of all immigrants.
Broken. Impossible, actually, because immigrant (and especially refugee) vetting is already extreme
101. As soon as he takes office, ask Congress to repeal the defense sequester that limited the military’s budget.
Broken. Little has been heard from President Trump on the subject since September. That said, in terms of defense spending increases, he has the ear of the Republican-dominated Congress, as well as defense hawk Democrats and those from states with shipbuilding industries (e.g. Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island). He'll face opposition from fiscal conservatives -- a budget deficit increase of $4.4 to $5.9 trillion is never fun to explain to tax-paying constitutents -- but it probably won't be enough to derail pro-defense measures in the long run.
142. Be a “true friend to Israel.” Trump says the United States will “be working with Israel very closely, very, very closely.”
Kept, at least rhetorically. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was likely very pleased with President Trumps's meandering and non-committal thoughts on a one- versus two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. If Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best." This is a momentous break from traditional U.S. advocacy of a two-state solution.
147. Negotiate the release of all U.S. prisoners held in Iran before taking office. (Five Americans were released during the campaign, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian; Trump has claimed some credit for this.)
Broken. I can't believe I missed this before. That's just embarrassing. Iran continues a decades-old habit of detaining American citizens, unimpeded by the election of Trump. Robin Wright of the New Yorker asks, "[W]hat is more important in Iran: hanging on to the American prisoners until its own Presidential election in May, or releasing them to prevent a showdown with the new Trump Administration? Neither side appears much interested in diplomacy."
278. “I pledge to protect and defend all Americans who live inside of our borders. Wherever they come from, wherever they were born, all Americans living here and following our laws will be protected. America will be a tolerant and open society.”
Yeah. Totally. 
(Full-size graphic here.)

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