President-elect Donald Trump has released his plans for the first 100 days in office—a metric started by Franklin D. Roosevelt after his 1932 election that has become a staple of American presidential politics. Looking at it from a conservative perspective, it is a mixed-bag ranging from great to really bad. This is a breakdown of the important parts to the plan based on how effective his policies will be.
Lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of energy reserves and allow vital energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone Pipeline: This is Trump’s best economic idea because cheap energy will lower the cost of goods and could bring substantial economic growth (even the left-leaning Brookings Institution notes this). It will also help America’s geostrategic position in global politics.
Replacement for Justice Scalia: Defending the Constitution is categorically important and nominating a conservative jurist along the lines of Scalia will do just that.
School Choice And Education Opportunity Act: Education is a difficult issue, but school choice will only improve America’s failing public schools.
Hiring freeze on all federal employees: Strong first step in reducing the size of the Federal government.
Requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated: Regulations inhibit economic growth when they become too onerous for businesses, and this will force regulatory agencies to be more judicious in their decisions on what to regulate.
American Energy & Infrastructure Act: Supposedly revenue neutral, this would bring $1 trillion of infrastructure spending over ten years in a public-private partnership. Even if not revenue neutral, America’s crumbling infrastructure needs to be rebuilt as soon as possible.
Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act: Trump has released his own laconic healthcare plan. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has been disastrous since the beginning and continues to be so (see here, here, and here). Trump’s plan conforms to what conservatives have been saying for a while on what would improve the American health care system by allowing for greater competition and reducing time to approve new drugs and treatments.
Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act: Conservatives should support government policies that protect families, and one important issue facing American families today is affordable childcare. This would be a welcome step in that direction.
Restoring National Security Act: Sequestration harmed American national security by limiting the military’s ability to do their job effectively without sound funding. Even Obama’s Secretaries of Defense (Gates, Panetta, Hagel, and Carter) warned against such cuts. Trump’s proposed legislation would bring much needed funding back to the Pentagon.
Cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure: The U.N. is a bloated and impotent international organization that often uses its microphone to criticize the U.S. rather than go after totalitarian regimes. We should only spend money on the U.N. when it serves the original function of the organization by encouraging dialogue between countries and seeking collective security from revisionist states.
Begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country: Although we all want to see criminals removed our society, deporting illegal immigrants that were criminals actually contributed to the migrant crisis in 2014 by creating violent environments in Latin American countries. If Trump is to do this, he must do it judiciously.
Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act: Simplification of the tax code and significant tax cuts are good for the economy, which is why conservatives have been strong advocates of tax relief for Americans, and Trump’s plan calls for this. However, there is a problem when tax cuts are not met with cuts in public expenditure as well. Either there will have to be Brobdingnagian cuts in important government programs later than will be deleterious to the middle and working classes, or the government will have to run a deficit that will lead to higher interest rates, which will harm American consumers and businesses by having higher interest rates on credit cards, home mortgages, and business loans.
Although Trump campaigned on a protectionist agenda and this helped him win, even in the Rust Belt, conservatives know the importance of free markets. This means we have to criticize his agenda when it goes against sound economic policy.
Withdrawing from NAFTA and Trans-Pacific Partnership: Free trade benefits everyone. Protectionism leads to fewer choices, higher priced goods, and a lower quality of life. Instead of pulling out of trade agreements, Trump’s administration should focus on creating a comparative advantage that will encourage production here.
End Illegal Immigration Act: There are real costs to illegal immigration, particularly when it comes to a downward pressure on wages. However, building the wall will have many, many difficulties. These include the cost of material, construction, and upkeep, treaty obligations, ecological issues, and making Mexico pay for it. Some policy alternatives are actually far cheaper and more efficient to reduce illegal immigration, like targeting businesses that hire illegal immigrants through more significant fines.
Labeling China a currency manipulator: This would most certainly lead to a reaction from China that would harm our economic interests. China could make it very difficult to continue to access their market and for business to operate there, could put up tariffs of their own, could allow the renminbi to weaken further, and could sell U.S. bonds that would lead to volatility in financial markets. Nobody should want economic conflict, and this would only antagonize them.