4 Years to Remember – Achievements of a Contentious President

As promised in my previous post, I have written about successes of the Trump administration. In full account and details, 3 that I appreciated the most and 1 that I disliked. There are certainly more impacts of Trump’s four years that can potentially be discussed. For now, I will stick to four main points: economy, foreign policy, federal judiciary and justice system. Widely acclaimed by different groups, these achievements of his administration are worth examining.

A Roaring Economy

Before the virus affected every single economy in the world, the United States was experiencing a rapidly growing economy in a period not following a recession, breaking the trend of the Obama administration. This has been a landmark of Trump’s agenda and a bragging right. Even the mainstream media could not avoid it. Sure, they’ll still add salt and pepper to the cake to make as if it was just a continuation of the trend and avoid giving Trump too much credit. Here are a couple of headlines from left-wing media outlets: Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN Business, NBC News and NPR.

The unemployment reached a historic low (before the pandemic) of 3.5%, although the Federal Reserve claimed in 2016 that the US had reached a level of full employment. Unemployment rates for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and those without a high school diploma all reached record lows. Unemployment for women hit its lowest rate in nearly 70 years.

“The economy under Trump was the best for the working class in two decades. And kicking him out means we go back to mass low-skilled immigration, back to wage stagnation.”

Ross Douthat, The New York Times

I know; this is just the talking point of the Trump campaign. But it remains factually true. Here are other economic achievements:

  • The US became the leading producer of crude oil in 2018, being a net exporter. (while carbon emissions decreased)
  • The average credit score increased to an all-time-high of 706 in 2019.
  • Second quarter of 2018 hit an annualized growth of 4.2%.
  • The Dow 30 Industrials has risen over 10,000 points or just below 60% since Trump was elected.  (It closed above 20,000 for the first time in 2017 and topped 30,000 in 2020.)
  • Stock markets have recorded 466 record closings from Trump’s inauguration to April 2019.
  • Households’ net worth rose $7.4 trillion in Q2 2020 to $112 trillion, an all-time high.
  • Created more than 1.2 million manufacturing and construction jobs.
  • 7 million people were lifted off food stamp.
  • Consumer confidence reached 18-year high
  • Poverty level plummeted to a 60-year low
  • Lifted 1.2 million African Americans out of poverty

So, what were some of the policies adopted?

First and foremost, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that went into effect on the 1st of January 2018. This was one of the only notable pieces of legislation that he was able to advance with Congress that was significant. The traditional policy of the Republican Party. The new law increased standard deductions, lowered tax rates (income and corporate), doubled the child tax credit while more taxpayers would benefit, added college savings plans and doubled the estate-tax exemption among many other benefits.

Secondly, deregulation. The removal of red tape is hated by Democrats but encouraged and backed by the vast majority of Americans; 66% according to polls. For those who do not understand economics, when there are less useless rules, the market is less constrained and the cost to expand business activity decreases. Thus, it can trickle down to more investments, job openings, higher living standards, income and Gross Domestic Product.

Thirdly, better on Trade. Trump surely got lots of attention with his tariffs and Trade deals. He took a completely different approach on trade from his predecessors. What we would call a business-like approach and less king-like. The most notable was the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA), a new free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that replaced the devastating 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In other words, Donald Trump reduced the size of government.

“That government is best which governs the least.”

Henry David Thoreau

Foreign policy and accountability

Trump had a great deal of success on the international stage. From broking trade deals with other nations to appeasing tensions. The most crucial was holding the CCP accountable.

The CCP has one of the worst records on human rights and religious freedom. Don’t get me wrong, the Chinese Communist Party is dangerous, not the citizens. The mainstream media always portrays Trump against the Chinese people but it’s really against a dictatorship that endangers its own people and the rest of the world in exchange of world dominance on the global market. Do not look farther than the persecution of minorities: namely Muslim Uighurs, Buddhist Tibetans, Christians, and Mongolians.

