When Donald Trump took office back in January he was like a rookie quarterback starting his first game in the National Football League. He knew it would be tough, but not like this. He’s getting flattened on nearly every play. Washington, as he is surely learning, is the political equivalent of the NFL with some mixed martial arts thrown in for good measure. And on the new president’s opening drive from scrimmage, he had two immigration orders and a healthcare bill swatted away in the end-zone by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
As they say in the NFL, Trump went three and out.
Right from the opening tick on the clock, Trump tried to beat the Democrats deep down field with three straight 50-yard pass plays. But the Democrats, along with the Freedom Caucus, the media, assorted federal judges, and most of the social media world, simply had a better defensive scheme. And both immigration orders and the healthcare bill were all DOA.
And now, after just two months in office, it’s already 4th down and 10 yards to go.
So, Trump needs a couple of decisive, high profile policy wins. He needs momentum. Otherwise, he risks becoming an island. A party of one. Think Nixon. He resigned after he lost the support of the Republicans during Watergate. He was an island too. He lost his party. And he lost the American people.
Now, sporting a 40 percent approval rating, Trump is losing the confidence of the country after just two and a half months in office. And he’s already mired in all sorts of mini-scandals. Some real. Some imagined. Russia-gate. Obama-gate. Bannon-gate. Flynn-gate. You name it.
Without a few victories soon, his entire agenda could be in jeopardy as his credibility will be called into question with each new defeat. But it won’t be easy. Trump’s got a big PR problem. The first few months of his presidency have been like watching an episode of the Kardashians on television. You know that Kim and the gang are the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with the human race which is exactly why you keep watching.
Quickly slapping two executive immigration orders together only to be immediately stopped by the federal courts was sloppy. Trying to ram through a new healthcare bill in 18 days was reckless. It took Obama 187 days to get Obamacare passed. It took Reagan 323 days to get tax reform done back in the mid-‘80s. Medicare Part D took 166 days. You get the idea. But Trump’s American Healthcare Act? In and out in less than 3 weeks. What’s wrong with this picture?
So, there are a few offensive plays Team Trump can run that might get him back in the game. None of them will be quick but their impact will ultimately be substantial. It won’t be easy, though. That’s why he should start with what he does best. Run the business of the U.S. So that’s his opening. The economy should be his new starting line. And easing regulations on business, which he is starting to do, is a good place to begin. It will produce a small, but badly needed, win right out of the gate and help kick-start the economy. And there is certainly no shortage of burdensome regulations in place to pick from thanks to President Obama. According to the World Bank’s rankings on the ease of doing business, the U.S. was in third place back in 2006 when George W. Bush was president. By the time Obama was finished, thanks to his fanatical love of big government and regulation, we had slipped to 8th. But it is undeniable that a more favorable, pro-business climate will help to stimulate economic growth.
Tax reform is the next big fight, but one that will produce a lot of points if he gets it through. Given the outcome of the healthcare bill, it would be wise for Trump to give this one a long runway. He can’t afford to lose another big policy fight. And this one will be hyper-contentious like healthcare was too. But if he can get some version of it passed, it will help to breathe life back into the economy. In sports vernacular, he still needs to get into the win column, legislatively speaking of course. Many policy options are being considered from deficit-funded tax cuts to a European-style value-added tax and everything in between.However, this time around, unlike with the healthcare bill, he might want to consider rereading “The Art of the Deal” before he starts. I understand he and the author have a lot in common.
Passing Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill would yield him another huge win as well. While it would take time to get shovels into the ground, it would be a steady job creator as major capital projects are rolled out across the country. But the real long-term benefit would be derived from the improved highways, railroads and airports. And given the declining state of America’s transportation systems, this is an important return on investment for the country. The White House is now looking to speed up the bill’s introduction in the wake of the humiliating healthcare defeat, and could introduce it as soon as late May. And many Democrats would likely be on board too as a true bi-partisan effort would allow everyone to claim credit for its success. And to politicians, jobs mean one thing. Votes.
So, with reduced tax rates, regulatory reform, and infrastructure investment our output could easily increase to 3 percent or 4 percent per year. Maybe higher. In football, you don’t ever really hear of a 1st quarter comeback. Comebacks usually happen in the 4th quarter when you’re down by two or three touchdowns. But Trump is losing big early in the first quarter and we’re about to find out if he is Tom Brady or Tim Tebow. To even stand a chance, he needs to put points on the board soon. If he can score a few touchdowns during his first year in office, he can revitalize his presidency. And, who knows, he may even make the playoffs - a second term. But if not, he’ll likely keep going “three and out” and the American people will most certainly bench him in 2020.