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The 2020 presidential election is entering the home stretch now.
“Unlike so many who came before me, I keep my promises,” President Donald Trump said back at the start of the year.
Has that really been the case? Let’s take a look back at 2016.
A couple of complete failures jump to mind, but Trump also has had some successes.
• One idea I liked was raising the standard deduction on income tax forms so fewer people would need to bother with itemizing their tax returns.
People spend a fortune every year paying someone else to do their taxes because it can be so complicated. If the standard deduction is higher, then saving all those receipts and printouts are unnecessary for many.
Trump did get tax reform pushed through in 2017, and filing my taxes online has been easy.
Now, folks can argue back and forth all they want about the benefits of giving big corporations such huge tax breaks — but that isn’t what this column is about. Trump ran on a campaign to cut taxes, and people voted for him in part because of that. And he delivered, whether you like it or not.
• Where we can catch Trump in coming up short is where he vowed that the huge tax cuts would pay for themselves. He said the federal deficit wouldn’t increase because corporations would reinvest in their businesses or that money would go back into the U.S. economy.
One published report said that 80% of corporate spending went to things like stock buy-backs and dividends — not reinvesting in employees or equipment. And the boost to the economy hasn’t offset the huge loss in tax revenue.
• Foreign trade. This is an area where I praised Trump in a previous column. I mentioned how China’s government supports some businesses in ways that gives them an unfair advantage over other companies.
Trump outright said the Chinese government was manipulating the value of the Chinese yuan to create unfair dollar-to-yuan conversions.
Trump kept one promise by his third day of office when he pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Then he negotiated a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that he felt was better than NAFTA, created under President Bill Clinton.
And he imposed tariffs on all kinds of Chinese products coming into the U.S.
• However, he also promised that under his business acumen, the federal trade deficit would drop “like you’ve never seen before.”
According to a published report, the trade deficit has actually gotten worse by 25% in the past three and a half years.
Other factors could have played a part in that. I don’t claim to be an expert on trade.
• How about one of the biggest ones?
“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border — and I will have Mexico pay for that wall,” Trump vowed. “Mark my words.”
He said that while announcing he was running for office, and he repeated that many times over.
First, Mexico has steadfastly refused to pay for any wall, and Trump has found no way to force the country into it.
Second, his aides have pointed out that 100 miles of fencing have been erected during his presidency; but only three miles of that is new construction, while the rest went to rebuilding the old wall already in place.
That is all that has happened despite the government coming to a shutdown in 2018 over the issue, and then an emergency declaration letting Trump use military funding to help pay for the wall.
• What about his pledge that all 11 million undocumented immigrants “have to go” from the U.S.?
Right before election day he toned that down to saying just the 2 million or so people with criminal records.
According to a BBC report, deportations last year totaled 267,000, which was far less than the 410,000 in 2012 under Obama. (Perhaps you could say Obama was pandering to the conservatives in his reelection year.)
• Trump told crowds he would lock up dirty Hillary for her crimes, such as using a private email server while secretary of state.
Right after winning the election, Trump backed off from that, saying the country owed her “a debt of gratitude.”
Later that month his spokeswoman said Trump would not pursue further investigation to let the nation heal.
• Where he did follow through on his words was appointing a massive number of conservative judges to various courts.
Not only did he get Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, but he has appointed almost 200 others to lower federal courts.
• Trump promised to bomb the (bleep) out of the Islamic State. He has authorized that with the U.S. military.
He has taken credit for dropping the biggest non-nuclear bomb in history on an IS-complex in Afghanistan. And he authorized actions to attempt to drive IS out of Syria and Iraq.
• He promised to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In 2017 he said he formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful capital and approved the move. The embassy did move in May 2018, with a permanent home soon to begin construction.
• Trump said the U.S. allies weren’t doing enough to carry their own weight and NATO was obsolete. He was going to pull the U.S. out of NATO.
After meeting with a NATO official in April 2018, Trump came away singing a different story.
“I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”
• Trump, who never served in the military and called Sen. John McCain a loser for being captured as a POW, said that torture works so he would bring back waterboarding and other measures.
Former CIA director Mike Pompeo, who is now the secretary of state, said he would absolutely not be bringing those techniques back.
• My personal favorite was Trump criticizing Obama for playing golf while in office. He said in August 2016, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”
Then in the first 100 days in office, Trump spent more time on the greens than any president in history.
A website called trumpgolfcount.com tracks all of the president’s golf outings and has logged 276 daytime visits to golf clubs with 136 rounds of golf played.
He has taken 30 flights to Mar-a-Lago and 27 flights to Bedminster (two Trump resorts), which the Washington Post estimates has cost U.S. taxpayers $82.6 million.
He is on pace to pass Obama’s eight-year total of golf days in just four years — and he spent much of that time at his own resorts, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
There you go, a list of some of the many promises made on the campaign trail. Look it over and see if you are satisfied with what he has accomplished.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.