Rightly or wrongly, the first 100 days of a new President’s term have become a litmus test of leadership effectiveness. Can the president get things done? Are the policies and agendas clear? Does he or she make good on campaign promises? What about the economy?
So, how should we rate President Trump’s performance in his first 100 days, which end on Saturday? I’d give him a “B” – more for effort and symbolism than significant changes. The President has kept several economy-related promises. But there has been limited progress on the issues where Trump could really leave his mark – tax reform, healthcare, and infrastructure/military spending.
In his first 100 days, the President moved to ease regulation on businesses by requiring the elimination of two rules for every new rule. Trump also loosened some environmental limits on energy production and removed President Obama’s freeze on the Keystone Pipeline project. On the trade front, President Trump moved quickly to pull the U.S. out of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
All good stuff.
But even the President is clearly aware of the lack of traction on the Big Issues. Trump has stirred up a flurry of action in recent days on health care, tax reform, military spending, and the border wall. He’s firing on all pistons to get things moving in Washington in the waning moments of his first 100 days.
While most members of Congress are focused on the vital but mundane task of avoiding a government shutdown and getting a spending bill in place, Trump is trying to move some mountains — unveiling a sweeping tax plan and turning again to health care overhaul. The President is pressing House Republicans to hold a vote by the end of this week on a revised plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. That’s a tall order given that Congress can rarely handle more than one major issue at a time.
The failure of an earlier effort to undo Obamacare also set back Trump’s tax reforms efforts. The tabling of the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) means there won’t be reduction in the 3.8 percent capital gains tax surcharge on wealthy individuals — yet. That tax, which helped fund Obamacare, was on the chopping block in the Republican bill and would have provided a retroactive tax cut to stock market investors.
And, because the AHCA didn’t make it through Congress in Trump first 100 days, his plans for comprehensive tax reform (and tax rate reductions) could be pushed off until 2018, or later, according to veteran political observers.
In the wake of Trump’s election, financial markets soared on a desire to believe that the President-elect’s aggressively pro-business policies would prompt string growth. Some of that enthusiasm has cooled.
But I still think Trump will make significant progress on his cornerstone issues before leaving office. When thinking about his first 100 days, remember that Trump had no government experience prior to his election and early setbacks are common for new presidents. Remember, too, that under-estimating Donald Trump is almost always a mistake.