Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

President Trump has proven he can do a lot of damage—to climate science, ethics rules, Syrian airfields, and the English language—but he has yet to prove he can get much done in Congress. On everything from jobs to taxes to health care, the president’s legislative agenda is not just stalled, it’s evaporating.

The problem isn’t the Democrats, who have never been so weak in Washington. The problem isn’t the unpopularity of Trump’s policies, which could be overcome by Republican congressional majorities. The problem is Trump himself. When it comes to legislative deal-making, the author of “The Art of the Deal” is proving himself a bungler of rare ineptitude.

While Trump’s legal problems related to Russia have dominated the headlines in recent weeks, six symptoms of legislative dysfunction have become visible in Trump’s Washington.

1. Unpopular Health Care Agenda

Trump prudently stayed out of the closed-door negotiations in the Senate. Prudent, because the first time he opened his mouth, he inserted his foot in it. He told Republican congressional leaders that the House version of the bill was “mean,” exactly the point Democrats have been making ever since the non-partisan Congressional Budget office concluded the GOP bill would deprive 23 million people of insurance.

No one knows if the unseen Senate bill will pass. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) seems to be getting cold feet. The CBO has yet to “score” the Senate bill—analyze its fiscal and practical effects. And Trump is absent.

2. Receding Tax Bill

The reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set an early July deadline for the health care vote was so he and the rest of the Republican leadership can get on with the work that they—and their donors—really care about: tax cutting. The plan was to have a tax bill on Trump’s desk by the end of the summer.

That’s not happening, as Washington billionaire David Rubenstein recently let slip at a hedge fund conference in Las Vegas.

“No one here should assume you’re gonna get a big tax cut soon,” the co-founder of the Carlyle Group told the disappointed crowd. “For those who are looking for relief from Congress, you should look elsewhere.”

If Trump is not delivering on tax cuts for his base in the 1 percent, he is also not delivering on job creation for his working-class supporters.

3. Vanishing Jobs Plans

Trump came to office talking about a “border adjustment tax” to stimulate domestic production. Domestic manufacturers like Boeing and General Electric favor the idea because they believe it would help their business. Trump never attempted to persuade the public or congressional leaders about the border adjustment tax proposal, probably because he didn’t understand it.

As Trump dithered, the retail industry and the Koch brothers dispatched their lobbyists to Capitol Hill and suffocated the BAT while it was still in the crib. Now, when Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin talks about Trump’s tax plan, he says nothing about a BAT. It is safe to say that the Trump administration will not be using the tax code to stimulate domestic manufacturing or create American jobs.

Nor will Trump propose a trillion-dollar infrastructure jobs program, as he promised during the 2016 campaign. Steve Bannon dreamed such a jobs program would permanently win the American working class to his side. There are plenty of good ideas for improving America’s infrastructure out there, from the AFL-CIO to Michael Bloomberg. Trump ignored them all in favor of announcing the revival of Republican proposal to privatize the air traffic control system. This reform would not create any new jobs. His infrastructure plan was more a privatization scam.

4. Lack of Discipline

Earlier this month, Trump promised to focus on “infrastructure” for a week. On Day 1 he launched a Twitter tirade that generated headlines about everything but infrastructure. Then he announced a “workforce training week.” Another tweetstorm ensued about the appointment of his special prosecutor to investigate his Russia dealings, which obscured his message.

Trump signed an executive order celebrating “the dignity of work,” while the White House, in the words of Politico, steered:

“around the fact that Trump’s proposed budget would cut DOL [Department of Labor] funding for training and employment services by 36 percent and the Education Department’s grants to help states pay for career and technical education by 15 percent. Trump’s proposed DOL budget does increase funding for apprenticeship grants, but only by one percent.”

5. Lack of Personnel

Three months into his presidency, Trump had not filled 85 percent of the senior jobs in his government. This may all be part of Bannon’s plan to “dismantle the administrative state.” The fact that 85 percent of science job openings don’t even have a nominee is surely an expression of hostility to science.

But Trump can’t even fill the jobs he wants to fill. President Obama was three times faster at filling top jobs, according to a recent ABC News report.

Of the 151 nominees that have been announced and sent to the Senate, only 43 have been confirmed. In contrast, Obama had 151 nominees confirmed by this point, with Senate review and approval taking on average 32 days for each of them.

