Trump and Obama: Not so different, after all

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Tune into Twitter one of these hot summer nights to see the left’s new fainting couch. On just about every topic, the sky isn’t just falling — it’s already beneath our jackbooted feet. Donald Trump is a Nazi. And a Neo-Confederate. He’s putting children in concentration camps. His supporters are outright racists. His immigration policy is tantamount to the next Holocaust.

For an aspiring fascist dictator, Trump seems to be making a lot of errors. First, he hasn’t even considered signature facial hair. Secondly, so many of his policies seem to be firmly rooted in the Washington establishment: the swamp. In fact, when it comes to policy, we haven’t actually seen a huge change since Jan. 20, 2017.

{mosads}In many ways, Barack Obama and Donald Trump are completely different people. But strip away the rhetoric and you will find successive administrations with far more similarities than the Washington beltway crowd cares to admit.


Under the hood, there is not much validity to the millions of polemics found on Twitter, in the Washington Post, and at poetry slams. The lefty freak-out, boiled down, is hatred of Trump the man and his style, rather than his substance. Looking at the White House’s actual actions, we see a number of ways that not only is the administration not destroying the world — it’s not changing it much, either

It’s hard to fit all of the overlap into just one column, but several stick out, especially considering the recent media cycle.

Trump won in 2016 in large part because he offered something novel: an immigration plan independent of the traditional Republican and Democratic parties. Yet, over the last year and a half, the large bulk of the administration’s actions simply continued prior precedent and laws. The temporary holding of immigrant children, for example, stems from a 1997 agreement. A 2008 law passed unanimously required migrant children from outside Canada or Mexico to be held by the Office of Refugee Resettlement or with families in the United States. The purpose? To prevent child trafficking. And photos that recently caused the most outrage — including those of children sleeping in cages — were from 2014.

The media and public outcry is centered around minor policy changes. The White House effectively changed deck chairs on the Titanic, and is treated as if it is planning a genocide.

Rich Lowry at the National Review covered the issue at length and found a staggering unwillingness on the part of the White House and Congress as a whole to fix many of the underlying issues. There’s no wall, no large-scale deportation effort and, most likely, a return to catch-and-release by another name. When Trump took office, illegal border crossings dropped precipitously — and then increased once it became obvious that not much had changed.

When it comes to foreign policy, the Trump-Obama similarities continue. There can be little doubt that Obama won in 2008 partly due to his dovish pronouncements. Obama not only failed to deliver his promises but, in many ways, escalated overseas misadventures new and old.

Trump campaigned against the Republicans’ and the Democrats’ consensus for intervention. His neo-isolationist 2016 platform attracted many Americans tired of trying to drone-strike our way out of every foreign adventure, as well as wars and conflict zones the Obama administration either created or made worse in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan (whew, say all those five times fast). Trump showed his strength, but also his naiveté, in his 2017 and 2018 strikes in Syria. Today, the U.S. is more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war than it was two years ago — even beyond our successful war against the Islamic State.

And then there’s government spending. Remember Barack Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits? Well, they’re back — and engineered by Republicans this time. Worst crossover episode ever. Despite Congress’s signature tax cuts last winter, the budget is still broken. Trump’s FY 2017 deficit was $666 billion — almost $80 billion more than Obama’s last year in office. This fiscal year’s omnibus bill was described by the Heritage Foundation as representing “everything that is wrong with Washington.” Fiscal 2019 is likely to increase to $981 billion, according to the CBO.

Like Obama, Trump has made no major strides in curbing the primary driver of deficits: entitlement spending. It shows. The national debt is now $21 trillion. By 2028 it will be $33 trillion.

Such spending levels are unsustainable and set the country up for a kick-the-can debt crisis come a generation hence. We have eight years of the Medicare trust fund left while the federal government is dipping into its reserves. George W. Bush, in his effort to overhaul Social Security in 2005, predicted it would become insolvent in 2041 (for which he was widely derided). The current estimate is 2034 — just 16 years from now. Yet Trump has repeatedly said that he is against any cuts or even raising the retirement age.

Time after time, Obama was treated as the light-bringer for promulgating or enforcing the policies that the same people now deride as effectively the equivalent of the Enabling Act. This overheated rhetoric is not accurate, not helpful, and ultimately feeds into a destructive mob mentality. Take a breather and realize the similarities between the two presidents. You can still be disappointed, but at least you’ll be informed.

Trump is wildly different than his predecessors in terms of rhetoric. But his bravado can only take policy so far. The president’s supporters will only have so much patience for a continuation of policies that have let them down for decades.

Feel like you’ve seen this movie before? Time to ask for a refund.

Kristin Tate is the author of the new book, “How Do I Tax Thee?: The Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.

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