Let’s begin by stating the obvious: My priorities are different than yours or Paul Ryan’s or the president’s. We all have a different agenda, motivated by different issues. Sometimes finance dominates our wish list; other times it’s family. We are motivated by self-interest, by philosophical or ideological goals, and a wealth of other factors.
Readers of this column are a self-selected group. If you are reading this, you very likely have capital at risk in a variety of investments. You are more likely to have higher-than-average levels of education, income and professional standing. Which leads me to this claim: President Donald Trump is on the verge of endangering what for readers is the most significant aspect of his entire agenda — a once-in-a-generation opportunity to accomplish tax reform. It is an issue of great significance with lasting repercussions.
Full disclosure: I did not support candidate Trump, either during the Republican nomination process or the general election, due to his positions on social issues (hear my conversation with Mike Murphy, Right to Rise co-founder and Jeb Bush’s campaign adviser). I find myself in agreement, however, on a significant portion of Trump’s economic, tax and infrastructure positions. I suspect that many readers of these pages find themselves supporting those positions as well.
As we discussed last month, the Trump administration’s combination “of a corporate tax overhaul, repatriation of overseas profits and individual tax reform” is an economically powerful set of policy tools. Include a $1 trillion-plus infrastructure plan, and you have a path for future growth better than the 1 percent to 2 percent of the post-financial-crisis recovery period.
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The White House has been bumbling and unfocused, filled with infighting and leaks, unable to manage even the most basic functions of governing. Perhaps the bigger concern is that its priorities are inverted. Getting tax reform done should have been job No. 1, and the failure to do that first could be problematic for Trump’s entire agenda.
Had you asked me Nov. 9 what the odds were of his economic agenda being accomplished, given the single-party control of the federal government, I would have laid odds at 96 percent. The ham-handed, poorly planned rollout of the travel ban lowered that to 88 percent. The latest incompetent action has been an attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act with something hated by both conservatives and liberals, sending that down to 75 percent. Perhaps the biggest self-inflicted wound has been the foolish tweet claiming former President Barack Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower.” It called into question the president’s seriousness about governing.