While many in the media and on the left have complained bitterly about President Donald Trump's character and comportment, what they cannot complain about is that -- like him or hate him -- Trump is dragging this country out of a deep rut. We have suffered the rut of gridlock and inaction that has plagued both politics and the economy since the Reagan era.
While Trump is often brash and unpredictable and takes actions that some view as beyond the pale of political consensus, he nevertheless takes decisive action. Take for example Trump's decision to meet personally with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in hopes of securing peace and denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula. Almost everyone agrees that there is no real reason why, more than 50 years after the end of the Korean War, a major American military commitment in the region should be necessary.
In fact, the ostensible reason for the war -- to halt the spread of communism in the region -- is all but a moot point. None of the other governments in the region, with the exception of China, are communist or even communist-leaning. In fact, countries like Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam are now experiencing some of the most rapidly growing market economies in the world. And even China, while still controlled by the Communist Party, has nonetheless adopted a market economy that is fast becoming the world's largest and most robust.
What do all these countries (perhaps with the ironic exception of North Korea) have in common? Their economies are not burdened by government spending on defense and being the world's policemen. To a great extent, Asia relies on U.S. military power in the region to keep the peace. Asian countries get to dedicate the focus of their industrial genius and investment dollars on growing their economies. What does the U.S. get out this deal? The raw end. We are essentially paying the national security costs of our most rapidly advancing economic competitors -- and sapping our own strength in the process.
A central tenet of Trump's "America First" ideology is "peace through strength." Trump knows that a far-flung U.S. military with commitments all over the globe is not making us stronger. It is dissipating our strength and focus on growing the American economy. This is not something of which the majority of American people are unaware. However, after years of a Washington Consensus that held us in limbo, many had lost hope we would ever get out the mess and move forward.
Despite what many have said about him, President Trump has shown no hesitancy about taking whatever actions he thinks will break the stalemate and move the country forward. Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite the cries of the Washington insider class that he was either ill-prepared to negotiate or unduly compromised. Trump also shook down NATO and insisted it commit a larger share of its member nations' GDPs to mutual defense commitments. He is taking decisive action.
While many of those actions have fallen short or failed to meet expectations, they have nonetheless broken the status quo and forced change that can hopefully be guided in the direction we want to go as a nation. As painful as it is to experience the "zero-tolerance" immigration policy, its resultant human rights abuses and the chaos and inhumanity of separating children from their parents at the border, we have no choice at this point but to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform.
The fact is that the insourcing of cheap labor and undocumented immigrants is a drain on our economy. While it may seem like we are getting services on the cheap -- construction, hospitality, agriculture -- unrestrained immigration has also resulted in significant harms. It has undercut the value of American workers, forcing them to compete for work at third-world wages. Lax immigration has created an underclass of undocumented workers who feed on the social welfare system of this country without significantly contributing to it, which makes government-provided goods and services such as health care and education more expensive for citizen taxpayers. We needed to take action on this more than two decades ago, but kept kicking the can down the road, hoping things would change. They didn't, and the situation worsened. Now we have rapidly encroaching immigrant gangs and drugs creating a major law enforcement problem that has resulted in prison overcrowding and crime.
To some, Trump may not seem like the paragon of virtue. They point to his lies about various matters, and his unusual penchant for getting involved in seemingly petty fights in the media. But these things also obscure a larger truth. As a country, we have been living a lie for the past few decades -- convincing ourselves of our own invincibility while swimming in debt and losing our competitive advantages. Let's face it: The rest of the world has just about caught up, while we are still assuming the world looks like it did 50 years ago. There is no cold war against communist expansion. China is not exporting ideology, but it is exporting products and services like nobody's business. Europe is economically strong enough to pay for its own defense.
The most unstated reality of this situation is that it is America who now needs a Marshall Plan. Although the wars America has waged over the past decades have not been on American soil, they nonetheless have cost us dearly in terms of men (and women) and treasure. Being on a permanent war footing has drained our nation of its most important source of power: the strength of our market economy. As a businessman, Donald Trump realizes this implicitly. It may not seem pretty, but he seems hell-bent on turning things around.