Who Makes Policy Campaign 2016 Edition

“Trump Two-Step”

With the presidential victory already in hand, we’ve seen Trump begin to “backtrack” on several policy stances he strongly spoke to during his campaign. For example, during his 60 minutes interview he stated the desire to keep several concepts of Obamacare such as providing coverage for people with preexisting conditions and children still living with their parents. Additionally, he has declared to not pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton once in Office, an advisor from his camp said Trump may not “rip up” the Iran deal but will review it, and in a recent New York Times interview stated “I think there is some connectivity” between climate change and human production. One cannot help but wonder if Trump’s stances during his election were simply strategic to attract a certain voter base; however, The Atlantic published an article that warns against jumping to that conclusion.

“Talk like a Moderate. Act like an Extremist.”

Although Trump is making public statements that may put the minds of moderates and liberals more at ease, it is essential for one to look to his appointments and actions. Whether one agrees with Trump or not, he seems to have a tendency to say what people need/want to hear the most. Could his more moderate policy changes be a simple tactic of calming down his opposition, all the while he appoints individuals who will pursue the extremist stances he championed for during the campaign? This is what the Atlantic article argues. Although Trump has appeared to shift more center, his team of appointments includes Myron Ebell to the EPA, a long-time climate change skeptic who expressed plans to cut NASA’s “politically correct” Earth Science research, and Steven Groves to the State Department who is advocating for withdrawal from the Paris Climate Deal and a “dismantling” of domestic climate regulations. It is far more important to look to Trump’s transition team than it is to cling to his post-victory claims. With a divided nation, it makes sense for Trump to moderate some of his stances, but this does not necessarily translate into less extremist action.

In the Midst of Nationalism, Open Markets are Still Desirable



For all the talk of nationalism and isolation, the world’s economies still want free trade zones. In the wake of the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union (Brexit), the U.K. is anxiously pursuing access to the European Union’s single market after their departure. In a bid to retain foreign corporations and manufacturing, the U.K. is making promises to pursue full access to the E.U.’s single market during their Brexit negotiations. The Brexit vote has made many international corporations nervous and led them to second guess their decision to base operations in the U.K.. Believing that Brexit will restrict the UK’s access to the EU, many companies are considering moving operations into the E.U. Zone.

The reality that will be facing the U.K. and the U.S. is that for all their talk about protecting their economic interest and retreating from the world, they are relying on accessing the world’s markets in order to fuel their economic growth. Even if the adoption of regional trade agreements cease for a while, singular agreements will continue to be pursued. Donald Trump has promised to pursue bilateral agreements which will continue to create unfettered access to markets and allow for the free movement of both goods and jobs. The fact is that trade is as old as human civilizations and there is no stopping it.

Argentinian Women’s Movement Fighting for Better Policy

In 2015, Argentinian women mobilized a new movement called “Ni Una Menos” (Not One Less) to improve the rights of women in their country, specifically in response to a series of violent femicides. The movement released the country’s first ever index reporting data on violence against women in Argentina. They recorded responses from 59,000 participants on issues such as discrimination, stigmatization, and emotional and physical violence. Some results are as follows: “67 percent of women have experienced a physically violent situation with their partners, 79 percent have been touched inappropriately on public transportation, and 20 percent have been raped.” The group’s research was collected in hopes of pursuing better policy initiatives. Ni Una Menos’ mobilization inspired the Argentinian government to develop a plan to collect data on femicide statistics, but the government’s failure to collect data on violence against women aside from femicide led to the group’s own research project.

Armed with this data, Ni Una Menos is hoping awareness will speak to not just femicide, but also to the violence women experience everyday. The group is urging politicians to finally implement the government’s 2009 plan to eradicate violence against women, along with putting domestic violence office in the Supreme Court of every province in Argentina (Only 5 out of 23 provinces have a domestic violence office today).

Violence Against Women has reached a new height in Argentina as statistics report “crimes against women have risen 78% since 2008 in Argentina.” Just last month, over 70,000 women protested the rape and death of a 16 year old girl. The voices of women are ringing louder than ever over the frustration of their government’s inadequate response to this growing public problem. Although it may be slow, a cultural change is brewing. Sometimes its on us as citizens to push the government to pursue the policies they need to.

Women demonstrating against gender violence in Buenos Aires.


Discontent and Desperation Drive Populism Which Prolongs Both

In the race to embrace a feel good and overly simplistic message, Americans on both sides of the spectrum flock to Bernie Sanders and Trump as the present and future solutions to what is hurting the American “middle” and “working class.” It’s easy to convey a message where the fix to what ails America is the building of walls and the tearing down of trade agreements, but it’s harder to deal with the complexities of a tax, campaign finance, and electoral system reforms.

