CHIEF RABBI, HACHAM SHAUL KASSIN 5681 – 5779 / 1921-2018

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TRUMP`S REPORT CARD TWO YEARS IN

By: Dave Gordon



Donald Trump took the oath of office two years ago, on January 20, 2017, several months after the conclusion of one of the most contentious Presidential elections in U.S. history. Few politicalfigures have managed to simultaneously evoke such fierce emotions of admiration and disgust like Trump, whose entrance into the U.S. political scene set it ablaze with controversy.

The ultimate outsider, Trump took the political scene by a storm when he announced his candidacy for the Republican Presidential Primary in June, 2015. Dismissed as a dark house candidate by virtually all pundits, Trump shocked the world by scoring an electoral victory in the November, 2016 election, becoming the first Presidentin recent history without any previous political experience.

Trump’s inexperience, coupled with his unconventional – to put it very, very mildly – style, led many to wonder what his Presidency what would look like, and what the country would look like under his stewardship. Halfway into his term, we can look back and assess the President’s accomplishments since his inauguration in 2017, to see which hopes and fears proved correct, and which didn’t.

Trump suffered a loss in November’s midterm elections, which tilted the House to the Democrats, giving them a slight majority, though the vote fell far short of the drubbing most pundits believed President Trump would suffer entering his second year of office. Additionally, midterm losses for the incumbent President’s party are typical, even expected. For example, Presidents Clinton and Obama both lost significantly more seats than Trump in their respective midterm elections. Moreover, even if the midterms technically belong in the “loss” category, President Trump has scored numerous wins during the first two years of his Presidency, proving himself to be a “promises made, promises kept” Commander-in-Chief. The string of accomplishments is impressive, particularly given the short amount of time. If these are any indication of things to come leading up to Election Day 2020, Trump will have a solid record with which to give any challenger a tough run.

 

Economy

On Sept. 7, CNBC – no fan of Trump’s – ran an article headlined, “Trump Has Set Economic Growth on Fire.” The article stated that Trump “delivered on promises to cut taxes and regulations,” resulting in “a surge in company profits.” The Trump administration cut
66 regulations for each one added, leading to greater productivity.

Stock market gains have been eye-opening. While it is hard to give the President full credit for market activities, as so many moving parts are involved, still, policy often dictates levels of optimism and pessimism among traders and speculators. The Dow Jones Industrial average has hit more record highs in 2017 than any previous year. By December 22, 2017, the Dow Jones Industrial average had gained 35 percent since Trump’s inauguration – better than even he predicted. Foreign markets that are closely tied to the American economy have also increased.

Consumer confidence, moreover, has been the highest it has been in 13 years, according to a University of Michigan survey. The Consumer Confidence Index, released this past October, showed the highest level of confidence since 2000.

These and other factors have culminated in the Gross Domestic Product’s climbing higher than analysts’ most optimistic expectations, to 3 percent. In fact, Trump had 3 percent or more growth in GDP for three consecutive quarters.

What has that meant for ordinaryAmericans? The unemployment rate was a hairline away from a 50-year low, at 3.9 percent, as four million more Americans found work, and the average income is the highest it has ever been. By contrast, after two years into the Obama Presidency, 2.6 millionpeople lost their jobs, and 45 million people were reliant on government aid. In the manufacturing sector, according to Forbes, the number of jobs has risen 10 times Obama’s numbers in under two years.

The rate of working Americans has resulted in nearlyfour million people being lifted off of food stamps.

Trump lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21, and rolled back regulations for small businesses, bringing considerable relief to overburdened business owners struggling to serve their clientele efficiently. In the 2017 Small Business Regulatory Survey, the average small business owner was shown to be spending $12,000 a year just to keep up with suffocating regulations. First-year regulatory costs previously averaged over $83,000. Personal taxes were also lowered by the Republicans’ Tax Cut and Jobs Act, their first sweeping legislative bill in the Trump Administration, passed at the end of 2017.

Healthcare

Many drug producers are freezing or reversing planned price hikes. The Medicare system has been reformed to stop hospitals from overcharging low-income seniors for drugs, and the “right to try” legislation was signed, granting patients the right to use experimental cures. The Trump Administration had promised some movement on reversing the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and has had success ensuring that people who do not need insurance aren’t forced to purchase it.

Energy

Oil is, and always will be, a controversial subject, given the grave concerns of pollution and climate change, on the one hand, and the necessity of oil in modern life, on the other. Generally, though, Americans are becoming increasingly reluctant to pay high prices for oil, and increasingly displeased about being reliant on belligerent nations overseas – hence the clamoring for greater homegrown oil production. President Trump has answered this call, and domestic oil production is now at its highest rates since 1970. Trump has
fast-tracked two major pipeline expansions: The Keystone XL Pipeline, and Alberta Clipper, both of which will funnel oil from Canada, our largest oil exporter. Additionally, the President has put in motion the ANWR drilling operation (the ArcticNational Wildlife Refuge), essentially a frozen Alaskan hinterland that has been the center of controversy since the Carter Administration back in the 1970s.President Obama had put off approval of exploring this option, but Trump’s administration has approved an exploratory drilling expedition, the first step to opening up the reserves that have the potential to supply a full year of oil for the nation.

Foreign
Policy/Defense

President Trump hammered out a historic U.S.-Mexico trade deal to replace NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement to lift tariffs (taxes on imports and exports) on virtually all goods traded among the US, Canada, and Mexico).

Arrests along the Mexican border have dropped significantly in the past two years thanks to tighter security measures. Statistics provided by the Department of Homeland Security show that the number of people trying to enter the country illegally is at a 46-year low, with the drop occurring immediately after Trump’s election.

