OPINION: Looking Back On Trump’s Rough 2018


Andrew Wilford Contributor
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Almost a year ago, conservatives were cautiously optimistic going into the new year. President Trump had governed like a free-market president, signing into law major tax reform legislation, cutting back on burdensome regulations and pursuing market reforms to the Affordable Care Act.

By the time the president gave the State of the Union address this past January, however, conservatives had reason to be concerned.

In his 2018 State of the Union address, Trump foreshadowed a year focused on fights with our trade partners. Despite avoiding imposing a single major tariff in 2017, the president signaled in his speech that that would not carry into the new year. Promising new American jobs and protection of domestic industry, the president sounded the cry for a trade war.

Unfortunately for American workers and consumers, the president stuck by his promise.

Tariffs on washing machines, solar products, steel, aluminum and specific Chinese imports combined for a tax of over $40 billion on American citizens. This number alone exceeds the tax burden from the Affordable Care Act.

Should $91 billion more in possible additional tariffs on Chinese goods and automobile imports take effect, the total trade tax burden would combine to erase more than 70 percent of the benefit of the 2019 personal income tax cuts set to take effect under the new tax law.

That’s not counting the burden on American businesses, including the farmers and ranchers who have lost export opportunities due to retaliatory tariffs, and the secondary negative effects caused by an artificially restricted market, like higher prices for domestically produced steel and aluminum.

At the same time, the only major legislation to make its way through Congress this year has been a massively flawed farm bill, jam-packed with subsidies and bailouts to make up for the trade war’s effect on farmers. The result was an even more bloated farm bill than usual, a further step backward on a piece of legislation that has stood out as one of the worst offenders in terms of corporate welfare for decades.

That’s not to say it’s been all bad from the Oval Office this year. Though the president signed a $1.66 trillion spending bill (which is going to have a greater impact on the deficit than the tax reform law), he later asked Congress to rescind a relatively modest $15 billion of that spending.

Even though the “spending” the president was asking to have rescinded mostly consisted of budget gimmicks, cleaning out those gimmicks would have prevented Congress from using them as offsets for future spending and represented rare concern about rampant overspending in Washington. Congress refused nonetheless.

Trump also asked Cabinet members to cut their departmental budgets by 5 percent, a good standard in thriftiness that has long been missing from federal bureaucracy. June also saw the official repeal of former President Obama’s Title II harmful “net neutrality” regulations in June, avoiding the death and destruction promised by opponents.

Even so, conservatives should expect more. The president should be focusing on opening up trade opportunities for Americans, not shutting them and using taxpayer dollars to ameliorate the pain it causes working families. Conservatives can only hope Trump’s next State of the Union signals a brighter 2019.

Andrew Wilford (@PolicyWilford) is a policy analyst with the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fiscal policy analysis and education at all levels of government.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.