John L. Micek, 3/28/2017 [Archive]

Trump's Still Winning Bigly

Trump's Still Winning Bigly

By John L. Micek


If you were watching cable news over the weekend, you might have been tempted to think that, with the defeat-for-now of healthcare reform, President Donald Trump's presidency was seriously on the rocks.

And while it's true that the collapse of Ryan/TrumpCare was a setback for the legislative agenda of a still-young administration that's also dealing with ongoing Russia-related headaches, Trump has been scoring some big wins against a primary target -America's administrative state.

Trump's budget is a "violent affront to America's values and basic human needs," Mariana Chilton, a public health professor at Drexel University, wrote in a op-ed published by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"A budget is a statement of values," Chilton wrote. "And what we need to ask is, 'What value is there in building up our military might to flex our muscles to the world when we actively cause our young children and families to become more vulnerable?'"

It's a worthwhile question - and one over which we'll have a vigorous debate in the weeks and months to come. But you can't say you didn't see it coming.

Trump promised as much on the campaign trail last year. And his administration has been sounding the same drumbeat nearly every day since its inauguration on Jan. 20.

During anappearance before the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland last month, administration senior adviser Stephen K. Bannon vowed a "deconstruction of the administrative state," warning conservative activists that if "you think they're going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken."

Some of the fiercest fighting in that ongoing battle has taken place in the Oval Office, where Trump has signed 38 executive orders that touch upon almost every aspect of public life.

Among them is a March 13 order mandating the reorganization of the executive branch and to "eliminate or reorganize unnecessary or redundant federal agencies identified in a 180-day review," as Business Insider reported.

Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been tapped to oversee that operation, NBC News and other outlets reported.

"We should have excellence in government," Kushner told The Washington Post in an interview published on Sunday. "The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens."

Kushner, like others before him, will soon find out that running a government is not remotely like running a business. But who knows what havoc his "SWAT team" will wreak while it does.

Trump's notorious travel orders - now blocked in federal court - are another example of the none-too-subtle way the president is reshaping the country - and, more critically, its image abroad.

Ditto for an executive order, signed his first day in office, weakening the tax penalties in the Affordable Care Act.

That's a big deal because it means that Trump can have an outsized say over Obamacare's success or failure, affecting the health coverage of millions. He's notably rooting for the latter.

Trump is also set to sign an executive order Tuesday rolling back the Obama administration's unpopular "Clean Power Plan," intended to curb greenhouse gas emissions by coal-fired power plants.

That announcement was made by Environmental Protection Administrator Scott Pruitt, one of several Trump cabinet appointees who were specifically chosen because of their documented hostility to the agencies they now lead.

As Oklahoma's Attorney General, Pruitt sued the EPA 13 times while he was in office. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, meanwhile, won her post because of her opposition to traditional public schools.

The EPA and Education Department come in for sharp cuts in the administration's proposed budget, as do scores of programs at other agencies across the federal government.

While Trump's attack on Meals on Wheels has gotten all the ink, it's his decision to spike another popular federal program, the Low-Income Heating Assistance Program, that would have the most immediate effect on millions of poorer Americans - many of whom voted for him last November.

Meanwhile, Trump has left hundreds of jobs unfilled across the federal government in what appears to be a concerted effort to downsize the federal bureaucracy and to freeze the functions of government.

Again, you can't say you didn't see it coming.

Trump told Fox News last month that he doesn't want to fill "a lot of those jobs ... (because) they're unnecessary. It's people, over people, over people. I say, what do all those people do? You don't need all those jobs."

There's something to be said for making government leaner - but not for paralyzing it, which is the administration's clear intent in this instance.

On the campaign trail last year, Trump warned his supporters they'd be so tired of winning that they'd eventually beg for mercy.

Maybe they will - if they can survive them.

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© Copyright 2017 John L. Micek, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at jmicek@pennlive.com.

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