And now for the whirlwind of change
In his first week as president, Donald Trump is launching a flurry of new policies at breakneck speed covering everything from healthcare to nuclear defence. How realistic is this?
Within moments of Donald Trump taking the oath of office, visitors to the White House website noticed that it, too, had undergone a major transformation.
Gone were the references to some of Barack Obama’s most cherished causes: LGBT rights, healthcare and climate change.
In their place stood just six policy headings: energy; foreign policy; jobs and growth; military; law enforcement; and trade deals. Trump’s priorities – and the rapid pace he plans to move at – were clear.
The new president plans to invest in infrastructure, but also shrink the size of America’s government. Within weeks, he expects to repeal Obamacare, his predecessor’s signature law which aims to make healthcare more affordable. He will also appease fiscal conservatives by cutting $10.5 trillion in federal spending over the next decade.
He will adopt a tough line on law and order: in his inaugural address, he promised to stop the ‘American carnage’ of crime, gangs and drugs. He also appears likely to appoint Supreme Court judges who appeal to America’s religious right.
On Friday Trump said his decisions will ‘benefit American workers and American families’. His protectionist economic policy will introduce punishing tariffs on goods made both by foreign competitors and overseas by US companies. He has promised to finalise plans for a 1,000-mile wall along the US southern border with Mexico within 100 days.
He says his foreign policy will put ‘America first’. He has pledged to rebuild the military and ‘eradicate’ Islamist terrorism ‘from the face of the Earth’. He has suggested the US should ‘get along’ with Vladimir Putin’s Russia – but he has called the 68-year-old NATO alliance ‘obsolete’ and in need of a ‘shake-up’.
Trump has taken an aggressive stance towards China. But he may need its help to deal with North Korea, which says it is preparing to test-fire a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead to the USA. Trump has said the test ‘won’t happen’.
Trump’s agenda can work, supporters argue. Shrinking the government will stimulate enterprise. Prioritising American interests and adopting a law and order agenda will make deprived areas safer and better off. And finally a president will focus on wiping out Islamic State. This is a necessary corrective to Obama’s pontificating liberalism.
Totally unrealistic, opponents reply. His protectionist policies will cause global economic havoc. Abandoning alliances will harm democracy and hand the world to bullies like Putin. Progressive Americans will fight his social agenda. The vaunted border wall is laughably simplistic. And most worryingly, Trump is unaware of the constitutional and practical limits on his power.
- Do you support Donald Trump’s aims?
- Is Trump’s agenda realistic?
- You have one minute. Without looking at the article above, list as many of Donald Trump’s ideas as you can think of. Then discuss in pairs, and as a class, why you remembered the ones you did.
- Will Donald Trump make the world a better place or a worse one? Write a letter to yourself to read at the end of his presidency, explaining your prediction.
Some People Say...
“Leaders should bring borders down, not put them up.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- Does this man really have the power to change people’s lives?
- The US president controls the government and military of the most powerful country in the world. He can change a lot, including on issues you may care about. His decisions will have a big impact on the global economy: that could affect your chances of getting a well-paid job. His power is checked by other people and institutions — but he will try to set an agenda for others to follow.
- When will Trump change things the most?
- Traditionally the first 100 days of an American presidency is the most fertile time for major change. By next year it will be harder to get as much done because members of Congress will be fighting for re-election. But Trump is an unconventional president, so it is difficult to predict what he is going to do.
- Supreme Court
- Nine judges sit in America’s highest court, which is responsible for interpreting the US constitution. Trump is now responsible for filling one vacancy, and other vacancies may arise later in his presidency.
- Religious right
- Almost three-quarters of Americans were Christian in 2014, according to Pew. Christian voters tend to be socially conservative. Trump said ‘God’ five times in his inaugural address; his vice-president, Mike Pence, is a deeply religious conservative; and during the campaign he said he was ‘pro-life’.
- Shielding the economy from foreign competition.
- Taxes on imports.
- 100 days
- The first 100 days are traditionally a president’s most productive period in office. Both houses of Congress are also run by Trump’s Republican Party.
- Within 30 days he will ask his generals for a comprehensive plan to defeat Islamic State.
- The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, an alliance of the USA, Canada and 26 European states.
- This included his unprecedented phone call soon after his election with the president of Taiwan.