Here’s how Trump can score some wins in 2018
Although some don’t want to admit it, Donald Trump had a pretty good first year in office.
From appointing a conservative judicial rock star in Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, to appointing 12 circuit judges, to rolling back or cutting over 1,500 regulations, to getting a tax bill signed before Christmas, Trump made headway on his agenda despite being hampered by the albatross around his neck, the fake Russia-collusion investigation. Even Politico admitted he was able to have a good year, listing 138 accomplishments by Trump in 2017.
But I’m realistic about 2018: Those paragons of political courage sitting in Congress will have very little stomach for major policy battles in an election year, especially one that historically is not good for the party occupying the White House. So, memo to Paul Ryan: Mitch “The Turtle” McConnell and I actually agree on something — entitlement reform isn’t happening in 2018.
However, Trump shouldn’t let himself be hampered by a recalcitrant Congress. He can score some real wins in 2018 simply by using his executive powers. The first place he should start is with health care reform. It’s frustrating when all the talk in D.C. is about lowering premiums and deductibles; those are symptoms of the real issue, which is cost. And the rising cost of health care is tied in many ways to the fact that two-thirds of our hospital systems in America are non-profits (with even more consolidation coming).
So Trump simply has to instruct Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin to change the charity regulations to require tax-exempt hospitals to post their prices for care. Further, the regulation changes should require that anything over $20 million in revenue will not be treated as tax exempt unless the providers post prices, have complete cost transparency, and can provide real evidence that at least 10 percent of their care is charitable. If they will not post prices, they will have their tax-exempt status withdrawn. This one change would have a stunning effect on costs of health care.
While Trump is on the phone with Mnuchin, he should also instruct him to reexamine Section 707 of the U.S. tax code and ask him to clarify what “partners” and “service providers” mean in regard to private-equity investments. With a few simple tweaks to the code, he can effectively close the carried interest loophole, fulfilling a campaign promise and erasing a fundamentally unfair, immoral loophole in our tax code.
Trump should issue an executive order to the departments in January, instructing them to cut staff and spending by 10 percent by the end of the second quarter of 2018, June 30. There are nearly two million federal employees costing American taxpayers $136.3 billion a year. Time to put the leviathan of government on a diet; you cannot actually drain the swamp unless you starve the beast and dismantle the administrative state.
We hear “drain the swamp” all the time, but the very underpinnings and foundation of the swamp are the over 430 departments, agencies and sub-agencies in our federal government. The swamp denizens feed off that ecosystem: you kill the system, you drain the swamp.
And while he’s at it, Trump should announce a plan for shutting down the Department of Energy. Whatever useful parts are in the department should be broken up into the Departments of Commerce, Interior and Defense. Then Trump should announce that he, with great fanfare, would implode the building himself, making a speech regarding the breaking apart and destruction of the progressives’ administrative state and the devolving of power out of D.C. Once the building is leveled, he should build a Liberty Park on top of it.
Trump should continue dismantling the regulatory state in 2018. While no one was really watching, he slashed or delayed more than 1,500 regulations in 2017, saving taxpayers more than $8 billion dollars. More importantly, those actions started removing the shackles from our economy. He should seek to do more of the same in 2018.
Speaking of dismantling the administrative and regulatory state, Trump should continue his appointments of young Federalist Society judges to the federal bench. He should seek to appoint judges who are still in their 40s so that, a generation from now, they are still in place, quietly and methodically killing the beast of big government, piece by piece.
In regards to infrastructure, Trump should lay the groundwork for a long-term fund that not only addresses our infrastructure needs but also brings welfare reform. He’s begun the process of responsible energy exploration on federal lands and, out of that, based on a percentage of royalties from the energy companies, could come that infrastructure fund. He should also target infrastructure in blue states.
For example, the reason parts of Northern California faced devastation in the late winter of 2016 was due to failed infrastructure never repaired or replaced by mostly Democrat governors over the past 30 years. The failure of the water systems in parts of Michigan? Three generations of Democrat leadership. The list goes on and on. If we’re going to use taxpayer dollars to repair and rebuild, taxpayers should know on whose watch the incompetence occurred.
By some estimates, this potential infrastructure fund could be upwards of $3.9 trillion in funding over a 37-year period. That will not only save money for American taxpayers but also keep us from adding to our national debt. It could be the beginning of a new “Great Works” program. Eventually, Trump (or Mike Pence, when he wins in 2025) should announce a new program: All able-bodied men and women on the welfare system will now be a part of the great rebuilding of American infrastructure. Roads will be built, bridges repaired, inner cities brought back to life, and we will significantly cut welfare spending.
When, in 2018, Trump must work with Congress to achieve some wins, he should make it very clear that if there is no wall, there is no DACA. And by “wall” it must be the full $21.6 billion to build 1,000 miles of a 40-foot wall. And by “DACA reform” it must mean, at a minimum, no more chain migration. Trump should also work with Congress to cut the more than $550 million in taxpayer dollars that go annually to Planned Parenthood.
If Trump does these things in 2018, and appoints another Neil Gorsuch type to SCOTUS when Justice Kennedy likely retires next summer, Republicans across the board will share in the positive effects, Trump will win reelection, and Democrats will become the “Coastal Regional Party.”
Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter @nedryun.
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