President Trump has yet to nominate anyone for 74 percent of key executive branch positions, according to Business Insider. Out of the 558 positions that require Senate confirmation, 415 have no nominee as of this week.

All of which is starting to show in the sixth sign of dysfunction…

6. Lack of Results

The Trump administration is getting to be known as the “in two weeks” government, notes Bloomberg News in a comic masterpiece of deadpan reporting. When pressed for decisions, the Trump administration has a habit of saying “in two weeks.” In practice, the phrase means “whenever we get our act together.”

“Trump’s habit of self-imposing—then missing—two-week deadlines for major announcements has become a staple of his administration as it’s struggled to amass policy wins.”

In his 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump defended “an innocent form of exaggeration” as a negotiating strategy.

But Trump also warned about the perils of over-promising and not delivering.

“You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole,” he wrote. “But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.”

Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of the forthcoming biography The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton (St. Martin’s Press, October 2017) and the 2016 Kindle ebook CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

  • Share this on Google+0
  • Share this on Linkedin0
  • Share this on Reddit0
  • Print this page
  • 83

26 responses to “6 Signs Trump’s Legislative Agenda Is Dead”

  1. TZToronto says:

    Trump’s “two weeks” is like the Soviets’ five year plans. The big difference is that the Soviets really wanted their plans to work. Trump knows that two weeks hence will bring nothing new.

    I’m also beginning to think that Congressional GOPs know Trump is an empty shell. The only thing he good for is his signature. They’ll ignore anything Trump wants, although they may give his ideas lip service. They’ll get together in private and work out their glowing talking points; then they’ll go back to work on their own heinous plans.

    • FireBaron says:

      Actually, TZ, they need him as their fall guy for whenever their own plans show all the aerodynamic capabilities of a brick. This way they can point and say, “It’s his idea, not ours!”

      • Eleanore Whitaker says:

        FB…I only wish Trump was their “fall” guy. Here in the Metro area, Trump never “falls” unless he takes a lot of other people with him.

        When he got that FinCEN U.S. Treasury fine for money laundering (who puts a nut in the White House with a money laundering record?), within weeks, he decided to “get even” he’d close his 2 NJ casinos. He did that without paying 4400 employees he “took with him” who had to sue to get their wages. This also included lawsuits from dozens of the contractors he never paid who built those casinos. More “take down” of others.

        The government has always given Trump a slap on the wrist by making his pay fines for things you and I would go to prison for.

        Now, he is under investigation he and his token Jewish Lawyers Kasowitz and Sekulow, are denying. Kasowitz is known here in the Metro area as the “silencer” since his main job was to keep Ivana and Marla Maples from breaking the terms of their divorce which effectively silenced them from “ever speaking about” Trump to the media.

        Trump is dirty. Few men, even those in the Mafia, ever got away with what Trump has. But now, he is under investigation by top legal experts on Mueller’s team. Let’s see him try to weasel his way out of this.

      • dpaano says:

        But he won’t take the blame…..he’ll put the blame on someone else. As I said earlier, this is why he tends to “delegate” everything in his office…..let them screw up and take the blame if it goes bad. He’ll just stay lily-white. As for his “two weeks” BS….he figures that, like him, we’ll all forget that he promised something in that time frame….either that, or he’ll find something to deflect everyone from the subject at hand….I’m still waiting for the tapes of Comey’s visits? Or the “proof” that President Obama wiretapped the Trump Tower???

  2. Sand_Cat says:

    Normal people may “catch on,” but not Trump’s “base.” They’re dumber than a bag of rocks.

    • FireBaron says:

      Hey, I know bags of rocks that would feel insulted by comparison to Teflon Donnie’s voters. Most are significantly smarter than his base.
      In fact, on my desk at work, I have a rock that I painted on a picture of lips, just in case I get one of those callers who are as dumb as you describe. This way I can imagine I am speaking with someone more intelligent by looking at that rock.

      • Eleanore Whitaker says:

        The reality is that since Americans have no real facts on how the Russian hackers used the information they stole from the DNC and Rubio’s campaign and the disclosure by Reality Winner of classified documents that now prove 39 state elections were hacked, we can’t know if the GOP is still using hackers to flay the elections.

    • Eleanore Whitaker says:

      Trump’s base? Don’t you mean Putin? After all, Trump did announce at the end of January that all of his phone calls to Putin would be blocked. Since then, he has refused to allow audio or video at any press conference where SpiceDrop is presiding. And his GOP is meeting in secret to pass legislation without full approval of Congress.

