Some of My Perspectives on Trump's Policies2016-11-12
What follows is not a critique or commentary on Donald Trump's character, nor is it a discussion of Trump's fitness for president of the United States, nor does it make any mention of Hillary Clinton. This is simply a point-by-point list of my personal responses to the policies Trump has posted on his website. I will be the first to admit that I'm not the most informed citizen on these issues, but I'm trying to figure them out nonetheless, because I think that's the responsible thing to do. Doubtless many of you have your own perspectives on these issues, or counterpoints to my own perspectives, and I encourage you to share them with me to help us all move closer to an honest and respectful discourse. Now seems like a bad time to assume we know what's absolutely right. This is a strange time for everyone, no doubt, and I think it's tremendously important now to not stop thinking.
Child CareTrump's page states that "raising a child is now the single greatest expense for most American families—even exceeding the cost of housing in much of the country." I believe the single greatest deficiency parents have is not money, but its correlate: time. Maybe extra money allows parents to take more time to spend with their kids, but I'm thinking a systemic change in the way we actually do our work (40 hour work weeks are hard for parents) might alleviate the necessity for parents to outsource their parenting/childcare. Trump proposes "incentivizing employers to provide childcare at the workplace," which is a great idea, and it addresses the time issue I outlined above, but his idea would be difficult or impossible to implement for many workers. Other than that, I'm having a hard time seeing how Trump's Child Care policies are any different than what we already have.
ConstitutionTrump has lots of political rhetoric here. "Protect our constitutional liberties" is vague and basically means nothing. This is typical politician-speak: words like "protect," "uphold," and "defend."
Trump says, "the government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own." I agree with Trump on this point. Yes, firearms might be scary/uncomfortable for some of us (I'm uncomfortable around guns), but that's not grounds for revoking gun ownership rights.
Trump's plans to deal with crime seem a little off. Trump cites Project Exile, which was a program that sought to deter crime by increasing punishments for criminals. It looks like the project was a statistical success--gun crime rates dropped in the communities where the plan was implemented. I'm just not convinced that deterrence is the best solution for violent crime. Many groups in recent years have championed the idea of restorative justice. Although RJ seems to be used primarily for lower-level crimes involving juveniles, I think more RJ programs might function as preventative measures for violent crimes, since RJ's aims are to provide opportunities instead of punishments, and to strengthen community involvement. Restorative justice programs seem like a better approach to the underlying problem, better targeting the causes of criminal activity rather than treating the symptoms, and keeping people out of the prison system when possible. Living in comparatively-peaceful Spokane, I can't really speak to Trump's claim that gang members and drug dealers are damaging inner cities, but it still seems to me that there are more progressive approaches to tackling crime than putting more people into the prison system.
I am all for Trump's desire to "fix our broken mental health system," but I don't know what "expand treatment programs" means. Further, I don't see a necessary correlation between mental health and second amendment issues, although I know it's a popular perspective. I am most with Trump when he says, "most people with mental health problems are not violent, but just need help, and these reforms will help everyone." Depending on the specifics of these reforms, this could be wonderful. To me, there is nothing worse than mental suffering, so anything we can do to reach out to those in need of help will be a step in the right direction.
CybersecurityDefinitely an important issue, but Trump's plan seems pretty straightforward and uninspired to me. This is one of those issues where I feel the answer is basically, "let's keep trying to strengthen our cyber defenses."
EconomyTrump's plan is to make new jobs by...uhhh...making the economy better? Ok, this section is written in that classic nonsense Trump-talk ("we've got the best people working on this economy, it's gonna be beautiful and great.") I'm with my man Thomas Sowell when he says of Trump in a recent article, "business accomplishments do not automatically transfer into government." Trump has been successful in business, and I think that it's possible some of his business acumen could translate to a larger economic system. I'm actually pretty excited that he might make a good ship's captain in this case, but we'll have to wait and see. One side-benefit of Trump's focus on manufacturing jobs might be to improve the public perception of labor and education, giving people incentive to choose entering the labor workforce instead of attending college. I've heard that there are millions of labor positions already waiting to be filled.
