The morning of November 9, 2016 arrives, and individuals around the globe wake up to one stunning news headline: “Trump Looks to Make America Great Again”. Donald Trump, the billionaire, real estate mogul, and controversial television celebrity, now holds claim to one additional title: president-elect of the United States.
This scenario, once unthinkable a mere nine months ago, remains a very real possibility today. The presidential race between Trump and Hillary Clinton has tightened considerably over the past three months, with Trump closing Clinton’s 12 point margin from March to just three percent— a figure well within the margin of error for presidential polling. Furthermore, Trump has redoubled his advertising efforts and recently outlined a $140 million “ad blitz” strategy to target three additional swing states. Evidently, Trump’s team remains confident as the campaign braces for the homestretch of the election cycle.
How did we even arrive at this present situation? When we analyze Trump’s meteoric rise of power, we could attribute his success to a variety of factors: an electorate tired of the status quo in Washington DC, Trump’s unabashed and abrasive personality, and an opponent in Clinton with very high unfavorability ratings amongst the general public.
Yet we must also highlight the cornerstone of Trump’s campaign: controversial policy proposals that appeal to certain demographics of voters. From the onset of the campaign, as part of his promise to “Make America Great Again”, Donald Trump scapegoated select minority groups, going as far to blame them for America’s decline. For instance, during his campaign launch event, Trump declared, “When Mexico sends its people … they’re bringing drugs … they’re rapists,” and subsequently proposed the construction of a wall along the southern border. Several months later, Trump expanded his platform to called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” These statements ultimately vaulted Trump to the forefront of the Republican race.
As Trump’s popularity has grown, so have his campaign promises for a Trump administration. In addition to the aforementioned proposals, Trump has promised to return manufacturing jobs from overseas and impose massive tariffs on China and Mexico. Yet we must ask the focal question: What would a Trump presidency really look like? Given his polarizing nature and the divided state of the country, can Donald Trump actually implement all of his campaign promises?
Trump’s immigration plan comprises of two parts: deport all illegals presently residing in the United States and subsequently build a massive wall along the southern border for which Mexico will bear all costs. Yet when we look at the logistics behind this central campaign promise, it becomes evident that Trump’s plan would never come to fruition. Consider the fact that over 11.4 million illegal immigrants presently reside in the United States. The think tank American Action Forum recently estimated the total cost to deport everybody would sum to a figure over $300 billion, and that the American GDP would decrease by over $1 trillion due to loss of labor and purchasing power. Simply put, these astronomical costs would hurt the American economy without yielding any viable benefits for citizens.
Trump’s “Build a Wall” proposal is a similar story, with Pew Research estimating the cost of building a 2,000-mile wall to reach over $25 billion. Trump has emphasized how a wall is the only solution to the “Mexican immigration problem”— a problem which he claims increases crime in inner cities, steals jobs from American citizens, and strains social safety net. Yet Trump is attempting to fix a problem that does not even exist—in fact, Mexican migration to the United States has steadily remained at a net negative since 2008. Furthermore, Trump has not revealed exactly how he will coerce Mexico into footing the bill for this massive project, poking another hole in his immigration plan.
Realizing his massive predicament, even Trump has attempted to soften his stances during his time on the campaign trail. On the topic of deportation, Trump claimed he will “try to bring [illegal immigrants] back rapidly, the good ones”, acknowledging that rapid removal of 11 million individuals would cause wild oscillations in American markets. Furthermore, during his official visit to Mexico City, Trump refused to discuss terms of the border wall with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, suggesting that even he understands how costly and how unlikely it is that this wall will be built. Therefore, present policies about undocumented individuals are unlikely to change, even under a Trump administration.
In addition to stricter domestic policy, Trump’s campaign to “Make America Great Again” revolves around his promise to build a stronger economy. Trump has emphasized that he “alone can fix it”, citing his successes with the Trump Organization as proof of his business and negotiation prowess. Most notably, Trump has promised to return manufacturing jobs back from China and Mexico, declaring that the negligence of politicians allowed these jobs to leave in the first place.
The bulk of Trump’s criticisms revolves around China, which he claims used unfair practices such as currency manipulation to increase exports while restricting imports. In order to combat such foreign competition, Trump delineated a plan to decrease the business tax rate to a flat 15 percent while threatening nations such China and Mexico with astronomical tariffs as high as 45 percent. Trump claims these measures are necessary to ensure fair trading partnerships between America and the rest of the world.
Yet the efficacy of these tariffs and tax deductions are debatable. Take the 15 percent business tax rate proposal for instance. Despite the claim that lower taxes on corporations yields more jobs, the evidence actually points towards the contrary. From 2008 to 2012, the 14 large companies with the lowest tax rates actually yielded a net job loss of 63,000, while the 14 large companies with the highest tax rates created a net of 115,000. With the excess cash as a result of low taxes, corporations often buy back their own stock instead of reinvesting, highlighting a tenuous at best link between tax deductions and job creation.
Similarly, high tariffs would also be counterproductive to the American economy. A sudden tariff on goods created in China would trigger a trade global war between the U.S., China, and many other trading partners. In fact, the Wall Street Journal estimated that the tariff would invite retaliatory tariffs on American goods, creating massive burdens for American businesses and potentially triggering another recession. Trump’s campaign promise to combat globalization thus yields no viable policy options without resulting in another global financial crisis.
Trump has slammed President Obama’s accomplishments on the global stage as “pathetic”, promising to backtrack on milestones such as the Iran nuclear deal and the reopening of relations with Cuba. Rather, Trump advocates for a “peace through strength” approach–by building up a powerful military, the Trump Administration could dictate America’s foreign policy in all regions of the world.
However, Trump’s stances remain inconsistent. For instance, despite promising to “bomb the hell out of ISIS” during one rally, Trump later conceded that he would allow Russia to intervene unilaterally in Syria and thus increase Vladimir Putin’s sphere of influence in the Middle East. Similarly, Trump stated that he would allow South Korea and Japan to obtain nuclear weapons, a position that contradicts that of the previous five American presidents.
Although Trump expresses a desire to increase American influence abroad, many of his proposals would actually accomplish the opposite. A Trump Administration would demand compensation from allies for US troops stationed abroad, stating that these nations “take advantage of our resources.” Similarly, Trump would petition for the United States to leave NATO and other global security organizations. These proposals would allow nations such as Russia and China fill the subsequent power vacuum.
While Donald Trump has promised a multitude of ways to “Make America Great Again”, most of his policy proposals are simply not viable. Despite Trump’s campaign promises, a Trump Administration would not be able to solve America’s immigration woes or its loss of manufacturing, and would weaken, not strengthen, America’s influence abroad. The answer to the question of what a Trump administration would look like seems simply to be nothing that we have not seen before.
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