- Editorial Board Special to the American-Statesman
Taking stock of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, which ended Saturday, is not as easy as adding up promises kept and promises broken.
Sure, as comedic fodder Trump has killed it with audiences watching Alec Baldwin impersonate the president in hilarious skits on “Saturday Night Live” — including one that looks back at Trump’s first 100 days.
“The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert recently gave Trump a shoutout for his service in helping him generate laughs and perhaps ratings: “I gotta say, Donald Trump has done a lot for me in the first 100 days,” The New York Times reported.
But in the world of politics, judging Trump’s performance becomes more nuanced. For instance, Trump’s failures on several issues have turned out to be big wins for many Austin and Central Texas residents. Similarly some of his successes in keeping campaign promises have resulted in significant setbacks for the region.
High on the list of failures that yielded wins for most Texans was Trump’s botched attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare – an often repeated campaign pledge he guaranteed to accomplish in his first 100 days.
To get rid of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Trump threw his support behind a proposal floated by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan called the American Health Care Act, which imploded in the GOP-controlled House in large part because it failed to gain traction with the public as Americans learned of its impact on their health coverage.
An estimated 14 million people would have been left without health insurance by next year either because they could not afford coverage or because they would choose not to buy it, according to data from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That would have ballooned to 21 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026.
The failure of Ryan’s initial proposal maintains the status quo, or ACA, which is providing health care coverage for 20 million people who lacked health insurance prior to its passage. Though Texas still has the nation’s highest percentage of people without health insurance, about 1.3 million more Texans gained coverage under Obamacare. So we score Trump’s loss as our gain. That could change if GOP leaders unite behind new rewrites of the ACA.
Another big promise by Trump that so far has stumbled is the big, “beautiful” wall for which he campaigned that would span nearly the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico. At a total cost of about $21.6 billion, it not only is way too expensive, but also ineffective in securing the border, as we have previously noted, since most people in the country illegally came legally but overstayed their visas.
Never mind that Trump promised that Mexico would foot the bill and now seems ready to pass along that cost to American taxpayers in billion-dollar bites – as he tried but failed to do in federal budget negotiations. Frankly, the wall as Trump has proposed is antiquated, relying more on concrete and steel than on modern detection technologies such as cameras, drones and sensors, which could provide greater security at a lower cost.
Given expectations of Trump supporters, we do realize the wall is not off the table. But we are hopeful about bipartisan signals suggesting that the project won’t just be a towering, ugly barrier, but rather something less intrusive that incorporates modern technologies, honors property rights on both sides of the border and respects environmental features.
While Trump’s conservative base views his decision on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as a flip-flop, we put that in the category of “change of heart,” in which the president showed both leadership and compassion to a deserving group of talented young people.
Trump could have used an executive order to dismantle Obama’s DACA program, which grants temporary protection from deportation to immigrants who were brought illegally to the country as children. Instead he left DACA intact. That offers protections to about 750,000 Dreamers, with about 236,000 who reside in Texas.
Texas benefits from the contributions of Dreamers to the workforce and economy. DACA is not permanent, however, and must be renewed every two years. We continue to urge national leaders to pass legislation to make it permanent.
On other immigration issues in which Trump prevailed, Austin and Central Texas residents lost ground. Among those with the most impact on the region is the Trump administration’s reversal of Obama’s Priority Enforcement Program.
Using an executive order, Trump enacted broader, more aggressive immigration enforcement policies that allow the federal government to deport millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally — even if they have not committed serious crimes. That has spurred fear among Austin’s immigrant families, most who are law-abiding and hard-working. By contrast, Obama’s PEP program prioritized enforcement to focus on felons or dangerous criminals.
In sizing up Trump’s 100 days, an analysis by the Associated Press found that Trump accomplished 10 of 38 specific promises he made in his 100-day “contract” with voters. Most were done through executive orders that don’t require legislation, such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
And Trump still was issuing executive orders just days ago with potentially big consequences for Texas, such as ordering Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to study federal overreach in education, presumably to shift more authority to the states in public education matters. That comes on top of rolling back federal guidance for transgender students attending public schools.
He also issued orders that could weaken protections of certain national parks, historic monuments and marine sanctuaries, potentially opening them to mining, logging and offshore drilling.
Going forward, assessing Trump’s unorthodox presidency also is likely to turn on nuance – and how one defines success.