My conservative friends gave up defending Donald Trump’s character a long time ago. They say ignore his character as well as everything he says. “Just look at his accomplishments.”
Ignoring what he says is easy. Ignoring his character is difficult. Having a flawed, divisive president has hurt us on many levels.
Enough on that. Let’s look at his accomplishments. History will judge the wisdom of embracing Kim Jong Un, waging economic warfare on Iran, starting multiple trade wars and denying global warming. Yet, each of these has risks. Making nice with brutal dictators is a fool’s errand. Economic warfare hurts mainly civilians and gives Iran’s Khamenei both a scapegoat and a threat, increasing his support. Regarding his trade wars, it’s his approach that is worrisome. Playing chicken with the world economy is reckless and why this lie that China is footing the bill? Global warming needs no comment.
While we wait to see how these policies play out, Trump supporters are already running victory laps on the economy. By repeating a lie often, Trump hopes followers will accept it as truth. His "perhaps best economy ever" is an excellent example.
Six out of the last 12 presidents had better GDP growth. Over his first eight quarters, GDP growth was 2.9%, far under his promised 4%. Obama had two eight-quarter periods of 3.0% growth. At the nadir of the recession, unemployment was 10%. By the time Obama left office it was 4.7%. Under Trump, the rate has gone from 4.7% to 3.6%.
Actually, economies are too complex and presidents’ power too limited for them to have much influence. However, with his tax cut Trump rightfully owns our record national debt.
Let's take this another step and accept Trump's claims regarding the economy. At this point he would have to explain how he did it.
Conservatives give three answers. First, he created a climate favorable to business. Though initially true, his trade wars have put a hard freeze on that.
Second, they cite the tax cut. This would be valid if it had done what it was supposed to. However, only a small percentage went to workers or was invested in capital. Most went to large corporations who used it to buy back their stock. The beneficiaries were corporate CEOs and stockholders — not the economy.
Their last explanation is decreased regulation. Let’s look at Trump’s attack on air quality regulations. ReducIng air standards decreases energy costs, increasing profits. However, long-term health costs from dirty air far exceed that profit. During the Obama administration, regulations governing power plant emissions cost the economy $9.6 billion. However, the median estimated health care savings will be $61 billion.
Which left-wing think-tank did I get this from? Actually, it came from the Trump White House Office of Management and Budget. The disease burden and health care costs are born by the average American. The profits go to the wealthiest Americans.
We need another metric, other than GDP, that measures how we’re doing. One that assesses the serious problems Americans face.
Our homicide rate is 7 times that of other high-income countries. Our suicide rate is surging. Most all of us know a family devastated by a drug overdose death. Among the developed nations we rank only above England in socioeconomic mobility. Our infrastructure is crumbling and nearly half our workers earn less than $15 an hour. Despite spending twice as much on health care as other developed countries, 27 million Americans are uninsured.
The GDP and the stock market are excellent markers for how wealthy America is doing. We need to start focussing on how the other America is doing. Trump’s claims that those who criticize America must hate her and should leave. These are the words of a despot, not someone who deserves to be our president.
That Americans have loved this country enough to see her flaws and work tirelessly to correct them is what has made America great. Solving these problems should start with supporting Trump’s opponent in 2020. Any of the idealistic Democratic presidential hopefuls is capable of leading us to a better tomorrow.
Douglas Douville, M.D., is a family physician currently working at a charity clinic. He was an Air Force physician for 20 years and was in private practice in West Valley City for 15 years.