Take No 'Big' Vacations
Within two weeks of his inauguration, Trump scheduled a long weekend trip to his resort at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, a trip characterized as part-business, part-pleasure. He took three such weekend trips in a row, four out of five weekends total since taking office as of March 4th 2017. It is estimated that Trump spent nearly a quarter of his first month in office at his Mar-a-Lago resort including 25 hours of golf time.
As of March 24th 2017, his visits to Trump-owned properties increased to eight consecutive weekends including 13 golf course visits.
Given that Trump never defined what a "big" vacation is, and that his advisers told us to expect trips like this, his promise may technically be true, but the rate at which he takes such trips casts doubts given the rate at which he is incurring costs due to his travel. Within the first 80 days of his presidency, Trump had incurred costs of over $20 million in his travels to Florida.
By December 2017, almost a year into his presidency, Trump spent a total of 112 days - nearly a third of his time in office - at one of his various resort properties, including a 15 day stint at his Bedminster resort in August. The administration has retorted that these are often "working vacations," but there is little evidence to support that claim.
Given how vocal Trump was about the golf time of President Obama we are inclined to see his continued outings as contrary to his promises.
Replace Some Current Military Generals
As of April 2017, Trump had met with many senior Generals but has not taken much of their advice to heart, let alone retired any of them. Additionally, it is a fairly complex issue for a president to directly fire or release any of those Generals and/or Admirals.
In January 2018, after a year of the administration, there are no known plans to force any Generals or Admirals from their positions and, in fact, has managed to surround himself with many retired Generals as part of his Cabinet.
Allow States to Legalize Marijuana
Allowing states to legalize recreational cannabis is a reversal from earlier positions he's expressed. For example, Trump said at the CPAC conference in June 2016: "I say it's bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it's bad, and I feel strongly about it."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an outspoken opponent of marijuana legalization, has spoken openly about and made moves toward prosecuting medical marijuana operations at the state level. Trump hasn't made any definitive statements on the issue since the election, but his silence can be construed as support for his Attorney General in making moves to fully criminalize marijuana.
In January 2018, Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance that discouraged Federal interference in states that legalized cannabis. Afterwards, Trump's press secretary, Sarah Sanders, seemed to indicate that Trump’s position had changed, saying “Whether it’s marijuana or whether it’s immigration, the president strongly believes that we should enforce federal law.”
As of this writing no definitive legal actions or new policy statements have been issued - we will wait and see what happens.
Repeal Most Estate Taxes
The Republican tax bill of December 2017 did not repeal the estate tax, but did increase the threshold limits from $5 Million to as much as $11.2 Million, indexed for inflation. The threshold will revert to $5 Million if the law is allowed to sunset after 2025. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the number of taxable estates would drop from 5,000 under current law to 1,800 under the new law in 2018. By comparison, 52,000 estates paid the tax in 2000 when the exemption was $675,000.
Furthermore, it appears that further avoidance of taxes on gifts to charity have not only not been disallowed but may have opened a window of opportunity for wealthy estates to avoid the effects of future changes in the law by giving gifts sooner.
Maintain an Average 3.5% GDP Growth
As of the first anniversary of Trump's inauguration, the United States GDP has yet to hit 3.5% annualized growth. The effects of some signature policies, including the GOP tax plan and various regulatory and policy changes has yet to be fully realized. Even so, these changes may not boost the economy as much as has been promised.
The last time the GDP reached a 3.5% average was in early 2015, following a quarterly peak over 5% in 2014.
Conduct a Full Audit of the Pentagon
Although promised by Trump -as well as other candidates during the 2016 election cycle - the groundwork for a Pentagon audit was first mandated in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (H.R.2647) :
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(ii) ensuring the financial statements of the Department of Defense are validated as ready for audit by not later than September 30, 2017;
Trump's appointee for Defense Department Comptroller, David L. Norquist, announced the audit in December 2017 on the eve of one of the government shutdowns over the national budget.
Results of the audit will take time as the effort is enormous - with an expected 1200 auditors assessing over $2 Trillion in assets worldwide. Meanwhile, the Republican-led Congress at the behest of the Trump administration didn't wait for audit results to increase defense spending dramatically over the next couple of years.
