opinion

SUMMER OF DISCONTENT

President Trump’s Disastrous Summer—and Potentially Cataclysmic Autumn

We approach autumn, which shows every sign of being as bad as summer or worse.

Now lemme get this straight, as Harry Nilsson said. President Donald Trump is going to kick the DACA can over to Congress for six months, which was Monday’s reporting on Tuesday’s expected announcement. And then Congress is going to do… what? Pass a bill extending Barack Obama’s executive order?

Is that a fact? This House, with that Freedom Caucus, is going to make an Obama order the permanent law of the land? One supposes there are ways to tailor it—to change it and restrict it so that it no longer applies to anywhere near the current 800,000 people but also technically doesn’t constitute doing away with it, so Speaker Paul Ryan can stand up there and say DACA has been “reformed,” kinda like the way he’s always wanted to “reform” Medicare.

But it seems pretty likely that to pass anything that’s actually decent and humane, Ryan may well have to break the Hastert Rule (nothing can pass the House that doesn’t have a majority of Republicans behind it), letting a bill slide through with the support of most Democrats and some Republicans.

Of course, he’d lose the speakership if he did that. So that’s out.

The other alternative is they do something decent on DACA but attach it to funding for a wall or reduced legal immigration or more deportations of other categories of people. But that might just be a little controversial. And the Republicans’ track record on this kind of thing is less than impressive.

So here we are, heading into the fall. Trump and the GOP had a disastrous summer. As summer wound down, we saw these stories every once a while about how they’re looking for an autumnal reset. Steve Bannon’s out. John Kelly is keeping Trump away from Breitbart stories. They’re getting serious about tax reform. It’s all gonna be so different, folks, you have no idea.

Yeah. Go Google “Trump reset.” There’ve already been about five. The first “Trump hits the reset button” story was from Feb. 28, just five weeks after the he started the job! This was after the joint speech to Congress. Remember that night? Proved he could read a teleprompter? (Hey, all you people who made fun of Obama for reading from teleprompters—Trump is proving that it’s actually kind of a skill!) Remember how they were telling us on cable TV that he “became president” that night? How’s that verdict looking in retrospect?

So now we approach fall, which shows every sign of being as bad as summer or worse. Let’s start with tax reform. Administration officials and congressional Republicans have agreed, I’ve seen it reported, on how they’re going to pay for their big tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations.

Get this. I mean, get this. They’re going to try to eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction. And do away with the state and local tax deductions. And tax 401Ks up front. Right now, people contribute to their 401Ks with pre-tax dollars, and you pay the tax later in life, when you start cashing it in.

In other words, they’re going raise taxes (in effect; doing away with a deduction is raising a tax) on middle-class homeowners and pension-payers to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the 1 percent, whose top rate would be cut by 4.6 percent, which would save someone making $2 million a year around $75,000.

Are they kidding? That’s going to be about as popular as gonorrhea. Here’s some polling for you to look over if you wish (PDF). In April, Pew asked people how much certain aspects of the tax system bothered them. To “the feeling that some corporations don’t pay their fair share,” 62 percent said they were bothered a lot. To the feeling that some wealthy people don’t pay their share, 60 percent said a lot. Also, 67 percent and 63 percent respectively said corporations and rich people pay too little. Only 14 percent said poor people pay too little (sorry, Mitt Romney!), and just 6 percent said middle-income people pay too little.

With numbers like that, how is a tax plan written to benefit corporations and 1 percenters going to fly? Like the Hindenberg. One of the few reassuring lessons of the Trump era so far is that public opinion still matters. Our democracy may be corrupt in any number of ways, but at least that much remains true. You can’t pass a health care bill that has 17 percent support, and you probably can’t pass a tax bill whose benefits are going to two groups that two-thirds of the country thinks have it too easy as it is.

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What else might autumn bring? He’ll try to start a war with North Korea? If they start one with us, that would be one thing. But if Trump starts it, when literally everybody else in the world is saying sanctions and diplomacy, that, too, would be highly unpopular (aside from of course being potentially disastrous in scarcely imaginable ways).

Fire Bob Mueller? Now that we know via The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff that Mueller has hired IRS agents, we have a sense of some the rocks he’s turning over, and we know Trump wants nobody touching those rocks. Firing Mueller would mean alienating his support in Congress, especially in the Senate. But that’s probably a risk he’s willing to take if he thinks Mueller really has something.

So media, let’s stop using these random turns of the calendar to write stories about how Trump might change. He won’t change. Neither will the congressional GOP. We just have to hope that the only damage they do is to their own reputations and not the economy or race relations or the city of Seoul.