After what has often been presented as a rocky beginning to the Trump administration, there now seems to be a dawning understanding, even in the mainstream media, that a major transformation is underway. There is, of course, the obvious rise in the stock market and the fall in unemployment, but equally important is the emergence of a view of government and the nature of the American people that is in stark contrast to that the Obama years.
Those years saw not only an extraordinary burgeoning of the national debt ($20 trillion – far more than the accumulated debt in all previous administrations), but a relentless centralization of American life, with a secular state dictating to Americans almost every aspect of existence, from healthcare to bathrooms. Two speeches given by President Trump last week are clear evidence that things have changed.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Oct. 11, the president addressed the American Trucking Associations, and, referring to the reversal of Obama-era centralization he declared, "since January of this year, we have slashed job-killing red tape all across our economy. We have stopped or eliminated more regulations in the last eight months than any president has done during an entire term."
The media has focused on the failure, so far, of the Republicans in Congress to pass legislative reform. What we’ve forgotten is that the president, as the executive in charge of the federal bureaucracy, wields enormous power for change, and possibly even the power to reduce the federal leviathan itself.
Still, the president assured his Pennsylvanian audience (people from a state that he wasn’t expected to carry, and whose support helped in his surprising victory) that the administration has not given up on its plans for major legislation, specifically a four-point strategy for tax reform, including 1. Substantial tax cuts for the lowest income brackets, 2.
Simplifying the tax laws by eliminating arcane and special-interest breaks and ending the death tax (to save many family businesses), 3. Reducing the corporate tax rate from the worst competitive rate among industrialized nations to one of the lowest, and 4. Eliminating much of the counter-productive tax on repatriation of foreign earnings.
The president pointed out that these four approaches would give "the typical American household a $4,000 pay raise," and that "You haven’t heard this." He is, of course, correct.
Trump's tax plan has been wrongly and inaccurately condemned as a giveaway to wealthy Americans when, in fact, it is ambitiously crafted as a stimulus favoring the middle-class and American small businesses.
Even more striking than the president’s economic plans, which reverse the thrust of the redistributionist efforts of the Obama years, is his shifting of the nation’s moral compass back toward what, in his speech at the 2017 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 13 he actually referred to as "timeless values."
In language that will be familiar to readers of this blog, and in a clear indication that Mr. Trump takes seriously what has here been called "restoring our republic," he reminded his audience that "we stand united behind the customs, beliefs, and traditions that define who we are as a nation and as a people." He quoted George Washington’s farewell address of 1796, during which Washington said, "religion and morality are indispensable supports" to our nation’s happiness, prosperity, and success; also declaring, "it is our faith and our values that inspires us to give with charity, to act with courage, and to sacrifice for what we know is right."
President Trump affirmed that "We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values" and that "we’re saying 'Merry Christmas' again," disdaining what’s "politically correct," and reminding all of the continuing power of the presidency in the still ongoing culture wars.
Summing up his approach, Mr. Trump explained that "for too long, politicians have tried to centralize the authority among the hands of a small few in our nation’s capital. Bureaucrats think they can run your lives, overrule your values, meddle in your faith, and tell you how to live, what to say, and how to pray. But we know that parents, not bureaucrats, know best how to raise their children and create a thriving society."
Sharpening language he has used before, the president, in the course of acknowledging that Americans want to pass on "the blessings of liberty, and the glories of God to our children," concluded that "above all else, we know this: in America, we don’t worship government — we worship God. Inspired by that conviction, we are returning moral clarity to our view of the world and the many grave challenges we face."
This president, whose critics find him so alien and so difficult to understand, in striking and simple language, is calling his fellow Americans back to the faith of our Founders.
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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