EducationI don't believe the function of K-12 education is actually to educate students. Trump seems to hint that he might know what's up when he mentions K-12 students who live in poverty. Trump points out that "our students continue to lag behind their peers worldwide in knowledge gained." Probably the biggest reason for the poor-performance of American students is that the K-12 system doesn't seem particularly geared toward teaching and learning. There are broken systems built atop broken systems, from Common Core confusion to "teaching for the test" to cultural indoctrination to "one-size-fits-all" education. I don't foresee a cleansing fire for this Frankenstein's monster any time soon. To me, the most important aspects of K-12 schools are school lunch programs, socialization, and keeping kids busy for eight months out of the year. If we can somehow add education to that list, then we can start talking about where the money goes, and how much.
Regarding the racial aspect of education, I think the issue is more complicated than Trump lets on. I don't doubt Trump's statistics that say black students perform poorer than the national average--I've heard some sad stories about predominately black schools, and I believe that many black kids are working at a disadvantage to kids in richer (whiter) neighborhoods/cities. I'm not going to shout "racism," because I think that would be oversimplifying the issue like Trump is doing here. If we're going to try to improve the education system by targeting the needs of specific races (which we should do), I think we need politicians who can work to reveal the complex problems faced by different races, both inside and outside schools. The saddest thing about this issue is that it's too complex to be easily solved, and I think we're in for many more decades of shitty K-12 education for kids of all races. It doesn't look like Trump has the answer for us.
EnergyTrump claims that "Energy costs the average American household $5,000 per year. As a percentage of income, the cost is greater for lower-income families," but he links to an incorrect source on his website, so I'm not sure how that amount is calculated. $5000 seems like an exorbitant amount for energy, so I'm guessing they might be factoring in gasoline? I'm using the stats from the EIA and coming up with a ~$1300 national average for household energy consumption. I think it's important to keep in mind just how affordable energy actually is. I'm pretty uneducated on most of Trump's energy talking-points, so I definitely have more research to do here (specifically on "offshore leasing on federal lands," "moratorium on coal leasing," and "open shale energy deposits," which all seem like environmental issues, as well). Trump doesn't offer much insight into those issues on his website, unfortunately. I don't see Trump even mentioning alternative energy sources, which seems a little weird--shouldn't we be having that conversation?
Foreign Policy and Defeating ISISTrump claims that our military is depleted, which is news to me--I thought we had an enormous military budget? Trump wants to "end the current strategy of nation-building and regime change," which is a wonderful idea. I remember shaking my head hearing W. Bush and Obama each express the need to spread American culture throughout the world. Those of you who get all steamed-up theorizing about The West's colonial influence over the world ought to be rejoicing about Trump's approach here. That being said, I think Trump makes the only valid exception to the rule, which is to "defeat the ideology of radical Islamic terrorism." I'm all for letting other countries/cultures flourish in their own ways ("we must obey the prime directive"), but more importantly I'm for global human rights, which ISIS seems firmly opposed to. This is probably one of the situations where violence could help to end violence, but I'm glad to see Trump is proposing strategic non-violent approaches to the problem as well. Trump recognizes the battle against ISIS is an ideological one, rather than merely a physical one, which allows for an approach that could prevent the loss of innocent lives in the middle east.
Trump also suggests raising awareness (God, I hate that phrase) of Radical Islam, which seems like a good idea. The issue, as it stands, seems really polarized, with some people convinced that Muslims are all terrorists, and some arguing that they're all friendly, well-meaning folks. The truth is obviously some mix of the two, and the more we can educate the people on Radical Islam, the less binary our conversations will become (I hope). I think it's best to not underestimate or downplay the power of religious influence on human behavior.
Health CareAside from immigration, this is probably the most complicated issue for me. The American Health Care system is totally screwy in its current iteration. Any time I have to deal with insurance or health coverage, I wind up completely confused as to what's happening. I barely understand my own health plan, let alone the separate health plans my wife and daughter have. I'm usually pretty good at figuring out complex, tangled systems, so if this is tough for me to understand, it must also be tough for many others to understand.
Trump proposes replacing Obamacare (which is a system I only barely comprehend) with HSAs (another thing I barely understand). I didn't know those two systems were mutually-exclusive. Again, speaking from experience, in my adult life I could never afford health insurance until Obamacare went into effect. Yes, I was required by law to have insurance (which I think is a terrible idea), but for me, at least, it worked out because all-of-a-sudden, as if by magic, health care was free. I also noticed that some people looked down on me for having free health care, which I guess makes sense? People don't like being forced to give their money to other people. I really have no idea about any of this health care shit, but I'd say my priorities lie in developing economic competition between health care providers, and I assume that could happen if the government discontinued support for health care (but maybe Medicare is still cool? Maybe?). I'd love it if someone could help me to understand how all of this works.