Both Trump and Sanders promised to leverage tariffs, taxes and government contracts in order to hinder globalization. Sanders has already proposed withholding government contracts from companies that move operations overseas. While Trump spent some of his time over the thanksgiving weekend trying to convince Carrier Corp, a division of United Technologies Corp, from moving 1,400 jobs to Mexico. What sanders and Trump fail to realize that even if they kept those jobs here, business will eventually find a better and cheaper way to make things because, at the end of the day, our corporate and capital gains tax laws encourage the maximization of profits for shareholders at all cost. Meaning that some sort of automation will eventually take place and The Donald and Bernie will feel the burn to do something about that too. And when they fail to obstruct progress, which they will, Americans will claim that they too are in the pockets of big business which, to a large extent, the government is.

When Bernie and Trump fail to bring manufacturing jobs back by impeding free trade, Americans will clamor for an even bigger populist than the last one and cycle of incompetence will continue. Why? Because in failing to address campaign finance and electoral college reform, the American people will continue to elect representatives that pander to their lowest common denominator. In the absence of real reform, these elected officials will continue to fail to address the true obstacles to job growth and income equality, choosing instead to remain in a constant fundraising loop while promising to turn back the clock and failing to embrace the future.

President-elect Donald Trump would be hard-pressed to deliver on his promises to ‘bring back’ large numbers of America’s lost manufacturing jobs, even if he does renegotiate the nation’s trade deals. The reason: Manufacturing work is increasingly carried out by robots, rather than people….The problem for Trump and blue-collar workers is that when manufacturing returns to the states (and several trends favor that), the associated job-creation will not be what it once was.  Nor will the difference be just a minor effect – it’s going to be major.

Free trade and globalization are not the perpetrators of job losses in America, but the mere victims of automation and a misguided populist movement.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

There are plenty of people attempting to be hopeful about America’s future since the election of Mr. Donald Trump. Phrases that have been passed around have be in the realm of…Maybe this is what America needs, Something new could work- (In reference to Mr. Trump’s political inexperience and in my opinion under-qualification for the position) and my personal favorite- He was just saying those things to secure his base, now that he’s in, he’s been reversing his stance on his positions.” However true that might be that Mr. Trump has mentioned things like considering climate change efforts and “softening” on immigration, his administration have fired back with affirming positions that mimic those promised during the campaign. This Atlantic article describes how Trump mentioned exploring climate change issues and then his administration reported that they would be cutting all NASA funding for research. I guess we will have to wait and see what ACTIONS transpire.

Angela Merkel

If you plan on writing your final memo for Angela Merkel, you must read Time’s profile of her from last year. Merkel was named Time Magazine’s person of the year in 2015 and the accompanying profile of her is captivating. It details her life from the beginning as a shy and awkward girl growing up in the Soviet bloc to a brilliant scientist to the most powerful woman in the world.

The Kissinger Doctrine

Jeffery Goldberg’s The Obama Doctrine received a lot of attention when it was published in the spring. One of its highest profile critics was Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State and one of the most consequential statesmen of his time. The Atlantic released a follow up interview with Mr. Kissinger last week and it covered a variety of foreign policy topics from China to the Middle East.

One of Kissinger’s biggest issues with Obama is the credibility argument. Kissinger thought it was necessary to show force in order to force a diplomatic agreement (I’m really simplifying this argument here – it’s much more complex than this) while Obama famously said in the Goldberg article that it’s silly to bomb people for the sake of bombing people.

The most interesting part of the piece for me was Kissinger describing the philosophical differences we have with China. “Some Chinese strategists are in effect saying, “If we were in the American position, would we not at least consider preventing another country from reaching equality?” So that is a latent source of tension…The primary subject they want to discuss—philosophical in nature—is never raised, which is “If we were you, we might try to suppress our rise. Do you seek to suppress us? If you do not, what will the world look like when we are both strong, as we expect to be?” It makes sense for China to think like this. They are on the rise and rightfully paranoid that the U.S. might try to suppress them. Kissinger suggests that our diplomats are not having this discussion to reduce uncertainty, which is concerning and could potentially lead to conflict down the line.

With a Swift and Merciful Blow to the Head of the TPP, the UnDead Agreement is Now Finished.

Trump, after weeks of vague and elusive answers to questions regarding the TPP, has finally delivered what appears to be the final and merciful deathblow to the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. After secret meetings with the Japanese prime minister and the presence of pro TPP transition team members over the last two weeks, Trump finally gave a definitive answer to the question “Will Trump walk away from the TPP?” In a message delivered via a short video, Trump laid out his vision for his first 100 days and stated that he would withdraw from the TPP on his first day in office should it be ratified. Citing the agreement as “a potential disaster for our country”, he noted that he would instead “negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back.”