      How Putineska does it get?

      As for his legislative agenda, I pity the Democrat who has to clean up this mess. The swamp Trump drained was the slime he surrounded himself with. Do you know ANY CEO who plays their CEO games without cheating, lying or distorting facts? But, the right wants you condone that in government?

      As for Lard Ass’s base, it is comprised of only two factions: 1% billionaires he needs to support his ideas of government takeover and low life bums from the south and midwest who have learned how nice it is to drain the Dem states dry of their tax dollars.

      Nothing in the US Constitution states taxes should keep businesses in existence. Think about that. Many US corporations live only for the annual tax cuts and tax subsidies OUR tax dollars pay for. No surprise why they roll out the same old garbage and have to price gouge in order to make profits they can ship offshore where they won’t pay a dime of taxes.

      When corporations rely so heavily on annual infusions of our tax dollars, we make them richer and ourselves bankrupt trying to keep our heads above the poverty line. Why?

      If these corporations are ill managed and they can’t give back what they take from us as taxpayers, why not just let them all die a natural death so they can be replaced by newer, more technologically state of the art businesses who always create new jobs.

      These relic corporations will never hire or create jobs. They don’t need to. They have YOUR tax dollars.

  3. bobnstuff says:

    I’m pretty sure that Trumps agenda being DOA is a good thing but leaving things to the best Congress money can buy isn’t much better, Trump never had support from Congress and because Trump is so good at making a fool of himself they can discount him and do what they want. The sad part is that some of Trumps promises were good ideas and could have been good for the country if they had been real. The problem was that they were as phony as the man making them.

    • Eleanore Whitaker says:

      Something very odd is happening with regard to Syria and Afghanistan. Trump has had no briefiings as he publicly stated he “doesn’t need daily briefings.” My thought is that Trump is the quintessential delegator who is now sloughing off all military decisions to just about anyone but himself.

      That can be a HUGE problem if he, as Lard Ass in Chief of the military is allowing the military to autonomously make all military decisions.

      There is some talk that Trump’s (if in fact it WAS Trump’s) strike on that Syrian plane and the drone shot down is illegal. There was no official executive order from Trump to go ahead.

      No one allows a thug with a record of money laundering in his own casino to run from their party.

      Check out who and what the International Republican Initiative is and who it is or was headed by until he became a Trump appointee.

      • dpaano says:

        It has been clearly stated that Trump has given the Pentagon and his “generals” a free pass on doing whatever they want without having to go through him. He said that President Obama micro-managed the military and that’s why nothing got done. Apparently, he realizes that if the “generals” screw up, it won’t be on his back (although the buck DOES stop on his desk since he IS the Commander in Chief). You KNOW he refuses to take the blame for anything….this is why he delegates everything out to others…..so, if it goes bad, he won’t have to take the blame for it. He apparently doesn’t know that being president means that ANYTHING that is done in this country by our government is under his thumb!

        • Eleanore Whitaker says:

          How very slick of Trump. That means it also gets Stonewall Sessions of the DOJ off of any blame and as we all see, Big Oil Tillerson as SOS won’t get an 11 hour interrogation from Gowdy and Chaffetz.

          Is Chaffetz retiring or not? He got into a real match this week with one of his own fellow frat boys in the GOP. I think it was McCain, like Graham and others are sounding more and more like they are Dems rather than Republicans.

    • dpaano says:

      The main problem is that he tells Congress to do something, but he gives them NO guidance or information on exactly what it is he wants them to do! So, they just willy nilly do what they want and he has NO idea what’s going on. I can probably honestly say that he hasn’t a clue as to what is in McConnell’s “secret” healthcare plan. If he did, he would realize that it will totally NOT do what he promised his voters….you know, lower cost; better benefits!
      His voters keep saying….”give him a chance.” How long do they want us to do that before they realize that he lied to them during his campaign? How much time do they expect the rest of this nation to wait for this president to get his sh**t together (if that’s even possible)?

  4. Only one sign was all that was needed to show the death of his agenda—Donald John Trump himself in the flesh in the Oval Office. The moment the Electoral College gave him the narrow nod of victory, the agenda was already D.O.A.

