Under Qualified?

by Peter O’Brien
Senior Fellow 

I have some really smart friends who send me things to read. Last week one sent an article about the President’s plans for modernizing the nation’s transportation infrastructure – roads, bridges, rail, seaports, airports, etc. The cost will be roughly $1 trillion over 10 years. Only $200 billion will come from the federal government, just $20 billion per year, the rest from the various states.

It seems like a good idea.

At the same time I read an article by one highly respected newspaper that referred to members of the Trump administration as “under-qualified.”

A year ago, as Trump formed his administration, we were warned that: the markets would drop precipitously; currency would flee the country; the nation would explode in race wars; Trump would simultaneously give the nation over to big business and set himself up as virtual dictator (I’m reminded of the standup comic who discussed “jumbo shrimp”); Trump had sold out to the Russians; Trump would declare war on immigrants leading to a drain of workers and further economic crisis. Etc., etc., etc.

One year later, unemployment is at 4.1% (lowest in 17 years), black unemployment sits at 7.3% (also lowest in 17 years), the market finished the year just short of 25,000, and the economy is experiencing real growth above 3%.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump, labeled an “agent” of spymaster Putin, has announced he’ll sell sniper rifles and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, as the insurgency in Eastern Ukraine heads into its 5th year. And to top if off, Russia (and China) were fingered by Trump as competitors in his national security strategy. So much for Putin’s influence.

So, back to the roads and rails.

$20 billion per year, in an annual federal budget of almost $4 trillion isn’t exactly a crazy amount of cash – less than 1%. For nearly two decades there’ve been repeated harangues to repair our roads and bridges. It’s what all Congressmen routinely ask for: spending in their districts, on projects that will include local hiring. This should be a “gimmee.”

Except Trump is asking for it; so expect opposition.

Which led to a little reflection on some of the things Trump accomplished:

– Pushed Congress to pass tax reform: the most far-reaching in decades, business taxes down, more than 80% of us get a tax reduction. If this results in the economy sustaining 3% growth, the result will be increased total tax revenue and a reduction of debt

– Generated a focused national security strategy in less than 11 months

– Began the unraveling of a host of complex and economically stifling regulations

– Began the effort to refocus and recapitalize the armed forces

– Gave the economy real hope and it responded with robust real growth and the lowest unemployment in more than a decade

What’s most interesting is that he’s done this by doing the simple, obvious things, with “unqualified” help.

For decades we’ve heard politicians, think tanks, and former political staffers – folks the newspapers would call “qualified” – tell us that doing any of these things will be “very difficult” and slow and, most importantly, so complicated it really can’t be explained to the American people. Instead, the voters need to leave it “in the hands of experts” who really “understand” this kind of thing. Like the experts at the Federal Reserve who in 104 years have given us a recession on average every 5 years, as well as the great depression, our greatest recession, and have overseen the loss of 90% of the value of the dollar.

Experts. Highly Qualified.

The truth is sometimes unpleasant, especially when careers are spent crafting an alternate version of reality. Mr. Trump, “under-qualified” as he is, apparently is unaware of that other reality. Meanwhile, what he’s doing is working; the economy is improving and he appears determined to defend the nation. Maybe, it’s really not hard to see what must be done?

It’s understandable that some people object to things getting better because it comes from someone they hate, and his success appears to undermine their entire careers.

Nevertheless, the economy is improving, and the nation appears to be moving towards greater prosperity, greater security and a less intrusive government. Let’s hope 2018 brings more real growth. And maybe, instead of trying to sabotage Trump out of spite, some folks will accept that it’s okay for things to get better.