October 30, 2018

JOHNS | Promises Kept

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This Tuesday, voters across the country will cast ballots for candidates running for a broad number of federal, state and local offices in the United States government, including 435 U.S. House and 35 U.S. Senate seats. This is an important opportunity for Americans to take stock and to evaluate, based on the merits, where the country stands since the last election.

At a university like Cornell, most already have their minds made up. The faculty have contributed overwhelmingly to liberal Democrats, and 2018 has proven no different.  The student body, if Sun polls and surveys are any indication, largely subscribe to the same ideology. However, based on the reaction to last week’s debate between the Cornell Republicans and Democrats, students have not yet heard all the arguments for voting Republican this November. When faced with facts, Cornellians seem to find them surprisingly convincing. For that reason, suspend your biases and even your opinions and let’s assess the accomplishments of the Trump presidency and Republican Congress on facts alone:

The U.S. economy: Widely considered the most important metric of growth, gross domestic product — that is, the total value of goods and services produced in the country — was first recorded in the early 1930s. In the time since, every president until Obama had at least one year under their leadership where the country’s GDP grew by at least three percent. But in eight fiscal years under his management, Obama was the first president since GDP was first recorded to not have even one year of three percent growth or higher. Far from being outraged, the Democrats told us that this was the “new normal” and mocked those who promised something better. But they were wrong. This year, the U.S. is on track for annualized GDP growth in excess of three percent. In fact, under Trump, GDP grew 4.1 percent in the second quarter and 3.5 percent in the third quarter of this year. Additionally, the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased more in the first year of Trump’s presidency than in any administration since FDR.

Under Obama, as the economy stagnated, the number of Americans not in the labor force grew to an all-time high: by 2016, 95 million — or nearly 30 percent of this country’s population — had given up seeking work. The Democrats hardly incentivized them to seek employment: According to University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan, a variety of Obama-era policies raised the marginal income taxes on poor Americans returning to work by some 15 percent — a figure nearly twice as high as it was before the Democrats’ most recent tenure. As jobs disappeared and taxes increased, the country’s most vulnerable were hit hardest: on Obama’s watch, the nation’s poverty rate increased roughly 3.5 percent as real household income decreased by 2.3 percent.

This is not opinion; this is not hyperbole: under Obama, the poor ended up worse off from his presidency than they were before it, and middle income Americans were decimated.

Under Trump and the Republican Congress, however, the poor and middle class are improving due to personal and corporate tax rate cuts that allow more Americans to keep what they earn and permit American companies to once again invest in growth and hiring.  The success of these tax cuts has proven undeniable. The U.S. economy has added 1.9 million jobs this year, part of the nearly 4 million created since the President took office, and business confidence and consumer confidence have expanded to 13-year and 18-year highs respectively. African-American and Hispanic unemployment, under Trump and the Republican Congress, have hit all-time lows. Additionally, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, tax revenues since the tax cut are up $13 billion. With lower rates, more people are paying income taxes — individual income rates, for example, have increased by $105 billion, or four percent. The CBO says this trend “largely reflects increases in wages and salaries” under Trump and the Republican Congress. The Wall Street Journal put it best: “a faster-growing economy employed more people who made more money.”

Foreign policy and national security: No matter the public perception, our adversaries abroad have gotten a much clearer message from this president than they did from Obama and the Democrats. During this administration, the United States has expelled dozens of Russian intelligence officers, closed Russian consulates and compounds, targeted Russian mercenaries in Syria, emphasized European energy independence and increased funding for European security, forced propaganda outlets like Sputnik and RT to register as foreign agents, and armed Ukrainians who are standing up to Russian encroachment. This administration has imposed sanctions on Russia far beyond those proposed or implemented by Obama, this time going as far as targeting specific individuals and companies closest to Vladimir Putin. This is no small blow: Investors are reacting more seriously to Trump’s sanctions than they did to Obama’s in 2014 — and the Russians stand to lose nine percent of their economy for it. From Ukraine to Syria, this administration has stood up to Russia in a fashion unprecedented since the Cold War, implementing a strong Russia policy that the Democrats never supported and never would support if given control of government.

The same is true with U.S. policy toward China. The administration has rightly called out China’s wrongdoing on a laundry list of issues, including its grossly one-sided and unfair trade policies. Additionally, Trump has expanded free trade relationships with Mexico and South Korea and put the U.S. on track to complete additional free trade agreements with both our North American and European allies. He has for the first time gathered an international coalition to stand up to China. The Chinese economy, amid expanding U.S. tariffs and sanctions, just reported its weakest growth in almost a decade as trade penalties have risen to $250 billion on Chinese goods. Back at home, the U.S. manufacturing sector is growing almost 10 percent faster than China’s, and the global pressure on China is just in its beginning phases. Compare this policy to Obama’s China policies, which empowered Beijing to expand both its military aggressions and its unfair trade policies at the expense of American interests.

If given control, a Democratic Congress would dedicate itself to slowing or stopping any further progress in all of these issue areas. Their tactics of obstruction and resistance amid an atmosphere of this administration’s unqualified and largely unprecedented success have clarified the question voters face on Tuesday: Why obstruct an agenda that is delivering for the American people?

Michael Johns, Jr. is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Athwart History runs every other Wednesday this semester. He can be reached at mjohns@cornellsun.com.