In simple words, Donald Trump has put America First when it comes to his decision-making. Every nation leaders should put their country first on the international stage. The US was being taken advantage of by the CCP. The same is for most other countries on the face of this earth. Moreover, big corporations loved it. They get cheap labor and in exchange, have higher levels of profit.

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He imposed a great deal of tariffs and put pressure to achieve the Phase One trade deal with China. The same tactic he used with his North American neighbor. Undoubtedly, if he had a second term, there would be a Phase Two and maybe Three. Still, there has been short term negative consequences on certain economic sectors in the US. For instance, the agriculture sector. But surprisingly, farmers still supported him in the election, albeit they have been hurt and caught in the middle of the trade war.

“He does really seem to be fighting for us, even if it feels like the two sides are throwing punches and we’re in the middle, taking most of the hits.”

Tim Bardole, Iowa farmer

What was unprecedented from former administrations was the accountability. Especially on technology such as the 5G and intellectual property (IP) that have been constantly stolen for a long time now. The accountability of the CCP regime has not yet reached its full extent but it is the best start for the national security of the United States and other countries affected the same way.

I heard so many say that it was imminent the orange man would be having a nuclear war with North Korea. Well, this didn’t age well. Needless to add, President Trump made history when he went to North Korea through the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas and met Kim Jong Un in person.

In foreign policy and national security terms, the Trump administration passed through mud but achieved so much.

  1. Destroyed the terrorist group ISIS.
  2. Dumped the disastrous Iran Nuclear Deal.
  3. Withdrew US troops from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and stopped these endless wars.
  4. First US president since Jimmy Carter not to initiate or be involved in a new war or foreign conflict.
  5. Relieved tensions in the Middle East and negotiated the “Abraham Accords” between longtime enemies Israel and the United Arab Emirates and joined by Bahrain. This formalized mutual relationship between those countries.
  6. Negotiated Saudi-Israeli friendship.
  7. Achieved energy independence.
  8. Worked with countless countries to combat human trafficking and gang activity as well as promoted religious freedom.
  9. Realigned NATO countries into following their commitments and increase spending on defense.
  10. Many trade agreements and better situations with Asian partners.
  11. A more secured southern border
  12. Reinstated the pro-life Mexico city policy of Ronald Reagan.

And his accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed since Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 4 times.

Reshaped the federal judiciary

This point is indubitably a conservative win for which Trump cannot take all the credit. It would not have been possible without the Republican controlled Senate and the decade-long strategy of former majority leader Mitch McConnell. In all seriousness, I disagree with several of McConnell’s policy standpoints but on the third branch of the US government, his dirty tactics are excellent. I can acknowledge his genius on that. To understand what I am referring to, watch the documentary Supreme Revenge: Battle for the Supreme Court by Frontline PBS.

It has been a cooperation between the upper chamber of the first as well as the second branch to reform and move the third branch of government in the right direction.

To put into context, the president has the power to appoint federal judges who are then confirmed by the senate with a simple majority. Article III judges are the most significant. Why? Because they serve for life and take the most important constitutional cases.

In total, during Trump’s tenure, the Senate has confirmed 234 article III judges, including 3 associate justices of the Supreme Court, 54 appeals court judges, 174 district court judges and 3 judges for the court of international trade. That is, one quarter of all active federal judges. He was able to fill all vacancies from the Supreme Court and Court of appeals. Additionally, he flipped 3 out of the 13 circuit court of appeals where most cases end. The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Manhattan-based 2nd Circuit and the Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit all had Democratic-appointed majorities when Trump became president in 2017. But most importantly, Trump appointed 3 associate justices of the Supreme Court: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Barrett.

Nonetheless, because of the lack of time, there are still vacancies on the district courts and the total of nominations are well below his predecessors. Notably, Obama’s 320 and Bush’s 322 judges.

Why am I so passionate about the nomination of federal judges?

