“That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln, 1863
Donald Trump’s election to the presidency last month allows those famous words uttered by Lincoln in his 1863 Gettysburg Address to continue to ring true, because Trump, along with Republicans in Congress, will return the power over their government to the American people—a power they have gradually ceded over the past three presidential administrations. The Clinton, Bush, and Obama presidencies have all featured government encroachment into the private lives of Americans, such as expanded dependence on government welfare and social programs, increased taxation and regulation—a burden most acutely felt by small business, a bloated bureaucracy, greater surveillance of private citizens without due process, threats to religious liberty, and the growing chasm between the Beltway insiders and those they are supposed to serve. These trends deeply bother many Americans, and trust in government and our revered institutions has plummeted in the past two decades to near all-time lows. Just 19% of Americans surveyed by Gallup in September 2016 trusted government to do what was right most of the time. Hillary Clinton chose (unwisely) to ignore these trends, doubling down on her promise to continue the big government policies of the Obama administration, policies which turned many American institutions such as the IRS, EPA, and Justice Department into branches of the Democratic Party (as outlined in a previous post on this site), while also labeling Americans dissatisfied and angry with the status quo “a basket of deplorables.”
One reason that Trump’s election elicited such consternation from the Washington establishment, mainstream media, and the progressive Left is that Trump comes into Washington as the ultimate outsider, and will become the only president to take office having never before held elected office or served in the military. Throughout the campaign, those groups attempted to paint Trump as unfit for office due to his lack of government experience, but the American people saw through the hoax and understood that what these groups said was driven by their fear that due to his lack of ties in government, Trump was not beholden to the agents of the status quo. Like Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, or Ronald Reagan, Trump can actually drive meaningful change that would benefit the American people at the expense of the establishment’s hold on power and the progressive desire for further government control over areas of American life (though Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Reagan had served in government, all were seen as outsiders by the establishment when elected). Surely, you cannot credibly argue that running a multi-billion dollar international business leaves one less prepared for the presidency than being a community organizer, Illinois state senator, and junior Senator for two years. On a personal aside, I had a few drinks with my wife and a friend at the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC located in the renovated Old Post Office, and wow, that man can build a building (and on time and under budget nonetheless)—the hotel is absolutely beautiful and it’s great to see a historic landmark returned to glory. It gives me great optimism on the impact he can make on our decaying infrastructure system.
Now that the American people delivered a stunning rejection to the establishment and the progressive Left by electing Trump, the same groups who decried his lack of formal government experience have switched their focus to criticizing his cabinet choices. Trump has built his cabinet by placing a greater value on tangible accomplishment, whether in business or the military, than on words and rhetoric that have dominated Washington the past two decades. The establishment and the progressive Left complain that the appointments of Rex Tillerson to State, Steve Mnuchin to Treasury, Wilbur Ross to Commerce, Andrew Puzder to Labor, Ben Carson to HUD, and Betsy DeVos to Education will result in the government being run like a business. To them I pose the question—why is that a bad thing?
For a business to succeed at the most basic level, it must produce results better than its competitors, whether that means building the best cars, providing the top consulting expertise, or selling the ripest tomatoes. Successful businesses are constantly innovating in order to increase profit, market share, and create more value, for the owners, shareholders, and/or employees. Businesses must stick to a budget because they cannot afford to lose money and stay competitive, and successful management ensures that merit and competency are rewarded, rather than basing promotions on longevity, race, or gender. American businesses have always been at the cutting edge—why do we not expect the same from our government?
In the last two decades as Washington, D.C. has ground to a halt, our government has run up over $20 trillion in national debt, allowed American infrastructure to decay, passed unilateral regulations outside of Congress that stifle American business and job creation, while the bureaucracy has created a self-serving system that rewards longevity and identity politics at the expense of merit and competency. The system is not working the way the Framers designed it, and rather than enabling Hillary Clinton, a relic of that very system, to continue the status quo and further entrench the American people under the thumb of a dysfunctional government, the people who had been left behind by the system by nature of not living on one of the two coasts, rose up, reclaimed power, and tasked a man famous around the world for producing tangible results with fixing the American political system. In response, the markets have surged, with the Dow approaching 20,000 points, the dollar is as strong as it has been in a decade, the Consumer Confidence Index rebounded in November to the highest post-recession levels, and companies such as Carrier, Ford, Dow Chemical, and SoftBank have announced increased investment in the United States. Many pundits in the mainstream media have wondered aloud whether Trump is already president.
Given the fact that the establishment of both parties had a vested interest in continuing the status quo, and the progressive Left is only interested in expanding government influence, only a candidate with a business background, like Donald Trump, will be able to restore American government to the ideal envisioned by the Framers and espoused by Lincoln. A government that is truly “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is a government that sees its citizens as shareholders who have a vested interest in the success of that government, a say in how government runs, and expect the government to deliver results that allow them to better their lives. Therein lies the brilliance of Trump’s cabinet selections. Rather than surrounding himself with establishment figures to give him credibility inside the Beltway, he chose to surround himself with men and women who have spent their lives protecting the interests of their shareholders and being forced to answer them when they were unsuccessful.
On the contrary, the establishment and progressive Left do not see the American people as shareholders of the government, they see them as employees doing their part to continue the system—paying taxes that are mismanaged while the debt continues to grow, being forced to buy expensive health insurance they do not need while losing their doctor, and having to close the businesses they built from the ground up because they cannot afford to comply with increasing government regulation and the specter of litigation. Questioning that system makes one “deplorable.” In the vision of the establishment and progressive Left, the government is the only actor large enough to drive meaningful change, and individual Americans are simply cogs in the wheel of big government. It’s impossible to forget Obama’s 2012 speech in which he scolded job creators, saying “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
The Trump vision, a vision shared by his cabinet, is that the American people must be the ones driving change, and it is the role of the government to create, foster, and protect a society which empowers them to achieve meaningful improvement in their lives. A Trump administration can accomplish this through working with Congress to pass legislation to accomplish the following goals:
- Decrease the tax burden and simplify the tax code for individuals
- Decrease the corporate income tax to 15%
- Eliminate wasteful spending, while providing greater transparency on the use of tax dollars by forcing departments and contractors to advocate for their budgets (why does Air Force One cost $4.3 billion, and why is the F-35 project behind schedule and over budget?)
- Cut excess from the bureaucracy
- Replace Obamacare with an affordable alternative
- Roll back unnecessary government regulations that suppress job creation
- Make America not only fully energy independent, but also an energy exporter through a combination of increased oil and gas exploration in the short-term while investing in green energy for the long-term
- Address the national debt, saving future generations from a high tax burden and potential obligations to America’s creditors, which could threaten national security.
All of these reforms, endorsed by Trump on the campaign trail, shared by his cabinet and Republican leadership in Congress, along with many moderate Democrats, strike at the big government ideology embraced by the establishment and progressive Left, and will return power to the American people as shareholders in American democracy and the real agents of change in our great nation. Again, will the United States government truly be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”