Why you should care
The American disrupter-in-chief has a number of achievements under his belt, and his legacy is secure.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is in the thick of politics more than most. Here’s what he has to say about President Trump’s legacy.
President Trump has proved the ultimate political “disrupter.” But will his disruptions become the new normal, or is he an easily discarded New Coke?
Two years of a GOP Congress and a Trump presidency went a long way to repealing many of Obama’s “I have a pen and a phone” executive orders and guidance letters. The tax code is now Trump’s handiwork, not Obama’s. Spending priorities have shifted — and Trump has appointed new judges. As a result, much of Obama’s presidency has been erased. Will this happen to Trump and his works?
Taxes reduced can be increased if the Democrats win both the Congress and the presidency. Regulations imposed by agencies can be repealed the same way. Guidance letters, often with the power of regulation, can be withdrawn. So what sticks? Has Trump bent the arc of history or built sandcastles below high tide?
The following are the changes made by Trump that are unlikely to be undone.
First, in May 2016, Trump revealed a list of judges and legal scholars that he said he would choose from in appointing a Supreme Court judge. This had never been done before, and from now on, no candidate running for president will fail to unveil such a list early in his or her campaign. This practice may even be expanded to lists for secretaries of defense, state and the treasury.
Trump’s administration has proved it’s possible to speed up the approval of new generic drugs.
Second, Trump’s Supreme Court appointees Brett Kavanaugh, 53, and Neil Gorsuch, 51, now provide votes four and five for a series of groundbreaking decisions that the high court has been inching toward for decades. Decisions on issues such as banning racial quotas and preferences will have a strong impact for years to come.
In early 2018, the court’s Janus decision said state and local employees could not be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The ruling has already cost the “left” some $250 million in lost fees, and the experience of Wisconsin and Michigan (which recently enacted “right to work” protections for government employees) suggests that within a few years 20 to 30 percent of government workers will choose to stop paying union dues or fees. That would cost unions and their allies more than a billion dollars a year.
Next up, the Uradnik case could end the idea that workers have to live under one-size-fits-all, union-written contracts. How many young workers, for example, would sign contracts based on a seniority system? And within a year, “Chevron Deference,” an earlier decision that says courts should defer to the bureaucracy as it expands its own powers and interprets laws as the agencies see fit, will be reversed in whole or in part. This change will shift power from the permanent government in Washington, D.C., and force Congress to actually vote for any and every regulatory burden they wish to impose. There will be less micromanagement of individuals and the economy from then on.
Also, Trump signed an expansion of 529 college savings plans so that the funds can also be used for K-12 education. Obama had tried to effectively end 529 college savings plans to please the teachers union. He was stopped. The Republican 2017 tax cut expanded 529s, explicitly making them available for K-12. This will never go away. Ron DeSantis, the newly elected Republican governor of Florida, believes he won with the unexpected votes of more than 100,000 African-American women. Why? Because they had Republican-passed vouchers/tax credits. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate, on the other hand, had pledged to end them.
Also, Trump’s administration has proved it’s possible to speed up the approval of new generic drugs. Last year, Trump’s Food and Drug Administration approved nearly 800 generic medicines, a whopping 90 percent more than Obama did in 2014.
Meanwhile, the 21 percent corporate income tax might drift upward if Democrats win the trifecta. But just as Dems from 1993–95 and 2009–11 never returned the personal income tax rates to 90 or 70 percent, the corporate income tax rate will likely never return to 35 percent. At 35 percent, the United States had the highest tax rate on corporate income. At 70 percent, the U.S. would be the only nation with a personal income tax bracket that high. Other nations lowered their top marginal tax rates after Reagan reduced America’s top income tax rates from 70 percent in 1980 to 50 percent in 1981 and then to 28 percent in 1986.
Also, with regard to treatments, the “right to try” legislation that allows critically ill parents to access medicine that the FDA finds safe but has not yet deemed “effective” passed in 41 states and then nationally by Congress. That expansion of freedom will not be withdrawn.
And finally, while some regulations put in place through “phone and pen” can be ended just as easily, the 16 major regulations that were eliminated through a congressional vote and the president’s signature using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) can never be replaced by a future agency or executive action. Only an act of Congress can reimpose anything like them.
So whether it’s a war wound, an ex-spouse, stale perfume or a fond memory — the choice is yours — Trump will be with the republic for some time to come.