Taking a Look at Some of the Top Predictions For Donald Trump in 2018
Slowly but surely, general angst regarding President Donald Trump’s leadership are starting to evaporate. The economy has delivered two consecutive quarters of three-percent growth (business cycle highs), workers’ 401K plans are booming, and employment remains solid.
Love or hate his governing approach, the country isn’t falling apart like many on the left feared. That in itself is a moral victory.
That doesn’t mean everything is perfect; social division grips the nation like never before. The Republican Party (the GOP) can’t seem to pass any significant legislation without an Executive Order. Some important campaign promises have yet to be fulfilled. And Trump still irks many people with his brash, in-your-face style.
But all things considered, the middle class is experiencing some stability for the first time in quite a while. I think it can continue, at least until the inevitable recession strikes (which would happen regardless of who holds power).
Here are five important things that President Trump is planning to do in 2018. Provided that Congress plays ball and Trump carries through on an executive level, America stands to be the biggest beneficiary.
1. Revamp and Redefine the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
It seems that few working-class Americans give the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the second thought it deserves. To most, NAFTA is some obscure alphabet-soup trade deal that caused some unfortunately-located border states to lose manufacturing prowess to Mexico. But, in the proper context, NAFTA’s passage has left a much broader impact than many Americans could have imagined.
NAFTA significantly accelerated the decline of American manufacturing as we knew it. In truth, manufacturing production had been leeching abroad since at least the late 1970s to lower-cost nations. But NAFTA suddenly made it worthwhile to whole industries to relocate to Mexico almost overnight.
The shift is best characterized in the words of the prestigious Economic Policy Institute, when it proclaimed that NAFTA “was the door through which American workers were shoved into the neoliberal global labor market.” (Source: “NAFTA’s Impact on U.S. Workers,” Economic Policy Institute, December 9, 2013.)
This view was also shared by 1992 presidential hopeful Ross Perot, who attempted (successfully) to make NAFTA a core campaign issue. It was Perot who delivered some prescient words during the second presidential debate held in Richmond, Virginia. During his opening statement, Perot famously delivered his “giant sucking sound” monologue, which warned of the rush of manufacturing jobs to Mexico if NAFTA became law. Perot lost the election, but his warnings ultimately proved correct.
Despite the verified harm done to the American worker, current NAFTA renegotiations are still flying under the radar. Perhaps the details are too bureaucratic or complicated; perhaps there’s a lack of “wow” factor to grab the public’s attention.
But Donald Trump realizes how detrimental this agreement has been to American manufacturing. He is seeking to leverage America’s dominant market position to have NAFTA benefit the motherland, instead of the other way around.
The net effect? More multinational manufacturers (i.e. automakers) will re-establish production stateside, perpetual multi-billion trade deficits will cease, and companies may find it more difficult to import finished products to the United States without paying large import duties.
Trump promised to “Make America Great Again” (MAGA), and a big part of that strategy is prodding multinational corporations to bring back manufacturing to the United States. Doing so will boost gross domestic product (GDP), wages, consumption, and tax revenue to local and federal coffers.
The public may not be paying attention to NAFTA, nor realize its significance. But the Trump administration is paying close attention, as evidenced by prioritizing NAFTA renegotiations so early in the president’s first term.
Look for all parties to agree on a revamped NAFTA version 2.0 sometime early in 2018.
2. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
From the beginning of his term, President Donald Trump made reforming he tax code and easing the burden to middle-income taxpayers a priority. His administration has to attempted to address this early on, by proposing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
The bill is currently working its way through the House of Representatives. If passed this year, most of the scheduled effects should take effect by January 1, 2018.
Now, the bill is currently about 400 pages long, so it’s beyond the scope of this article to examine every minute detail. But the proposal has something for everyone. Listed below are some of the more considerable impacts to taxpayers. Please note, the details of the bill are still subject to change
- Elimination of the estate tax. The proposal nearly doubles the taxable threshold from $5.6 million to over $10.0 million, and phases it out altogether in six years. Senate Republicans may be looking to preserve part of the tax, so it’s unclear yet how this would work. However, the rule changes, as currently proposed, greatly benefit wealthy Americans with large estates.
- Corporate tax rate reduced from 35% to 20%. Corporations would pay less tax under Tax Cuts And Jobs Act. The corporate tax rate would be reduced by 42.86%, although closures in existing loopholes would make the net benefit for businesses considerably smaller.
- Child tax credit increased. The proposal would see the child tax credit jump 60%, from $1,000 per child to $1,600 per child. A $300.00 credit for each non-child dependant or parent would be applied for five years, after which the provision would expire.
On the downside, the tax reform proposal eliminates many deductions that are currently in place. For example, the proposed medical expense deduction, which allows individuals to claim deductions on expenses that are more than 10% of their income, would be eliminated—as would tax deductions for student loan interest, moving expenses, and alimony. The mortgage interest deduction would be limited to loans of up to $500,000 (from the current $1.0 million).
Either way, big changes to the tax code will likely be signed into law by the first half of 2018.
3. Build a Fortified Southern Border Wall
Right now, the southern border wall with Mexico is a hot mess. The structure isn’t standardized or consistently fortified; security gaps are evident at various points. For people determined to penetrate the border, the current wall isn’t an insurmountable obstacle. Trump wants to change all that and fulfill a key campaign promise.
But there’s Congress to consider. With cost estimates running upwards of $100.0 billion, the new wall needs to be funded. Even though Republicans hold both the House and Senate (the former by a wide margin), there’s significant opposition from the “Chamber of Commerce” members of the GOP. Those members generally favor the unrestrained movement of labor and lax employment laws. They are a formidable lobby.
