Being Controversial at HomeControlling both houses of Congress, Trump tried to move quickly to have his agendas secured. However, he became frustrated with how slowly Congress operates and has relied heavily on executive orders to implement or change policies.
Implementing domestic policiesSome of his most important domestic policies include:
- The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017: This act was the largest tax cut since 1986. It cut the corporate tax rate permanently from 35 percent to 21 percent and reduced individual income taxes until 2027 for all tax brackets. The act further increased the standard deduction and increased tax credits for families.
- Cutting back Obamacare: The Trump administration eliminated the individual mandate from Obamacare that required everybody under 65 years of age to get health insurance or pay a fine. It further cut Obamacare’s advertising budget and cut the enrollment period in half. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this will increase the number of uninsured by about seven million by 2026.
- Reshaping the federal courts: Up until November 2019, President Trump had appointed two Supreme Court justices and a record 183 federal justices (district court and appeals court). This amounts to 25 percent of all federal justices. Most of his appointees are young and conservative and will move the federal courts to the right for the foreseeable future.
- The Muslim travel ban: President Trump imposed a travel ban on travelers from mostly Muslim countries (it also included North Korea and government officials and their families from Venezuela) that experienced terrorist activities. On June 26, 2018, the United States Supreme Court upheld the ban, which now excludes legal permanent residents, dual citizens, and the country of Iraq.
Succeeding economicallySince President Trump assumed office in January 2017, the U.S. economy has been booming. The economy grew by 3.1 percent in 2018, and 2.2 percent in 2019. The stock market (Dow Jones Industrial Average) has seen an increase of over 9,000 points. The unemployment rate is at the lowest level in 50 years, and unemployment for African-Americans and Hispanics is at a historic low.
Being Controversial AbroadWhile President Trump has been successful dealing with the United States economy, foreign policy has been a mixed bag. There have been successes in the Middle East and in the fight against terrorism, but at the same time President Trump’s emphasis on an “America First” policy has alienated many U.S. allies. His major foreign policy include the following:
- Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord: By 2019, 195 nations had signed on to the Paris Treaty, known as the Paris Climate Accord. The treaty stipulates that all signees have to initiate policies to limit global warming and then report on their efforts. The objective of the treaty is to mitigate global warming and to limit the increase of global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The Trump administration declared its intentions to withdraw from the treaty in June 2017, but the United States cannot fully withdraw from the treaty until November 2020. So far none of the signees have adhered to the treaty, and the treaty contains no mechanism to enforce its goals.
- Getting tough with Allies: Beginning in 2017, President Trump demanded that NATO allies pay more for their military defense. In 2014, NATO members had agreed to spend at least two percent of GDP on their militaries, but most just ignored the obligation. Out of 28 NATO members, only 5 countries had met the mark by 2017. The United States, on the other hand, spent close to 4 percent of GDP on its military. Overall, the U.S. outspent the other 27 NATO members two to one.
Germany, for example, actually cut military spending to 1.1 percent while running big budget surpluses. After Trump’s complaints and even threats of being unwilling to continue to protect NATO members if they refused to protect themselves, NATO, including Germany, begrudgingly agreed to increase defense spending and meet the 2 percent obligation by 2024.
- Declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel: The Trump administration declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel despite objections from the United Nations and most European allies. The American embassy was moved in May 2018 from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
- Withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP): The Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement negotiated by the Obama administration. Trump prefers bilateral agreements, namely trade agreements between two countries.
- Implementing tariffs against China: Claiming that China was using unfair trade practices against the United States and was further illegally obtaining U.S. technology, President Trump imposed tariffs on Chinese goods. China retaliated, but on January 15,2020, a Phase I deal was reached. China agreed to buy more American farm goods and allow the United States to bring criminal charges against Chinese companies for stealing U.S. technology. The U.S. in turn agreed to not impose further tariffs. Negotiations on a Phase II deal started right away.
Renegotiating NAFTA: President Trump successfully renegotiated NAFTA. The treaty is now called The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). It includes new labor and environmental standards as well as intellectual property protections. It is estimated to create 176,000 new jobs in the United States.
- Cutting troops in Afghanistan: President Trump announced that he will withdraw most U.S. troops from Afghanistan but keep a small contingent of about 8,600 in the country.
- Destroying ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham): By 2019 ISIL had been defeated on the battlefield, and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed in a U.S. raid.
Need further reading? Learn more about the scandals that have defined Trump’s presidency.