ImmigrationThis is the toughest and most complicated issue to work through, hands down. I'm with Trump's desire to "prioritize the jobs, wages and security of the American people." What that means, specifically, I still haven't figured out. I think it's important to secure the borders of our country, not just for the safety and well-being of American citizens but for the well-being and safety of immigrants, illegal or otherwise. Trump has a "10 Point Plan to Put America First," so I'll just go down his list of ten points, one-by-one.
- Begin working on an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border, on day one. Mexico will pay for the wall.
Trump's wall is a shockingly stupid idea, mainly because it seems like it will be totally ineffective and function solely as a symbol of "closed-off-ness," which I suspect is one of the reasons people get so riled up about it. I'm hoping Trump won't follow through on the wall, mainly because it seems like such a waste of our attention.
- End catch-and-release. Under a Trump administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.
I support this idea. From here on out, if we catch someone crossing the US-Mexico border into the US illegally, they should be detained and sent back to Mexico. Mexico ought to have a similar law that deports people back to the US who have illegally crossed into Mexico.
- Move criminal aliens out day one, in joint operations with local, state, and federal law enforcement. We will terminate the Obama administration’s deadly, non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets.
"There can be no justice so long as laws are absolute. Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions." - Captain Jean-Luc PicardThis statement is probably the one that's making everyone feel scared about Trump's presidency, and I can see why. There are many people living in the US who are here illegally--some of their own accord, and some not. Trump's campaign rhetoric seemed to focus on instilling a fear of immigrants, suggesting that most of them are criminals (which, technically, is true, since illegal immigration is illegal), and that immigrants generally come here to cause problems for legitimate citizens. If Trump decides to follow through on this plan, it will destroy the livelihoods of some illegal immigrants who are well-established, contributing members of society. I don't want that to happen. I think it would cause big problems, economically, and I think it would cause unnecessary damage to many well-meaning families. Yes, something ought to be done about illegal immigrants who cause trouble and crimes here in the US, but I don't think an across-the-board deportation plan is wise at all--it's like trying to remove a swollen appendix with a circular saw.
- End sanctuary cities.
The language here is too vague to comment on. End them? Does Trump plan on bombing US cities?
- Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties. All immigration laws will be enforced - we will triple the number of ICE agents. Anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country.
Tripling the number of ICE agents is essential to Trump's potential mass-deportation plan, which I am opposed to.
- Suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur, until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place.
This should happen. If we're going to allow strangers to enter the country, we need to be able to check them out first. Totally reasonable.
- Ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported.
Yep, that's important, too. I can't think of a reason to debate this point.
- Ensure that a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system is fully implemented at all land, air, and sea ports.
This is a good idea. It might also be a good idea for our biometric data to include a DNA sample--it can't hurt to flesh out our police/FBI databases.
- Turn off the jobs and benefits magnet. Many immigrants come to the U.S. illegally in search of jobs, even though federal law prohibits the employment of illegal immigrants.
I'm not so sure about this one, either. It sounds like more government intervention/policing of the market, which I'm opposed to. However, this idea seems vastly more effective than building the wall.
- Reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, keeping immigration levels within historic norms.
Trump suggests we "select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in the U.S. and their ability to be financially self-sufficient." That is a wonderful, utopian idea, but I have zero confidence in the ability of government agents to successfully determine who is likely to be successful or self-sufficient. However, from what I've heard, the process of legally entering the US is tremendously convoluted, and I think it's possible that Trump's approach could force us to take another look at the bureaucratic hoop-jumping that incentivizes illegal immigration. I think task #10 should be moved up to #1 on Trump's list--we need to open effective and timely channels for legal immigration before we start deporting en masse. Of course, this will entail a bureaucratic nightmare of sifting through each individual illegal immigrant's case and status, but imagine how immediately such a program would alleviate our illegal immigration problem. I'm willing to bet that most illegal immigrants in the US would jump at the opportunity to obtain legal documentation to be here if we decided to offer it.