Trump, like most politicians on both sides of the aisle, continue to undermine their own credibility by erroneously blaming most manufacturing job losses on globalization. Instead of informing the public to the fact that many of the jobs were lost due to automation in factories, they continue blame free trade and to promise a return to manufacturing days that will not be returning anytime soon.

In an article published by The Brookings Institution trying to explain the upset win by Trump over Clinton, it notes “‘racial resentments’ and xenophobia as the deepest sources of Trump’s appeal. And such explanations cannot be dismissed.” But it also goes on to say that “the decades-long decline of U.S. manufacturing employment and the highly automated nature of the sector’s recent revitalization should also be high on the list of explanations. The former is an unmistakable source of the working class rage that helped get Trump elected. The latter is the main reason Trump won’t be able to ‘make America great again’ by bringing back production jobs.” And this is where politicians will keep on losing the faith of the people. Unable to deliver on promises made on false assumptions, politicians on both sides will continue to face the same backlash which Clinton experienced on November 8th.

The Uncertain Future Of Environmental Policy

Given Trump’s belief that Climate Change is an “expensive Chinese hoax,” it is important to ask what will American environmental policy look like once he transitions to the presidency? Trump has made several statements about stripping down the environmental policies of the Obama Administration, so I wanted to research which initiatives will face likely danger and which might be more protected.

Policies At Risk
1. Paris Climate Agreement: Trump has pledged to withdraw the U.S. and “there’s little stopping him.” Trump can pursue a variety of actions such as backing out of Obama’s emission reduction pledge, refusing to attend U.N. meeting about the agreement, or denying funds to poorer countries looking to decarbonize. China has declared it will pick up the efforts in the wake of an American absence, but the withdrawal of the U.S. will likely have a negative impact on the agreement’s success.
2. Reduction of Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards: Fuel economy standards are pledged to increase from the current 35 miles a gallon to 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025. Automakers are lobbying Trump to relax this effort and he will “have plenty of leeway to weaken these rules.” However, states can also step in and curtail these efforts.
3. “Green Drift”: This involves the leniency to adapt and expend environmental laws that were purposefully made open-ended. Republicans have long hated this ability for green law updates/expansion. They have repeatedly put forth a mandate to force “every economically significant federal regulation” to need the House and Senate approval, plus presidential signature. This would drastically restrict the ability to evolve environmental legislation with the times. With the GOP House, Senate, and president, this mandate has “a very real chance to become law.”

Policies That Are Likely (Hopefully) Safe
1. The Clean Power Act : This act “mandates major cuts in carbon dioxide emissions for coal-fired power plants.” It puts a limit on greenhouse emissions to move toward cleaner energy.
2. The Wetlands Rule : This rule “extends federal cleanup to small bodies of water like farm ponds and streams.”
**Because these two policies are passed the 60-day threshold for Republicans to have to right to override, they would demand very serious bureaucratic effort to eliminate.
3. Solar and Wind Credits: Solar and Wind energy has long relied on these tax credits. There is some logic to believing these credits are safe for now as an advisor on the Trump transition team commented they will “remain in place.”

Fingers crossed that the decades of environmental policy progress will not turn over during a Trump presidency. A positive from his election success is the significant growth in public response to environmental needs. Citizens have increased resistance and outcries across the country. This is evident from the vast outpouring of donations to environmental groups after Trump’s victory. Maybe this surge in resistance and anger is something the environmental movement really needs…

The TPP… A Saga Right Out of the Walking Dead.

In what feels as one of the most agonizing deaths to a piece of legislation, it appears that the much touted death of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement has not yet come to pass or is in serious doubt. It’s been shot, stabbed, battered and lambasted to an apparent death, yet after being declared deceased on 20 different occasions, no one can confirm its actual status. In taking a page right out of Donald Trump’s playbook, I and the rest of America demand that Trump produce the TPP’s Long Form Death Certificate! After promising us its murder, he, along with his still forming cabinet, have followed the promises up with vague statements as to its current status and have failed to yield any concrete evidence of its legitimate death. With the presence of some lobbyist in his original transition team, which have now departed, it has become increasing difficult to estimate Trump’s level of commitment to killing the trade agreement.

Trump denounced the TPP as a ‘disaster’ being “pushed by special interests who want to rape our country.” Yet he appears to have included Rolf Lundberg Jr., a former lobbyist from the TPP-friendly U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to head up ‘trade reform’ on his presidential transition team, according to an organization chart obtained by The New York Times…Trump’s transition team has been notoriously fluid.

This influence on the transition team along with last weeks “emergency” meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister who desperately wants to salvage the TPP agreement, has made it increasingly impossible to establish the TPP’s level of dead, much like establishing a woman’s level of pregnancy. This is why we demand the death certificate so, like with the email news stories, we can finally move on with our lives and mission to bring back 1960’s type of manufacturing.