Well, this wasn’t what we expected, was it? Whether you were adamantly opposed to his election or fervently hoped that he would prevail, you certainly didn’t anticipate that Donald Trump would score the biggest presidential election upset since Truman beat Dewey (in 1948). But, whether he is “legitimate” or not, we are now, with his inauguration as the nation’s forty-fifth president, entering the era of Trump. And what that era will mean for the country and the world very much depends on which of the two views of the man proves to be correct.
One view of the president Trump will become is bloated with optimism that ignores reality while the other projects an Armageddon that even the wildest Hollywood screenwriter wouldn’t try to peddle. Somewhere in between those extremes the real Trump presidency will unfold. Here are two not entirely unrealistic projections of what 2017 and the succeeding years will look like.
This projection accepts the view of those who passionately supported Trump. It envisions an economy that provides greater job opportunities for skilled labor, particularly in the manufacturing fields. The expectation is that Trump will sponsor legislation and otherwise convince major corporations to make things in America, instead of operating plants overseas. By doing so, more good jobs for many who have either been out of work or have been working at less than full capacity will emerge.
As those well-paying jobs become available, more Americans will have more disposable income, which they will spend on more goods and services, thereby increasing the need for more of those goods and services. The result will be a gradually improving economy with annual GDP rates increasing from the current 2.5 percent to 3.5, four, and even five percent or more over the next four years. Commensurately, real unemployment will shrink from its current 4.6 percent to less than four percent, which is the historical measure of “full employment.”
Internationally, Trump will reduce the tension with Russia by gaining concessions from Putin in exchange for an end to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. The cyber-espionage issue will be resolved through a “mutual understanding,” and the two countries will join forces to combat terrorism, leading to a full scale assault on ISIS in Syria and elsewhere. That terrorist threat will thereby be largely reduced over the next four years, with minimal cost of U.S. military casualties and few, if any, major terrorist incidents by the end of the first Trump term.
Progress will also be made in the Middle East, where Trump will re-invigorate the U.S.-Israeli alliance by cancelling the Iran nuclear deal, as a result of which he will gain concessions from Netanyahu that lead to a true two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue. With that messy situation resolved, tensions in the area will gradually lessen, and U.S. forces will withdraw from Iraq and Syria, leaving those countries to resolve their own issues.
Immigration will also be handled in this view of the Trump presidency. While the wall that candidate Trump promised won’t be built, and mass deportations won’t occur, the number of undocumented immigrants in the country will be reduced through aggressive deportations of those accused of criminal conduct and through extreme vetting of incoming foreigners and refugees. Law and order will be emphasized in the nation’s cities, and police forces will be allowed to interdict potential crime through measures like stop-and-frisk. While some minority groups will object, the result will be safer communities with less crime.
In this view of the Trump presidency, the United States will reduce its foreign entanglements, increase its domestic prosperity, and roll back many of the Obama administration’s attempts to inject government into the everyday lives of most Americans. The biggest example of this change will be in the repeal of Obamacare, which will be replaced, on a state-by-state basis, with whatever alternative health care plans each state decides to provide to its citizens. In short, an unrestrained free-market system will prevail, allowing states (and individuals) to choose what is best for them.
This one is based on those who vehemently opposed Trump. It envisions an economy that fosters greater opportunities for major corporations to increase their profits through reduced regulations and lower taxes. It also re-opens the door for major banks to deal in collateral instruments and to issue sub-prime loans. Good paying jobs will continue to be problematic in this scenario as manufacturing continues to dwindle as a part of the U.S. economy. Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate accord will increase oil production, but only minimally, as lessened demand will continue to inhibit large-scale drilling. But the potential surge in alternative energy sources will also suffer, as the Trump administration rejects the need to combat climate-change in an effort to prop up the oil industry.
Trump’s foreign policy in this view will be a haphazard mish-mash without a coherent vision. Trump will react aggressively to the first major terrorist attack on his watch, something akin to, but greater than, Bush’s reaction to 9/11. The result will be a military engagement that is poorly planned and that will place the country on the brink of war against Russia or China or both. A major international crisis will ensue, with Trump, fearful of a nuclear confrontation, ultimately making concessions that adversely affect the nation’s long-term interests.
In the meantime, Trump’s popularity will plummet and his standing with the Republican-dominated Congress will suffer. When a personal scandal is exposed (something relating to his conflict of interests with his many businesses that suggests he profited from decisions he made adverse to the nation’s interests), a bill of impeachment will be presented. He will survive a House vote only by divesting himself of all of his business interests.
But the situation will worsen for him and the country as his domestic policies fail to improve the nation’s economy. Unemployment will jump to over six percent in the second year of his term, and inflation will reappear as a threat to future growth as budget deficits explode (spiked by his massive tax cuts and the increased military spending necessitated by his reaction to the terrorist attacks).
In this view of the Trump presidency, Trump’s temperament, his chronic lack of interest in the details of his job, and his overall incompetence (more so than any policy direction he tries to impose), will be his downfall. He will have done great damage to the country and will be hated most by those who passionately supported his election. He will not run for a second term and will retire, largely in disgrace, with nary a Tweet offered in his defense.
Which of these projections will result from the presidency of Donald Trump? Is he the man who can “make America great again” or will he bring back the ugliest parts of the country’s history? Will he put his country’s interests ahead of his own or remain the narcissist who makes everything about himself and denigrates anyone who speaks ill of him? Is he the self-made billionaire who turns everything he touches to gold or the six-time bankrupt who was born with a silver-spoon in his mouth? Can he forge alliances with hostile adversaries and end the scourge of terrorism or will he cause more countries to regard America negatively and make our nation a target for an ever growing number of terrorist attacks? Will he unite the country and bring us peace and prosperity or create discord at home and make the country the pariah of the rest of the civilized world?
Which Donald Trump have we chosen to lead our country? Which one will we get? We’re about to find out.