Donald Trump is among the more controversial presidents in American history, with historically low approval ratings of 41% according to a Gallup poll, one of his landmark executive orders blocked by the Ninth Circuit, and anti-Trump protests all across the United States. In this post, I’m going to explore how President Trump has fared so far.
President Trump has signed an average of 1.5 executive orders per day — still short of his predecessor’s first week in office. In any case, President Trump has been active, and I’m going to take a look at what he’s done so far.
(1) Trump’s executive order on Obamacare was his very first, merely hours after taking the oath of office, rolling back the ACA financially. The implications of it weren’t substantial in terms of actual policy, but they sent a clear message: President Trump actually intends to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That’s a proposal I have criticized in previous posts, such as one about the Affordable Care Act and one criticizing Republican healthcare policy, but, in short, would cause about 19.7 million people to lose insurance in a single year, destroy 3 million jobs and result in a “$1.5 trillion reduction in gross state product from 2019 through 2023.” The reduction in taxes would add to the strain even more.
(2) Trump’s order to reduce regulations didn’t make sense. In his order, it was essentially a “two-for-one” guideline: for every one regulation introduced, two had to be repealed. The problem is that it’s completely arbitrary, merely a classically Republican rhetorical flourish suggesting that there are “too many regulations.” The reality is that some heavily important regulations might be lost, or might not be introduced, in the process, and even if Trump wanted to reduce regulations, he should have reviewed and deleted those that he deemed unnecessary. The number of regulations doesn’t matter: the necessity of them matters. This order was just absurd.
(3) Trump’s heavily controversial executive order on immigration, specifically with regard to immigration from seven countries, has actually resulted in strikes, and has been struck down as unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit. It’s probably unconstitutional on many levels: it violates the Fifth Amendment which allows for due process of law, the Fourteenth Amendment which asks for equality, and the fact that “national origin” is actually a suspect classification. Some lawyers have suggested that Trump deliberately made the EO unconstitutional so it would get repealed. In any case, it is overly vague (e.g. made green card holders suffer), harmful to people whose condition the U.S. is directly responsible for (e.g. military translators), and won’t have any effect on terrorism outside of propaganda.
(4) Trump’s orders to restart construction of oil pipelines, the Keystone XL extension and the Dakota Access pipelines, have similarly met with controversy, since they’ve made approval of those pipleines probable, which is problematic for a simple reason: the environmental effects of these pipelines. First, the risk of an oil spill could cause water poisoning for indigenous people. Since 2010, the operator of the Dakota pipeline has been responsible for more oil leaks than any other pipeline operators. Second, these pipelines would be dangerous to wildlife, with species like the whooping crane and swift fox threatened by these pipelines. The potential of an onshore oil spill is also dangerous. Wildlife extinction is harmful because it could cause ecological collapse, and because, as I’ve explained earlier, animals have rights. Third, the pipelines could harm the fight against climate change. For instance, the Keystone XL extension utilizes tar sands to extract oil, which could result in massive greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the level of oil access it would create would essentially cut off efforts to move to clean energy.
(5) The deletion of references to climate change from the White House website is concerning because it appears President Trump is serious about his views on climate change — which is particularly harmful because climate change is a massive threat. The President’s disagreement with the scientific consensus, which was firmly established through this, could pose an existential threat to the human species itself. As philosopher and social critic Professor Noam Chomsky notes, the Republican Party’s position on climate change merely accelerates the world into disaster, and that the GOP could even be the “most dangerous organization in world history.”
(6) The new POTUS’s first military raid was conducted in Yakla, in central Yemen, and has been described as “botched,” with one member of the Special Forces team dead, and 30 Yemeni civilians killed, including an eight-year-old. The intended target of the raid is still alive. The raid received heavy criticism, with John McCain characterizing the raid as a failure, with a typical response from the President on Twitter which said McCain didn’t “know how to win anymore.”
(7) Reinstating the “Mexico City” policy, as Trump did with an executive order on January 23rd, has blocked American funding to foreign NGOs who perform abortions. This has been heavily criticized, and for legitimate reason: it won’t reduce abortions, but make them less safe and cause the deaths of thousands of women across the world. The reason is obvious: politically appealing to religious conservatives; or, worse, an indicator of the President himself being a religious conservative.
(8) Trump reorganized the National Security Council to include, among others, “chief strategist” of the Trump Administration, Steve Bannon. Bannon oversaw Breitbart News, a notably far-right news agency. This move has been criticized by President Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, as “stone cold crazy.” Furthermore, his downgrading of the Director of National Intelligence and Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been criticized from both sides of the aisle.
(9) The proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment is another extremely concerning potential policy of the President, with him vowing to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a provision that limits the political speech of tax-exempt organizations (e.g. churches). The reason “destroying” the Amendment is problematic is because it would encourage massive conservative organizations to influence politics, and blur the line of separation between the church and the state in one of the world’s few states that has succeeded in achieving true secularism under the freedom of expression. If religious institutions have so much influence over the government, it would likely result in heavily conservative policies: such as restrictions on abortion rights, LGBT+ equality, et cetera.
President Trump hasn’t done too well so far. His policies have been typically conservative, with massive implications to egalitarianism, environmental policy, foreign policy, and healthcare. The “Mexico City” policy will cause thousands of deaths. The raid in Yemen has been a botched failure. His apathy toward solving climate change could pose an existential threat toward the human species. The construction of the oil pipelines increases risk of a leak, and poses a massive threat to both humans and wildlife. The executive order on Obamacare would strip millions of people of their health insurance.
All of these actions, if they actually work in achieving their objectives, would likely be exceedingly dangerous to the people of America, and essentially purge President Obama’s relatively better legacy in terms of domestic policy. There’s little wonder that the current POTUS has been one of the most controversial and least approved presidents in U.S. history. Will he defy these negative expectations? It looks unlikely — but only time will tell.