It’s easy to get caught up in the deeply flawed character of Donald Trump. We also need to recognize the policy catastrophe of this presidency.
This past week Trump ordered an end to the Obama-era executive action that shielded around 800,000 young undocumented immigrants – often called Dreamers – from deportation under what’s been known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
He then passed the buck to Congress, giving it six months to make the Dreamers legal. It’s a cruel joke. The Republican congress hasn’t exactly distinguished itself on its ability to get anything done, especially when it comes to helping people in need.
Trump’s argument that Obama exceeded his executive authority in allowing the Dreamers to stay is bizarre, coming from an administration that has exercised breathtakingly broad authority over immigration by banning travel from 6 Muslim countries.
His decision puts these young people in legal limbo, adds to the uncertainty of their lives, and imposes burdens on families financially dependent on them.
And for what reason? There’s zero evidence Dreamers are taking jobs away from native-born Americans. In fact, evidence points in the opposite direction: They’ve been generating economic activity that’s created more jobs.
Look at other of Trump’s recent policy decisions and you see the same arbitrary and unnecessary cruelty. What’s the point of banning transgender people from military service? Of siding in court with a businessman who doesn’t want to sell his services to gay couples? Of weakening the standard for responding to sexual violence in universities? Of banning Syrian refugees and reducing by half the number of refugees admitted to the United States?
There is no point, in terms of policy. None of these decisions makes America safer or economically stronger or fairer.
So why is he doing these things? To shore up his base, and to deflect attention from investigations into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in helping him win the election.
Meanwhile, Trump is neglecting or worsening five genuinely big problems facing America:
1. Climate change, as exemplified by ever larger and more destructive hurricanes and coastal flooding.
Trump’s response? Taking the United States out of the Paris Accord, reversing every major initiative at the Environmental Protection Agency, and filling his administration with climate-change deniers.
2. The undermining of our democracy through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and interference in our elections by foreign governments.
What’s Trump’s response to this? Alleging, with zero evidence, that three to five million fraudulent votes were case in the 2016 election. And then setting up a trumped-up commission to find such evidence, in order to justify more voter suppression by states seeking to minimize minority votes.
Meanwhile, Trump is doing everything possible to prevent Americans from knowing more about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, let alone stop Russia from interfering again.
3. The proliferation of nuclear warheads and missiles around the world, most recently the danger posed by North Korea.
What is Trump doing about this? Trying to get America out of its nuclear deal with Iran, thereby giving Iran and excuse to revive its nuclear program. And rather than engage North Korea or pressure China to do something about Kim Jung Il – whose nuclear program accelerated after Trump said during his campaign that he might support allowing Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons – Trump and his administration are doing nothing but issuing provocative statements.
4. Widening inequality and a growing population of poor in America.
Trump’s response? Proposing a tax plan that will make the rich even richer. And a budget that cuts low-income housing, job training, food assistance, legal services, help to distressed rural communities, nutrition for new mothers and their infants, funds to keep poor families warm, even “meals on wheels.”
5. Racism, hatefulness, and divisiveness.
What is Trump doing about this? Fueling even more of it – equating white supremacists with those who oppose racism, militarizing the police, and legitimizing discrimination against Muslims, Latinos, and African-Americans.
Wherever you look, Trump’s policies are upside down and backwards. While he adopts policies that make life harder for vulnerable populations – and does so for absolutely no good reason – he’s worsening every one of the really big problems the nation faces.
He’s been at it for less than eight months. We will be paying the price for years to come.