News Sips 3/15: Trump’s Taxes, Latter-Day Jackson, Cabinet Building, and Dutch Drama
Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the March 15, 2017 edition:
In one of the biggest anti-climaxes in recent political memory, some of Donald Trump’s tax returns were leaked to the public. Fanfare was made on MSNBC in advance of the release, long held on the left to be the smoking gun of Donald Trump’s improprieties. Speculation ran rampant about why candidate Trump refused to release his tax returns. Could he be hiding something? Was he paying $0 in taxes?
As it usually happens, reality is far more mundane than speculation. In 2005, Donald Trump made around $150 million and paid around $38 million in taxes. As he mentioned during the campaign, he did carry-over some write-offs to save money, but, by all accounts, the figures were totally in-line with normal taxation.
Rachel Maddow, the leftist host on MSNBC, was the one who made the details of the tax return public in a misguided attempt to gin-up ratings. It’s clear that she was blinded by the fact that she “had his tax returns” and didn’t really care that revealing them actually completely shot the arguments against Trump full of holes. Regardless, she probably broke the law by releasing private documents to the public (but, she’s a liberal, so she’ll get away with it). Already the left has seized on the idea that Trump may have released his own tax returns in order to distract from other political stories. Maybe, just maybe, this was never a big story to being with?
Trump to Tennessee
The President will travel to Tennessee today to hold Make American Great Again Rally. The purpose of the rally looks to be to give the President a prime-time shot at arguing in favor of the current GOP-led health care reform bill moving through the House of Representatives. Though the plan has come under a lot of attack from all sides, the President and Republican leadership see the reform effort as a “must-pass” initiative before mid-term elections next year. It’s likely that the President is more open to making a deal with House conservatives on the bill than the Republican leadership in the House is, but all sides see the potential political perils for Republicans in swing districts who got elected promising a repeal or change to the Obamacare mandates.
The optics of giving his take on the heath care bill in front of a major rally during prime time is classic Donald Trump. He knows that the majority of cable news stations will opt to cover it live and giving his side of the story in front of thousands of roaring supporters is definitely the kind of bully pulpit that Trump was able to work during the campaign. While he will likely be criticized for the political theater, Trump has shown just how effective his branding and marketing strategy could be. There’s no reason he would discontinue a style that has worked in the past.
Before the rally this evening, the Preside will head to Detroit and tour American Manufactured Vehicles then meet with CEOs and union workers. Keeping with the economic populist message that he wants to bring back jobs, the President has been making a concerted effort to bring together the diverse interests of labor and business to get more investment in the United States. This is a key to Mr. Trump’s electoral future (not to mention his political legacy). Many blue-collar voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania took a risk on Trump and now the President is trying to keep his promises to those people.
After leaving Detroit, and en route to his speech in Tennessee, the President will lay a wreath at the tomb of President Andrew Jackson, America’s seventh President. Some of Trump’s most stalwart supporters see in Trump a latter-day Jackson. Jackson, who rode to fame as a brash military commander, was an early populist and outsider to politics. Jackson helped to kill Federal banking, asserted the power of the executive branch, and supported the rights of the states. He has drawn major criticism from historians for actions that he took and is a polarizing figure. Hence, a natural hero for Trump (or at least some of his supporters).
Filling out Cabinet Departments
While filling out Deputies and Undersecretaries really isn’t the “sexiest” political news, it’s nonetheless important to note. Much of the criticism of the President is overblown or invalid (for a whole host of reasons). However, the critique that the President has been slow to fill out top positions in his executive departments has been a valid one. The President has now taken steps to address this problem. While the President has called for a streamlining of the Executive Branch, there are still key positions that need to get filled in order for orders to pass down from Secretaries and from the President.
Though these nominations will have to pass through the Senate where Democrats have engaged in an unprecedented attempt to prevent the President’s nominees from taking office (they aren’t in the majority, so the best they can do is just drag out the calendar despite the fact that they will lose all of the final votes—it’s purely political and designed to prevent the President from having a team in place).
The people of the Netherlands are headed to the polls today in a vote that is largely seen as another bellwether for populist sentiments on the continent. The matchup at the top of the twenty-eight political parties represented in the election is between Geert Wilders, who has led a crusade against migration and creeping Islamification, and the current Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. Polling has been spotty, at best, and has shown Mr. Wilders’ Party for Freedom coming in fourth place or getting the largest share of the votes.
Following the triumph of populists in Britain and in the United States (as well as a vote on a bank bill that led to the resignation of Italy’s Matteo Renzi) over the past year, similar platforms have been given a boost around European politics. While their detractors argue that nationalistic sentiments breed xenophobia, their proponents note that they are merely attempting to preserve sovereignty and national identity in the face of globalism.
Populists, generally, have not run the table, electorally. Rather, the results have been mixed. The election of Austria saw the defeat of populist Norbert Hofer. Similarly, French polls show that Marine Le Pen may have enough votes to get past the initial multi-party phase of the French Presidential election, but that she will likely lose handily in the runoff. Likewise, most prognosticators see Mr. Wilders’ chance at success in the Netherlands as being the less-likely scenario. It further remains to be seen what will happen in the German federal elections this September.
However, the larger picture is clear, even if, broadly “populists” aren’t the majority of the voting bloc, they are a far larger voice in world affairs than merely one-off elections or referendums. The concerns being expressed, and the snap-back against globalism, are being widely felt in Europe and the United States. Leaders who are able to channel that discontent have proven that it is a powerful weapon against the status quo.
Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.