The year of 2017 has been a rollercoaster ride for America, to say the least. Coming off of one of the most historical presidential elections in our country’s history, there was an overwhelming amount of uncertainty across the nation. Republicans had a party to repair, despite winning the most powerful seat in the free world, and Democrats longed for a way to cope with a “shocking loss” all while looking to rewrite their playbook.
President Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign targeted some of the most intense frustrations of Republicans and conservatives across the country. With the Republican Party struggling to remain united with him at the top of the ticket, his new administration would have to deliver large wins in 2017 to rein-in those who thought their once beloved party had left them—myself included. And although it was a pretty bumpy ride, President Trump found a way to be successful in 2017, even with fierce push-back by the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and even some on his side of the aisle. Nevertheless, a lot of work remains on his to-do list, including some big-ticket items.
✔ Tax Cuts & Jobs Act and Individual Mandate Repeal
Passage of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act is by far President Trump’s largest victory of 2017. Signing this bill into law signifies not only a much needed legislative win, but also checks off a crucial campaign promise.
The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, effective January 1st, 2018, overhauls the US tax code for corporations, businesses, and individuals. The newly written code is designed to lower taxes, simplify filling, and close loopholes. Its main features include: doubling the standard deduction and child tax credit, lowering the top corporate tax rate to 21 percent and top pass-through rate to 29.6 percent, repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, and raising the capital investment “bonus”—or deduction—for businesses until 2023 (small businesses capped at 1 million). According to the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy research organization, the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act will lead to a 1.7 percent increase in GDP over the long term, 1.5 percent higher wages, and an additional 339,000 full-time equivalent jobs, making this rewrite the largest cut Americans will see in their federal taxes since 1986.
✔ Seat Gorsuch & Federal Judges
The confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to succeed the late Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court was viewed by many as a crucial step to save the high court from shifting to a looser constructionist—or left-leaning—stance. The new Justice’s confirmation did not come without repercussions, however, as Republican legislators triggered the so-called “nuclear option” which paved the way to end any filibuster relating to the confirmation with a simple 51 majority vote rather than the previously required 60 votes. This change in precedent opens the door for future administrations to confirm Justices to the Supreme Court with little or no bipartisan support.
But that’s not all. The early confirmation of Judge Gorsuch began a year-long battle with Democrats to seat more federal judiciaries, and by the end of December, the Trump administration confirmed 12 circuit court judges, more than any other administration in US history.
✔ Slash Regulations & Surge Economy
Just days after President Trump’s inauguration, he signed an executive order which required agencies to eliminate two regulations for each new regulation. Mid-December, during a press conference where President Trump literally cut the bureaucratic red tape, he said “We aimed for two for one, and, in 2017, we hit twenty-two for one,” a major step forward for the country’s arbitrary and outdated executive regulations. Major cuts in 2017 included an infrastructure regulation overhaul which could allow for a completed infrastructure plan as early as mid-2018, constituting historically fast stimulus planning.
Not only did Trump meet and exceed his regulatory cuts goal, but he also followed through with a booming surge of economic growth in 2017, regardless of the very few levers the US President has to pull when it comes to affecting the economy in the short run. In 2017, the Dow soared 28.5%, the S&P 500 hit 60 record highs, and the NASDAQ Composite marked 72 of its own. Unemployment saw similar successes, only it didn’t grow, it shrunk in 2017, dropping to 4.3 percent, the lowest it has been since 2001.
✔ Repeal of Obama-era Net Neutrality Rules
On December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commision repealed so-called Net “Neutrality” rules which were put in place by the Obama Administration in 2015. Many Republican lawmakers supported the repeal citing that the internet “should not operate at the speed of government.” The Trump Administration’s pick to head the FCC, Ajit Pai, a fierce advocate of the removal of the rules, touted the new “light-touch regulatory approach” to the internet, saying it will preserve a “free and open” system.
This repeal is a clear victory for President Trump that shows he is committed to removing the touch of the federal government from the everyday lives of Americans, a top campaign promise. Without the Obama-era internet rules, internet service provider’s will be free to grow and innovate again, leaving rules in place to punish companies which harm consumers.
✔ Eradication of ISIS
While on the campaign trail, President Trump promised to renew a fierce fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, therefore bringing the regime to its knees and liberating the land which the group self-declared as their own. In January of 2017, ISIS controlled 23,300 square miles. As of October 2017, it holds onto about 9,300 square miles.
Many attribute this success to a dramatic shift in military strategy from that of President Trump’s predecessor. Early in Trump’s first term, he vastly expanded military leaders to take actions of their own to destroy ISIS, of which was rarely allowed under Obama’s micro-management strategy. This shift resulted in large advances towards eradication, including freeing two ISIS-declared capitals, Mosul and Raqqa, and the return of them to local officials.
2018 To-Do List
Without question, President Trump has suffered large losses in 2017 as well, chief among them the repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act. However, a little more than three years remain in his current term, and 2018 has already begun with record-breaking stock market highs and large victories with corporations under the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, of which many have already announced special bonuses and pay hikes, including Wells Fargo, the Boeing Company, and Comcast.
In 2018, President Trump, Speaker Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader McConnell, along with the rest of Republican leadership, must prioritize the following items on their to-do list:
▢ Welfare Reform: Pull people out of the system and focus on promoting hard-work and higher education.
▢ Budget Reform: Use welfare reform successes as the stepping stone that frees up the federal budget to finally balance it, once and for all.
▢ “Build the Wall!” & End Chain Migration: Move out of the prototype stage of building the border wall and get to work constructing it, reframing chain migration into a merit-based system in the process.
▢ Infrastructure Overhaul: Take advantage of the tide of economic growth and create an infrastructure plan that is cost effective and needs-based.
▢ Repeal and Replace ACA & Stabilize Healthcare Market: Repeal ACA and replace it with a plan that returns healthcare control to the consumer and the market with the goal of combating rising healthcare costs as well.
My estimate for success in 2018 is simple: do or die. President Trump will have to conquer large steps in almost every area listed above if he wants his party to maintain seats in the upcoming November election. His 2017 checklist is impressive, but it’s not enough standing alone. Bottom line: even after a year of many successes, Republicans and conservatives across the nation need to see more achievements from a party with majorities in both Congress and the White House.