Donald Trump ran on the slogan “Make America Great Again.” Never mind that the United States was involved in a steady economic recovery and doing fairly well. What is worrisome now is that President Trump and Republicans at all levels are making America un-great at an alarming rate.
How do you make America un-great? You undermine truth as a basis for public discourse, threaten the long-term foundations of the U.S. economy, weaken the basic institutions of our democratic form of government, unravel the common threads that hold a diverse society together, and erode our standing in the world and thereby our national security.
No American government in history has made the undermining of truth its cornerstone. The Trump Administration does, whether it is an untruthful president, attacks on a free press, or the promotion of delusional ideas. Media now have regular features correcting the continual, factually incorrect statements by the president and his administration. This is the trademark of autocrats and demagogues. It undermines public discourse in America.
Republican-led states are attacking the basic right to vote through extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression, including unconstitutional voter ID laws and widespread closing of polling stations in Democrat-leaning areas. Democrats won recent Virginia state elections by 55 percent to 45 percent, but they did not win control of the legislature. Pennsylvania and North Carolina, with roughly balanced electorates but 13-5 and 10-3 Republican advantages in Congress respectively, have had their Republican gerrymandered congressional districts declared unconstitutional, as have Texas and Wisconsin.
We also have a president who repeatedly denigrates our government agencies, cabinet members who undermine the purposes and programs of the agencies they lead, a general disrespect for ethics and the rule of law by the president and his advisers, and a Republican-led Congress which tolerates all of this. Competent government, high ethics, and the rule of law are essential to our government. They are being honored in the breach by Republicans at all levels.
In concluding that the Republican tax cut bill was the worst public policy legislation in her lifetime, Ruth Marcus of “The Washington Post” noted that the bill was not needed, the nation could not afford it, it would not lead to the growth projected, and it was shamelessly slanted to the rich. Some ordinary people may be enjoying modest, temporary tax breaks. Rich people and corporations are enjoying huge, permanent tax breaks. Long-term, however, the bill undermines the U.S. economy.
First, the skew toward the rich makes worse both income and wealth inequality in America. They are already among the worst in the developed world, according to the World Bank and the OECD. This weakens the middle class upon which our economy rests. Second, the $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit makes it unlikely that we can afford improved national infrastructure or increased research and development, hallmarks of our economic success over the past half century. Thirdly, the increase in the deficit, combined with the recent budget-busting spending bill passed by Congress, puts the nation’s finances in perilous territory for years to come.
Infrastructure modernization, tax reform, fiscal responsibility, R&D, and job retraining are things that would boost the economy, help the middle class, and make the U.S. economy competitive in the 21st Century. By not doing these things we are weakening the recovery and undermining our economy long-term.
Finally, there are common threads that hold a diverse society together. Having run a campaign based heavily on race-baiting and hate, President Trump continues to insult individual Americans, government officials, groups of Americans, and foreign allies and adversaries alike. He has become divider-in-chief of the nation, debasing the public square, sowing intolerance, and making it harder by the day to find common ground
With a president acting like a tribal chief governing for his tribe of 33 percent while ignoring the rest of America, a Congress that makes a mockery of the legislative process, and a foreign policy in tatters on the cusp of a trade war, Americans need to demand better than this if we are to remain a great nation.