BUSINESS + POLITICS
The Trump legacy
5th February 2021
The Trump administration was arguably the most controversial presidential authority in modern US history. Adored by some and despised by others, the past four years have been nothing short of atypical. Donald Trump has gone from being one of the most admired and respected businessmen and celebrity figures, to possibly the most contentious man in America. So, what will his term be remembered for, what is Trump’s legacy? Frankly, it depends on who you ask. For many conservatives, he is remembered as the man who altered US politics, who made campaign promises and then followed-through on them, who promised to put America first. For many liberals, he is the epitome of white supremacy, a modern-day Nazi. He will always be disputed, long after he is dead, but there were some significant moments during his presidency that are worth looking back on. Love him or hate him here are some of the most noteworthy policies of his career.
Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, and went about enacting his campaign promises. Just seven days later, he signed Executive Order 13769, ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ i.e., the ‘Muslim Ban.’ The order suspended the admission of citizens from seven countries for a period of ninety days, suspended the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely and prioritised refugee claims by those from minority religions on the grounds of religious persecution, among others. While the order was blocked by various courts including the District Court of Hawaii, it remained in effect until March 6, 2017, when it was superseded by Executive Order 13780. The new order solidified the previous while also limiting travel to the US from several other countries and banning entry to all refugees who did not possess valid travel documents or a visa. These orders and all related proclamations were revoked on January 20, 2021, by current President Joe Biden.
“While the majority of children have been reunited with their families, there remains a small minority for whom no guardian can be found.”
Perhaps one of his most criticised endeavours was the border wall between the United States and Mexico. Throughout his campaign, Trump promised that he would “build the wall and make Mexico pay for it”. This was condemned by several, many of whom had previously been very vocal in their support for securing the border, and many of whom had already begun working on the issue. In 2006, President Bush signed the ‘Secure Fence Act’, which called for the erection of 700 miles of barriers along the border. By the end of his term, only 526 miles had been constructed. The baton was then taken up by the Obama-Biden Administration, who in turn built and additional 128 miles, and replaced some of the already existing wall. Approximately 75 miles of Obama’s wall cut through the ‘Tohono O’odham nation’ lands, where several bodies of tribespeople, some dating back to the 12th century were removed from a native burial site. By then end of his presidency, Trump had seen the construction of 452 miles, many of which also ran through native lands and protected ecosystems. In general, President Biden has been rather quiet regarding the wall. During an NPR interview, he stated that “not another foot” would be constructed while he was in office, and has since signed an executive order to halt construction. However, he has not addressed the question of the maintenance or removal of the wall, perhaps only time will tell.
The construction of the wall was one of many policies aimed at reducing the numbers of illegal immigrants entering the US via the Mexico border. In 2018, there was an international outcry when news broke of the families that were being separated at the border. By 2018, some 2,500 children had been separated from their families by border control. This began under the Obama administration construction of detention centres. However, it was not standard practice under the former president, to break-up families, this was reserved for special circumstances, such as parents with severe criminal records or suspected child trafficking cases, or any such incident when the welfare of the child came into question. The practice was expanded by Trump, who was renowned for arresting any adults caught crossing the border illegally. In these circumstances, almost all children were transported to detention centres, as they are unable to accompany their guardian to federal prison. For almost two months, the Trump administration defended the policy, which drew criticism from several world leaders, former First Ladies and the Pope. Trump later conceded that family separation is wrong and began taking steps towards family reunification. Although, due to the lack of synchronisation between government bodies, the process became a logistical nightmare. In some instances, for example, ‘Health and Human Services’ which cared for the minors had not been informed by ‘Homeland Security’, who detained the adults, that many of the parents had already been deported back to Central America, and no contact information could be ascertained. While the majority of children have been reunited with their families, there remains a small minority for whom no guardian can be found. The situation as a whole has forever altered the debate on immigration policies, and the conversation on their impact on children.
March for Trump by Ted Eytan on Flickr
For many republicans, and indeed many democrats, there are numerous achievements which attribute to the Trump administration, including the assassination of Bakr al-Baghdadi in a Syrian military raid, the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and reaffirmation of the Panmunjom Declaration, in which Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un agreed to speed up the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. While fighting between North and South Korea lasted three years (1950-1953) and a peace deal was negotiated, it was never signed as both nations refused to recognised the legitimacy of the other. As part of the Panmunjom agreement, Donald Trump agreed to a peace treaty which officially brought an end to the Korean War. Prior to the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic, the United States had the lowest unemployment recorded in the previous 50 years, both for the population as a whole and for all minorities. In September 2019, only 3.5% of the 328.2 million residents were out of work. The Trump administration and its supporters credited this astonishingly low statistic to the deregulation policies put in place by the President which allowed businesses to flourish. These included a ‘one in two out policy’, where for every new regulation that was passed two ineffective policies must be scrapped. On the other hand, the opposition believes that Trump was simply riding the wave set in motion by Obama during his prior terms. While this could be true in some sense, there have been a number of positive changes issued by the former administration. In California, small businesses that form had to meet filing and registration fees of a minimum $1,930 before the open their doors, before they begin to pay taxes or even start to factor in other expenses such as manufacturing costs. This means that either people must wait to open their business until they can afford to cover all these costs and more upfront, or they must acquire debt and pass the expenses along to their customers in order to break even. $800 of the above fee is an LLC (Limited Liability Company) fee, i.e., once a business is registered as an LLC, they must pay this amount annually, on top of taxes and charges simply for being a registered business. While this is not a significant sum for already established and successful companies, this kind of regulation can and was crushing start-ups. Forbes estimated that if all the hidden taxes imposed on businesses were imposed on households, families would be forced to pay $14,455 per year, simply for existing. That is just short of one-fifth of the average pre-tax income. Under the ‘Fall 2020 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions’, a number of agendas included providing relief for small business and the declaration of hidden fees were established.
It seems that regardless of the positive changes made by a president, their opposition will always look for the flaws and faults and choose to highlight those, just as supporters will refuse to acknowledge the negative impacts of their candidate. Here lies the problem with identity politics. If we define ourselves by the party we vote for, we allow ourselves to be drawn into the enemy bashing scene, that can at times define politics, then as a society, we arrive at a point where it is impossible to discuss anything important without devolving into all-out warfare. This is no way to run a civilised democracy. We need to be able to look to those we dislike and acknowledge that even if we disagree with them politically or philosophically, we can recognise the good that they have achieved, while looking and those we admire and understanding that just because we like them does not mean that they are without flaws and failings. If we ever hope to solve important issues, we must learn to stop being so inconsiderate. One’s actions define them, not one’s political ideologies. In his farewell address to the American people, Donald Trump said: “the key to national greatness lies in sustaining and instilling our shared national identity. That means focusing on what we have in common, the heritage that we all share”. The former president also stated that “shutting down free and open debate violates our core values and most enduring traditions in America.” This is not just characteristic of America; it is what defines our world, and has done for generations. We have chosen for centuries to allow the free exchange of ideas and beliefs without criminalization of hatred, this is what has made our civilization successful and makes us who we are, it is what we must strive to protect. After the catastrophe that was last year, perhaps in 2021, we will choose to be more open-minded to those we disagree with, maybe that will be Trump’s legacy.