Meanwhile, President Trump has made progress on brokering peace between the Koreas – something no other U.S. President has ever done. In a historic break from standard practice, Trump held a private meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, with only translators present, and then later that day signed an agreement for the denuclearization of North Korea, in exchange for American security promises.

It appears that Trump’s tough talk on North Korea has gotten the attention of the Chinese – North Korea’s biggest supplier. In September, Chinese Central bank told its affiliate banks to stop doing business with North Korea. China has also imposed its own sanctions on the hermit country. It is believed that this action on the part of China is a direct response to Trump’s urging and tough negotiations.

As far as defense and homeland security are concerned, the President passed a $700 billion defense bill, aimed at replacing dilapidated and out-of-date military equipment, and increasing the number of troops. The bill would pay for 7,500 more active duty soldiers, 1,000 active duty Marines, 4,000 new Navy sailors, and 4,100 active-duty airmen in the Air Force. On top of that, troops will see a 2.4 percent pay raise, higher even than the 2.1 percent they requested.

Military successes underTrump have included wiping out huge swaths of ISIS, the extreme, violent Islamic cult that has been terrorizing parts of the Middle East. In fact, one-third of all territory recaptured from ISIS since 2014 was seized in Trump’s first year of office. The latest estimates are that ISIS has lost 98 percent of its territory, half on President Trump’s watch.

Trump has also worked to increase the share of the burden borne by the U.S.’ coalition members in dealing with ISIS, encouraging them to take on a more active role. That is especially true across NATO – towards which the US is the primary economic contributor.The President has expressed his displeasure with many in the coalition
who have not lived up to their financial commitments. His tough stance has resulted in numerous countries pledging in recent months to increase their financial support.

Also, in the Middle East, Trump authorized airstrikes on the government airbase in Syria – where a catastrophic civil war has taken the lives of some 300,000 people in the past six years. The airstrikes sent a swift message to the Syrian government that chemical weapons would not be tolerated. Obama’s administration, famously, refused to strike back after Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed the “red line” of using chemical weapons, but Trump had no such hesitation.

The President has also taken measures to ensure the transparency of security expenditures. His call to audit the Pentagon is afirst, and an audit will be conducted on an annual basis, and accompanied by a public report.

Israel and the Jews

In his first two years in office, President Trump has unmistakably proven himself to be an ardent friend and supporter of the Jewish Peopleand the Jewish State.

For example, at the end of 2017, Trump commuted the sentence of Shalom Rubashkin, who in 2009 was convicted of various crimes in connection to his Iowa kosher slaughterhouse, including money laundering and fraud. While his guilt was never up for debate, the sentence – 27 years, practically a life sentence for a man of his age –
was regarded by many as outrageous. Politicians in both parties joined Jewish activists in lobbying for a more lenient sentence, noting that Rubashkin’s sentence was harsher than Enron’s CEO. Trump commuted Rubashkin’s sentence in December, 2017, after Rubashkin had spent over eight years in prison.

But by far the most symbolic of President Trump’s displays of support for the Jews was his decision to move the United States’ Israeli embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. Twenty-two years earlier, Congress passed a law recognizing the holy city as the capital, but every six months, a presidential waiver had deferred its ratification. Other Presidents have paid lip service to Jerusalem’s status as the capital of Israel, but Trump made the most forceful statement by acting upon this belief and formally moving the nation’s embassy to Jerusalem.

From the very beginning, the Trump Administration has taken the UN to task for its obsessive hostility towards Israel. Having a strong pro-Israel voice in the chambers of the UN to push back against biased anti-Israel resolutions and anti-Israel rhetoric is a huge deal for Israelis, and brought the U.S.-Israeli alliance to greater levels of closeness. Nikki Haley – the now-former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations –
fearlessly excoriated the UN delegates for politicizing the world body, and recently voted against the resolution that claimed the Golan was “occupied.” Ambassador Haley is, rightfully, considered a hero in Israel and among pro-Israel activists around the world.

In recent months, the U.S. has joined Israel in withdrawing from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Science, and Cultural Organization.), citing anti-Israelibias. The U.S. had stopped paying dues in 2011, when the body voted to make Palestine a full member. The U.S. also stopped much of their aid funding to the corrupt Palestinian Authority.

And finally, from very early on, Trump took aim at the “disaster” that was the Iran deal, brokered by Obama and five European powers, without input from Israel and in direct opposition to the stance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s security establishment. In 2018, the Israelis discovered hundreds of tons of Iranian government files, enough evidence to suggest that the Iranians had continued working on a nuclear weapon, despite its signed agreements. In May, 2018, Trump officially withdrew from the Iran deal, and ramped up sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

This is merely a shortlist – by no means an exhaustive summary of the Trump Administration’s achievements.

Can We Heal?

To be sure, there is plenty more that needs to be done. Gun violence is a frightening problem in America, leading many Americans to call for tighter gun control – a measure traditionally opposed by the Republican Party, due to its apparent violation of the Second Amendment, and to the risk of making it harder for the “good guys” to protect against the “bad guys” who would obtain guns illegally. Another grave concern is American society’s increasing political polarization, with the Right and Left growing further apart and more hostile to one another – a problem whichsome claim the President has exacerbated through his blunt style and frequent Twitter attacks against his political opponents and critics. And, Trump’s hopes to work with Congress on passing new immigrant reforms are all but dead with the new Democratic majority in the House who can be expected to thwart his legislative agenda.

Hopefully, the current administration will continue its work making the country safer and more prosperous, while the citizenry does its part by coming together to engage in constructive, respectful debate, and resolving not to let our deep ideological differences make us enemies of one another.