President Trump favors a modern, high-tech version of the border wall to replace the one that is currently in place. Call it southern border defense 2.0. This iteration will likely be built higher, constructed deeper, and be more tamper-resistant than anything we’ve seen to date. These features won’t come cheaply; the wall is expected to stretch 1,000 miles of the total 1,800-mile border, with natural barriers filling in the gaps.
Although there was some initial budgetary pushback from Congress, initial funding has already been approved. On July 27, the House of Representatives voted to appropriate $1.6 billion for construction of the southern border wall, to be included in a group of fiscal-2018 spending bills. (“Congress moves to build Trump’s border wall in face of Democratic opposition,” Washington Examiner, July 24, 2017.)
Of course, the project will end up costing taxpayers much more. But, with the initial outlay already approved, the project will move forward sometime in 2018. The federal government is currently deciding on a prototype from a pool of candidates.
4. Trump Consolidates Power Within the GOP
Love him or hate him, you have to give Trump credit for absorbing the withering punishment thrown his way, yet staying on track. Yes, such embattlement is par for the course in politics, but it has been amplified five-fold under Trump’s candidacy. The Fusion GPS Russian hit piece, the non-stop slander from the progressive media, the barbs emanating from Hollywood, and the “Never Trumpers” within his own party; never before has a president of the United States (POTUS) experienced this type of resistance on a grand scale.
This isn’t just opinion, but factually verified.
Pew Research studied the first 60 days of Trump’s presidency, and found that a whopping 62% of mainstream coverage of the administration reached “negative assessments.” That compares with 20% negative coverage during Barack Obama’s first two months as president, and 28% during both Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s first two months. (Source: “Donald Trump is right! Coverage of his administration is much more negative than other presidents,” recode, October 2, 2017.)
Positive, Neutral or Negative Media Coverage, First 60 Days In Office
|President||Positive Assessment||Neither||Negative Assessment|
|Bill Clinton (1993)||27%||44%||28%|
|George W. Bush (2001)||22%||49%||28%|
|Barack Obama (2009)||42%||38%||20%|
|Donald Trump (2017)||5%||33%||62%|
Fortunately for Trump, the tide may be turning. Voter dissatisfaction is forcing establishment Republicans into a corner, or banishing them completely.
Take junior Senator Jeff Flake (Republican, Arizona), a consistent critic of Donald Trump. He recently decided not to run for 2018 Senate re-election on the basis that he couldn’t serve in the Trump administration “in good conscience.” But that’s likely just a lame cover story.
Flake currently owns an 25% approval rating among Republican primary voters in Arizona, badly falling behind upstart challenger Kelli Ward. A recent poll by the left-leaning GBA Strategies Group found Flake to be trailing his Republican primary opponent in a head-to-head matchup, with Ward achieving 58% support, compared to Flake’s 31%. (Source: “New Poll Shows Senator Flake in Deep Trouble,” GBA Strategies Group, September 12, 2017.)
Another Trump detractor, junior Senator Bob Corker (Republican, Tennessee) announced also that he would not seek re-election in 2018. Again, the conscientious objector angle was used here. But could it be that Corker’s voracious criticism of Trump left him vulnerable to defeat? That would be quite shocking, since Corker won by a 34.5% margin of victory in the 2012 election.
U.S. Senate, Tennessee General Election, 2012
|Democratic||Mark E. Clayton||30.4%||
|Libertarian||Shaun E. Crowell||0.9%||
|Michael Joseph Long||0.3%||8,085|
|Independent||Troy Stephen Scoggin||0.3%||
(Source: “State of Tennessee November 6, 2012 General Election,” Secretary of State, last accessed November 8, 2017.)
Another establishment Republican, Luther Strange, was defeated by the more conservative Roy Moore in an Alabama Senate run-off election in September.
When you add everything up, the message is quite clear: establishment Republicans—who are cool to the mandate given to Trump—are dropping like flies (politically speaking). The net effect is that Trump is slowly consolidating power within the GOP, as caucus members become increasingly hesitant to distance themselves from the MAGA agenda. After all, they have 2018 mid-term elections to win.
Sure, the progressive left and the Democratic party will continue to peck away at Trump throughout his term. But GOP members—the power brokers who can most affect policy—are beginning to fall in line.
5. A De-Nuclearized North Korean Peninsula
His bluster may seem to say otherwise, but Trump is looking to avert a war on the North Korean Peninsula, not start one. Trump’s matching rhetoric, which has historically been considered “beneath” the Oval Office to engage in, is aimed at scaring Kim Jong-un into submission.
And why not? After all, the North Korean nuclear program and ballistic missile tests have steadily increased throughout the years, despite continued high-level diplomacy and sweeteners.
Trump correctly understands that diplomacy has gotten the United States nowhere. He has made a calculated decision to fight fire with fire, hoping that the Korean leadership will eventually understand that it cannot win a missile contest with the greatest military force on earth.
Nobody wants to experience nuclear war. North Korea would lay in complete ruins. China, South Korea, and other neighbors would have their own environmental issues to worry about. Millions of people could lose their lives, both immediately, and through radiological effects over time.
Look for Trump to enlist the Chinese to allow North Korea an honorable way out of the standoff. If everything goes according to plan, perhaps 2018 will witness the first vestiges of North Korea pulling back on their offensive nuclear capabilities. That would be both a major and undeniable “win” on a grand scale.
It would be a true diplomatic marvel if Trump could pull it off. Don’t bet against the Art of the Deal.