    And events today clearly show this. Because Trump’s only agenda has been, and is, himself. Everything else, and everyone else, are just fodder, and tinder for the bonfire he’s igniting to call attention to himself. Just one big Idolatry Festival, with millions of goblins dancing merrily around the infernal bonfire, celebrating Donald Trump as the new “god”.

    • InformedVoter says:

      So his agenda was DOA even before presenting it. That’s comforting to know that the Dems were lock stepped to stop him from getting anything done. Oops – but the voters can see the Dems tactic and are taking it out on the Dems at the polls. I just love it. Meanwhile, the FAKE MSM keeps saying he’s getting nothing done, but all the voters see is that he’s delivering on his campaign promises, something obozo never did.

      The Dems have continued to lose every election since November and have lost over 1100 seats since obozo got elected. Keep up the good work Pelosi – we think you’re just great for the GOP.

      • You and Trump were DOA long ago. Just a cursory review of your posts, and a casual look at Trump’s racist and mysoginist tendencies clearly show that the two of you were already dead as far as being human beings. Yes, you’re able to function, but so does an animal or a machine when turned on.
        Your constant shrill messages all clearly point to a man with racist and misanthropic impulses. Your constant insistence on being a dick of dicks is unwavering.

        • InformedVoter says:

          Let’s examine your logic. I was correct in posting that President Trump was ahead of HilLIARy. I was correct in posting that Handle was ahead of assoff. I was correct in posting that the SCOTUS would uphold the travel ban. The list of “I was correct …” goes on and on.
          Go ahead and claim President Trump’s agenda is DOA, but he shut down the flow of immigrants, saved 1000s of union jobs, etc. So he’s delivering on his campaign promises one after another. If this is failure, then I hope he keeps on failing and you consider that the Dems are winning.

          Over 1100 seats lost since obozo took office. GOP has won every election since November. Yup-, you’re winning and we’re losing. Let’s keep up the losing streak!

          • It is correct that you suffer from a mental deficiency as a result of some sort of brain rot; it is correct that you’re totally infatuated with partisan politics and with yourself, to the point of being blind to your humanity. And it’s correct that you’re a consummate ass-sniffer, constantly having your nose up Trump’s behind. Why is that? Were you groomed by your parents and your social contacts to be that way?

            Your infantile infatuation with misspelling President Obama’s name is adequate proof of a simpleton mind at work, unable to reach maturity. Nor does it seem likely that you’ll ever mature before you have to step through the door of Death, as we all will have to step through that same door.

            What do you expect will await you, having squandered your chances to develop your spiritual capacities, totally obsessed with partisan politics????

          • InformedVoter says:

            It’s perfectly ok for you to belittle GOP folks, but if we return the favor, we’re not playing fair. Typical low information lefty mantra.

          • midway54 says:

            In what way did the Court uphold the ban in toto in accordance with your prediction of how it would rule?

          • InformedVoter says:

            You’ve got to be kidding! You lefties used the blocking of the travel ban as proof that President Trump was getting nothing down. I provided information that Eastern and Southern courts were ruling opposite the Western nut jobs. You scoffed at my posts.
            Then I posted that the odds were in favor of the travel ban being found constitutional because is was the same ban obozo put into place in 2011, but ordered it not to be enforced. The courts considered it constitutional then so they would rule the same now.

            So now the ban is in effect, with only a slight change.

          • midway54 says:

            This is what I was referring to in your post: “I was correct in posting that the SCOTUS would uphold the travel ban. ” You need to have someone explain the question presented and the status of the appeal in the Court. It is not over at this point.
            Currently, immigrants having no current direct connection with the U.S. are excluded from entry, but those who do have the said connection cannot be excluded. Your ranting reply that mirrors the guy in the WH is, like much of his, based on ignorance and name calling. Obama did not ban entry from the relevant countries, but his State Dept. warned Americans about travel to them. Trump simply used those same countries in his travel ban. Here is a reliable source for you if you can polish up on your comprehension ability (although you may trash it as fake news or “librul” hogwash just as any other duped disciple of Trump would call it):
            http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/06/justices-agree-weigh-travel-ban-allow-parts-go-effect/

          • InformedVoter says:

            Sorry, but the travel band takes affect tonight (I think). Unless they have children or parents, they are excluded. Grandparents are excluded as are most of the extended family.
            Yup, obozo issued an EO banning the same 6 countries but followed it up with “don’t enforce it”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.