Sept. 9, 2017 – It’s easy to get caught up in the deeply flawed character of Donald Trump. We also need to recognize the policy catastrophe of his presidency.
Compare the things he’s been focusing on with the real problems facing this country.
This past week, for example, Trump ordered an end to the Obama-era executive action that shielded around 800,000 young undocumented immigrants – often called Dreamers – from deportation under what’s been known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
For what reason? There’s zero evidence Dreamers are taking jobs away from native-born Americans. In fact, evidence points in the opposite direction: They’ve been generating economic activity that’s created more jobs.
Look at Trump’s other policy decisions this past week and you see the same arbitrary and unnecessary cruelty.
He’s banning transgender people from military service. Why, exactly? These people have bravely served this country.
His administration is siding in the Supreme Court with a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because he said his religious beliefs did not allow it. To what purpose is the administration doing this? What if a baker didn’t want to serve an Afrlican-American or Jewish couple because he said his religious beliefs prohibit it?
The Trump administration is weakening the standard for responding to sexual violence in universities. Why? It says too many young men have been denied due process. But there’s no evidence of that. In fact, the standard established by the Obama administration has been working quite well.
Why is Trump doing these things? To shore up his base.
Meanwhile, Trump is neglecting or worsening five genuinely big problems facing America:
1. Climate change, as exemplified by ever larger and more destructive hurricanes and coastal flooding.
Trump’s response? Taking the United States out of the Paris Accord, reversing every major initiative at the Environmental Protection Agency, and filling his administration with climate-change deniers.
2. The undermining of our democracy through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and interference in our elections by foreign governments.
What’s Trump’s response to this? Alleging, with zero evidence, that three to five million fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election. Then setting up a trumped-up commission to find such evidence, in order to justify more voter suppression by states seeking to minimize minority votes.
Meanwhile, Trump is doing everything possible to prevent Americans from knowing more about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, let alone stop Russia from interfering again.
3. The proliferation of nuclear warheads and missiles around the world, most recently the danger posed by North Korea.
What is Trump doing about this? Trying to get America out of its nuclear deal with Iran, thereby giving Iran and excuse to revive its nuclear program. And rather than engage North Korea or pressure China to do something about Kim Jung-Un – whose nuclear program accelerated after Trump said during his campaign that he might support allowing Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons – Trump and his administration are doing nothing but issuing provocative statements.
4. Widening inequality and a growing population of poor in America.
Trump’s response? Proposing a tax plan that will make the rich even richer. And a budget that cuts low-income housing, job training, food assistance, legal services, help to distressed rural communities, nutrition for new mothers and their infants, funds to keep poor families warm, even “meals on wheels.”
5. Racism, hatefulness, and divisiveness.
What is Trump doing about this? Fueling even more of it – equating white supremacists with those who oppose racism, militarizing the police, and legitimizing discrimination against Muslims, Latinos, and African-Americans.
Wherever you look, Trump’s policies are backwards. He finds problems where they don’t exist – young people brought to America as small children, transgender people serving in the military, and university men ostensibly denied due process.
At the same time, he neglects or worsens every one of the really big problems facing America.
Trump and his administration have been at it for less than eight months. We will be paying the price for years to come.
ROBERT B. REICH is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock”, “The Work of Nations,” and”Beyond Outrage,” and, his most recent, “Saving Capitalism.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, INEQUALITY FOR ALL.