President Donald Trump is as erratic as Candidate Trump, and that’s not a good thing, according to Thomas Wesner, a professor in the Carroll School of Management.
Speaking with students Wednesday night, Wesner, Dennis Hale, an associate professor of political science, and Tracy Regan, an associate professor of economics, discussed their views on the first 100 days of the Trump administration during an event hosted by the Campus Activities Board and the Eagle Political Society.
Hale focused on Trump’s initial flurry of executive orders. These orders include a review of former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a review of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, as well as more extreme orders, like Trump’s travel ban, which was blocked by a federal judge, and an authorization to build his promised wall along the border of Mexico.
Hale noted that an extensive use of executive orders is not unlike the Obama presidency and that many of Trump’s orders are specifically meant to undo executive orders from Obama’s administration.
“It’s a lot easier to write on a piece of paper and sign your name than it is to try to get Congress to sit down and pass a law,” he said.
Hale also discussed Trump’s foreign policy and characterized it as a struggle between his own personality and the wisdom of advisors. He expressed his confidence in many of Trump’s foreign policy appointees and stressed that many of them were widely respected figures in their field, not merely right-wing political ideologues. The question, is whether he will listen to them, he said.
“Trump’s foreign policy team has some genuine talent on it,” he said. “It’s very good that he has made some appointments of those far superior to him.”
Hale also addressed the surprise of the many who did not believe Trump’s election was possible. With a global perspective, such an election was not unusual, he said.
Besides the obvious example of Brexit, global financial instability, the wave of Middle Eastern migrants, and general discontent has spawned a wave of populism across the globe. He noted that far-right politicians have gained prominence across Europe, and that many countries, including Italy, Greece, and Brazil, have descended into near bankruptcy and what he called an ungovernable state. According to Hale, this means a continued presence for populism and political instability.
“I don’t know where it’s going to take us, but I think it’s here to stay for quite some time,” he said.
Regan analyzed the Republican’s failed American Health Care Act (ACHA), or “Ryancare,” and compared it with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called Obamacare. She noted Trump’s hesitancy to publically back the bill, contrasting it with his usual tendency to use his name for marketing.
“Trump very much took his name out of it, which is weird, because he’s a guy who puts his name on everything imaginable,” she said.
The bill’s numerous flaws cost it support from across the political spectrum, Regan said, where it was unanimously opposed by Democrats, unpopular among the elderly, and even called too moderate by the Republican Freedom Caucus.
Regan also criticized the bill for allowing companies to charge seniors premiums five times higher than young adults—the current cap is a threefold increase. She noted that RyanCare also lowered the minimum standards of health insurance plans, which she claimed made many plans nearly worthless.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, RyanCare would have resulted in 24 million people losing health insurance over 10 years and a spike in insurance premiums. Additionally, reduced access to birth control under the plan would increase Medicaid spending. One of the bill’s positive effects, lower Social Security spending, would come from an unfortunate source—increased mortality rates.
Wesner focused largely on Trump’s character and expressed disappointment at the example he set for today’s youth. Despite that, he said that Trump’s office deserves the respect of an objective evaluation. He often struggled to reconcile Trump’s rhetoric and behavior with the importance of the office that he holds.
He criticized Trump’s continued personal attacks, noting that Trump hasn’t changed his tone since the campaign. He said that the president’s attitude did not befit his office.
“Is it fair, honest, and truthful to say that he is unstable?” he said. “Or irrational? What would be a proper adjective to describe the president?”
Wesner also discussed the importance of the rule of law, particularly with regards to Trump’s immigration plans. He noted the right of a state to control its borders, but criticized Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and questioned its legitimacy in a nation historically composed of immigrants.
The mayors of cities with large immigrant populations face an especially tough choice, he said. Many of them have designated themselves as sanctuary cities, refusing to comply with federal officers that seek to round up undocumented immigrants.
“We have a proud tradition of disobeying unethical laws,” he said.
At the end of the panel, students asked about the Trump’s chance of reelection. Wesner said that the next election largely depended on the economy, and Regan noted that the Democrats needed to field a more effective candidate. Hale offered the harshest critique of Democrats and argued that their universal opposition to Trump’s proposals is misguided.
“The Democrats have decided to resist as if somehow Trump invaded the United States on a spaceship,” Hale said. “He’s the president because a lot of their voters lost faith in them. That’s a fact.”
Each of the panelists admitted that the future stability of the political landscape looks bleak, but Hale was the most openly pessimistic.
“The problems are daunting, and the solutions are pathetic,” he said. “The proposed solutions to most of our problems are way too thin, way too small to get anything accomplished.”
Featured Image by Alex Gaynor / Heights Staff