By the president’s accounting, his accomplishments are legion. He boasts about his tax cuts — the “biggest in history.” He preens about his judges — “a historic transformation of the judiciary” — chosen to cater to the anti-choice passions of evangelical Christians. He brags about slashing regulations. He says his wall is being built. He promises once more to trash Obamacare and provide a much better alternative. He claims to still be avoiding endless wars. He champions his trade deals and his tariffs. And, of course, he takes — and gets — credit for the growing economy with low top-line unemployment.
The truth is different. Deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide — deaths of despair — hit a new high in 2017. His assaults on Obamacare have left 2 million more Americans without health coverage, while he’s never come close to presenting a comprehensive alternative that would, in fact, meet his promise to provide “insurance for everybody.”
On the economy, the number of “good jobs” in manufacturing has gone from boom to bust. Inequality reached new extremes, as Trump’s appointed swamp of lobbyists, CEOs and operatives worm their way into the federal bureaucracy and create more corruption, rigged rules and rip-offs. His tax cut didn’t produce the “$4,000” pay boost he promised; rather it lined the pockets of the rich and the corporations. Chief executives used the corporate breaks mostly to buy back stock in an effort to please stockholders and boost the value of their stock options. And while his “wall” is arousing anger among homeowners whose properties are being requisitioned, he failed even to propose the rebuilding of America’s decrepit infrastructure that he promised.
His trade tariffs and deals certainly challenged the lousy deals of the past, but the result to date contributed to what the Federal Reserve calls a “technical recession” in the manufacturing sector and increasing economic strain on small farmers. No wonder bankruptcies and suicides are rising among small farmers. And while the White House trumpeted aid to farmers, the Environmental Working Group reports that the top 10 percent of farms — “the largest and most profitable, industrial scale farms in the country” — received 50 percent of the money. The bottom 80 percent received an average of $5,136.
Overseas, as Tehran’s restraint saves the president from stumbling into a war with Iran, he’s dispatching 3,500 more troops to the Middle East — on top of the thousands he already sent as the war in Afghanistan continues. U.S. soldiers remain at risk in senseless deployments from Syria to Iraq, with the latter country’s parliament voting to ask our troops to leave. Even Fox News loyalists such as Tucker Carlson are chafing at Trump’s betrayal of his promises.
Polls show Trump’s approval ratings are recovering from the impeachment inquiry. Trump’s Republican support is solid even as other Americans are repulsed by his crimes and outrages — from using public office for personal gain, to locking up kids in cages on the border, to cynically exacerbating America’s racial tensions, to the denial of the greatest threat to our security: catastrophic climate change.
For Trump’s “people” — the working-class voters who backed a bumptious billionaire who they hoped would shake up things as their champion — the betrayal is clear and specific. Many of these Americans voted for Trump in 2016 despite thinking he was unfit for office. They knew he was a scoundrel, but they hoped he would be their scoundrel. As he nears the end of his first term, it is increasingly clear that they voted for a con man without realizing they were the mark.