1.) Donald Trump is going to bring such a wave of poorly vetted crooks and charlatans into power with him that it’s gonna look like the Oklahoma Land Rush invading Washington. They won’t know the rules and they won’t care about the rules. They are there to break the rules. The remarkably scandal-free Obama administration — with not a single major official dismissed for corruption or subject to indictment — is going to be followed by one of the most corrupt administrations in American history.
I say that for a number of reasons. First, Trump is not a man who ever showed respect for the rules and he operates out of a grand sense of entitlement. Let’s just say that his election as president isn’t likely to moderate either trait. Judging from his campaign staff, once in office he will surround himself with people of a similarly opportunistic mindset. Initially, the Republican Congress will attempt to ignore or whitewash the corruption, and you may see a power struggle at the Justice Department if the career professionals attempt to move to address it. It’s not going to be pretty.
2.) For that and other reasons, our system of checks and balances will undergo its most serious test in our nation’s history, and I don’t have complete faith that it will be up to the task. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have pledged in the past to rein in a President Trump if necessary, but I’m extremely dubious they will have the power or will to do so. Ryan in particular is in a dangerous position. One signal of serious disfavor from Trump in the White House and he’ll have Ryan’s political head on a platter before the week is out, and Ryan knows it. He serves as speaker at Trump’s pleasure.
And if Trump chooses to ignore a future court ruling against him, which side would a Republican Congress take?
3.) Trump ran in part on anger against Wall Street elites, yet stock for Goldman Sachs and other big banks are soaring on the expectation of much less regulation, higher profits (and risks) and probably much higher bonuses as well. The financial watchdog agencies created in the wake of the 2008 collapse — for example, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that recently held Wells Fargo to account — are going to be defanged if not dismantled. Pharmaceutical stocks also jumped, again on the expectation that Big Pharma will face no constraints on how they price their monopolistic products. Investors are telling you with the most honest means at their disposal– their own money — that they expect this notion of a Trump administration as populist defender of the little guy will be nonsense.
4.) To the degree that Trump believes anything, he appears to believe in a more robust social-safety net than his fellow Republicans. He also seems to understand instinctively what past Republicans do not, that the people from rural and small-town America who went to his rallies and put him into office are deeply reliant on federal assistance and do not want to see it cut. It’s no accident, for example, that the six Georgia congressional districts with the highest number of people collecting Social Security also happen to be the six most reliably Republican districts in the state.
That sets up the most obvious area of tension between Trump and congressional leaders such as Ryan who have made “entitlement reform” a major goal. It will be particularly fascinating to watch what happens with ObamaCare. Trump, like his party, ran on killing the program, and they are obligated to appear to do so. But killing it is about where the agreement ends. Trump has repeatedly said that government can’t let Americans go without health care, and by killing ObamaCare, they’ll be doing just that to some 20 million Americans who now rely on it. Congressional Republicans, on the other hand, oppose the very idea of federal involvement. It’s going to be delicious watching them “work that out.”
5.) Trump has promised and is likely to deliver huge tax cuts for the wealthy, huge increases in the military budget and huge investments in infrastructure. (Look at what Lockheed Martin and other defense-industry stocks have done since his election). As addressed above, he is also unlikely to accept major reductions in Medicare or Social Security. The math on that only works one way — a massive increase in federal debt, to such a degree that it will re-ignite inflation.
Again, watch Wall Street, where long-term interest rates on government bonds have begun to soar. Investors are betting that Trump will produce significant inflation, and that the Federal Reserve will be forced to raise interest rates to offset it. How Trump responds to the actions of a politically independent Fed should be classic, because again, he’s not exactly a checks-and-balances kind of guy.
6.) Foreign policy is going to be a mess. The traditional Republican defense and foreign-policy establishment wants nothing to do with Trump, and vice versa, which leaves the door open to U.S. foreign policy being run by people long considered to be dangerous fringe operators.
Look for example to Russia, where leaders are openly celebrating Trump’s election. According to Russia’s deputy foreign minister, they have been in close contact with Trump’s staff throughout the campaign. “Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Sergei Rybakov said. “I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”
Look to Iran, where the nuclear treaty negotiated under President Obama is working well. Trump has promised to repudiate it, but any effort to do so will result in outrage from the allies who helped negotiate it and a refusal to cooperate in reinstating international sanctions against Iran. It would also mean a return to power of anti-Western extremists within Iran and an immediate, full-blown restart of Iran’s nuclear program, with no chance of further negotiation. It’s hard to see how all that doesn’t result in war, particularly with the bull-in-the-china-shop types who will probably be running foreign policy for Trump.
All of the above will of course constitute “change,” which is allegedly what this election was about. However, the specifics of that demand for change were always vague, with little evidence of thought about what it would constitute from either Trump or his followers. It’s also important to point out that despite the electoral margin, a majority of American voters went to the polls and rejected Trump and Trumpism. That doesn’t call into doubt the legitimacy of his presidency (although imagine the whining had Trump lost in the same fashion that he won). However, it does mean that the mandate that he and his backers now claim far exceeds the reality. More Americans voted for Democrats than Republicans in the U.S. House as well, even though gerrymandering gave the GOP continued control over that body.
All in all, the situation guarantees overreach and bungling on a scale that may be hard to imagine at this moment. Now … watch and see if that comes true.