Rebalancing the court is of the utmost importance because most judges practice judicial activism. They write the law from the bench, from an unelected office that governs people’s lives. The US constitution gives the power to write laws to the first branch of the government, the legislative branch. The power to interpret the law is to the judiciary that tends to abuse it.

Inventing clauses that are inexistent or pretend to interpret what is written but really cherry picking the fifth meaning of a word so that it fits the agenda. For example, they found that in Bostock v. Clayton County, the Civil rights Act of 1964 included sexual orientation or in Roe v. wade, they attempted to extrapolate a constitutional right to abortion from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that consequently voided the laws of every state.

You know where I’m going. Those judges have already taken their decisions before examining the evidence and then inventing something so that it seemly fits the result. All agree that the job of the judiciary is to interpret and not create laws. Writing laws should be left to congressmen and congresswomen who have been duly elected by their constituents.

Therefore, judicial activism is wrong because it gives the power to legislate to the courts. Judges should consider adopting judicial restraint and keep the meaning like it was originally intended by those who have written the law, otherwise known as textualist and originalist jurisprudence. Hence, adopting an originalist and textualist judicial philosophy. I have commented on my first blog: Amy Coney Barrett, a role model for justice on her judicial philosophy and how it sticks to the original intent of the law.

The late Antonin Scalia is the best role model for textualist and originalist jurisprudence. His comments on flag burning shows his opinion on the subject should not supersede the words of the constitution, although he vehemently dislikes this act.

“If I were king, I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged.”

Antonin Scalia, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

Here is another quote on what it means to be a good judge.

“If you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.”

Antonin Scalia, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

Criminal Justice Reform

When the democrats are on board on an initiative of the Trump administration, there is always something fishy. Lobbied by Kim Kardashian, his administration was able to work with congress with a huge bipartisan support on criminal justice reform, the First Step Act. It was so bipartisan (for lawmakers of course) that it did not get any public hearing.

In general, the First Step Act was to free non-violent criminals and felons early. However, it turned out to be catastrophic. Tucker Carlson with Tom Cotton explained why this bill then, would be dangerous for public safety if it became a law. Tucker Carlson added, under the terms of the bill that criminals convicted of: “strangling a spouse, providing firearms to prisoners in prison, rioting in a correctional institution, assault with intent to rape and bunch of other…” would be eligible for early release.

“It is an almost mathematical certainty that someone is going to commit a heinous crime if this bill passes.”

Tom Cotton, Senator for Arkansas

Tucker Carlson and Tom Cotton were right to be alarmed. Joel Francisco, nicknamed the “Crown Prince” of the Latin Kings gang stabbed and killed Troy Pine in Rhode Island, days after his release thanks to the First Step Act. Other examples of committed crimes by early release of the First step Act exist.

Surprisingly, on this point, I would join Joe Biden’s position when he was senator for Delaware. The 90’s were infested with crimes for those who remember or learnt their history. The 1994 crime law that was passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton contributed to mass incarceration. Senator Biden was the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. As a result, he has his fingerprint all over the law.

Later on, he took credit for it:

“As a matter of fact, I drafted the bill, if you remember.”

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.

Following this law, the crime rate dramatically dropped year by year. However, he distanced himself from this law in his presidential run and called it a “mistake.” Because violent crime was rampant, there were no other solution than to put in jail those disrupting public safety. This bill fits what was needed for the social situation of those times

Footnote: As controversial as a president could get, Trump’s four years were full of highs and lows. Everyone have their reasons to side in assorted policy views. Since his inauguration in January of 2017, I have supported the president unequivocally, although it meant other people’s disapproval at various intensities when supporting Trump was and still remains socially unacceptable. Still, I did not approve of everything he carried out and the explanation above proves this. Further, my support for his presidency does not define me, the same is for my opposition to the Biden/Harris administration. I disagree with Biden on so many of his policies but, as a good Christian, pray for the new president that he may take the best decisions for his country and people.

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