Although not part of any legislation proposed by Trump himself, the American Health Care Act introduced in the House in March 2017 provided for the transition to a “per capita allotment” for states to manage Medicaid funds. The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the Republican plan that estimated that it would cut $880 billion in federal funds from Medicaid over the next 10 years, causing 14 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage in 2026. Trump supported this Act, but the act was pulled in Congress on March 24th 2017 during a contentious week of negotiations that failed to gain enough support to pass.
The House passed a revised version of the AHCA in May 2017 which retained the cuts to Medicaid. Trump expressed his full support of the bill after it's passage. The Senate version of the bill, released after a contentious period of secrecy in June 2017, also included major cuts to Medicaid. Neither bill succeeded in passing.
Later that year, the House passed a tax bill that the Congressional Budget Office warned could set off an arcane budget rule that would make deep cuts to Medicare over the next decade. The increased deficits expected as a result of the House and possibly Senate bills would also likely trigger reductions in other programs such as Social Security. Like before, Trump has expressed his wholehearted support of the proposals.
Dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation
A year after his election and almost a year after he made his promise to dissolve the foundation nothing has apparently been done.
Represent All Americans
Initially, the best measure of how inclusive Trump's leadership would be could be found in his list of cabinet picks. Thus far, his list has a dearth of minorities and only a handful of women. Three of these women represent immigrant groups: Nikki Haley, a daughter of Sikh immigrants, was picked for U.N. Ambassador; Elaine Chao, born in Taiwan, was picked as Transportation secretary; and Seema Verma, a daughter of Indian immigrants, picked as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Unfortunately, his choice of Stephen Bannon and Jeff Sessions, both known to foment racist sentiments, are considered by many to run counter to his promise. Trump did disavow the support of white supremacists just days after a high-profile meeting in November 2016 of the "National Policy Institute" - an avowed white supremacist group - in Washington D.C. featured Nazi salutes and cheers of "hail Trump!" Similarly, earlier in the year Trump was eventually compelled to distance himself from David Duke, a member of the KKK and avid Trump supporter.
The issue of white supremacy came to a head in August 2017 when a group of white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville, VA and were met by anti-fascist demonstrators. The White House response to the chaos and violence that ensued was widely seen as anemic if not implicitly supportive of the white supremacists. Subsequent tone-deaf responses to the ongoing NFL national anthem protests during September 2017 did little to assuage the idea that the administration does not support racism.
In a glaring and unusual statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day in late January 2017, no mention was made about Jews or anti-Semitism in Trump's statement. The omission is troubling in that no previous statement from the White House has purposefully omitted such mention, and that the White House defended the omission, leading many to wonder if the omission was a deliberate snub.
Looking at class differences, Trump has assembled the richest cabinet in modern American history. For reference, George W. Bush's first cabinet had a combined, inflation-adjusted net worth of about $250 million — which is roughly one-tenth the wealth of Donald Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary alone. In fact, by mid-December 2016 the wealth possessed by the 17 cabinet picks, at least $9.5 billion, is greater than the 43 million least wealthy households in America. It's questionable that a cabinet of millionaires and billionaires will understand the vast majority of Americans in the problems they face.
On January 20th, 2017, immediately after Trump took office, the official White House web site dropped content on LGBTQ rights and also removed the Spanish language version of the site. It is not clear whether these editorial actions were deliberate signals against these communities or a side-effect of the process of transitioning the site to new ownership. For example, despite removing content related to LGBTQ rights, Trump announced that his administration would continue a 2014 Obama executive order which protects LGBTQ employees of Federal contractors.
Any doubt as to the stance of the administration towards LGBTQ people was erased in October 2017 when Trump addressed the "Values Voters Summit," an event hosted by the Family Research Council, an organization with well known, extreme anti-LGBTQ positions. But even before this address, Trump took measures to prevent transgendered people from serving in the military and the Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions took several steps to eliminate protections for trans-people.
Create $1 Trillion in Infrastructure Investment
Many analysts believe that if high user fees or tolls are needed to help private investors recoup their investments, then a lot of infrastructure in America may simply never get funded. Many of these projects may be worthwhile, but they typically require public funding, and Trump's plan to provide private investment incentives does not also include a direct funding mechanism.
The White House reportedly began outlining an infrastructure plan in March 2017. Meanwhile, priorities in Congress including tax reform and healthcare have pushed an infrastructure bill onto the back burner with additional questions as to the mechanisms that the administration wants in place.