Actual problems worse
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 trumped-up problems he’s been focusing on with the real problems facing this country. Last 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.
Trump’s other recent policy decisions reveal the same pattern — alleging that some group is part of a problem that doesn’t really exist
A few weeks ago, he gave the Defense Department authority to expel transgender people from the military and barred the Pentagon from recruiting transgender troops.
Why was this necessary? Transgender people have bravely served this country.
Last week, the Trump administration announced that for an upcoming Supreme Court case, it’s siding with a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because he said his religious beliefs don’t allow it.
Why side with this baker? This isn’t a case of religious freedom. The baker wouldn’t be allowed to deny services to an African-American or Jewish couple if he said his religious beliefs prohibited him from serving them.
Last week, the Trump administration also announced that it’s weakening the standard for responding to sexual assault cases at universities.
Why? The administration says too many young men have been denied due process. But there’s no evidence of this. In fact, the standard established by the Obama administration has been working quite well.
There’s only one reason why Trump is 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 3 million to 5 million fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election, and then setting up a commission to find evidence of this 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, but doing nothing to stop Russia from interfering again.
3. The proliferation of nuclear warheads and missiles around the world, and 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 an excuse to revive its nuclear program.
And rather than engage North Korea or pressure China to do something about Kim Jong 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 submitting to Congress 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 by equating white supremacists with those who oppose racism, by militarizing the police, and by legitimizing discrimination against Muslims, Latinos, gays, transgender Americans and African-Americans.
Wherever you look, Trump finds problems that don’t exist and simultaneously neglects or worsens every major problem 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.
© 2017 Robert Reich