As the 100-day mark of Donald Trump’s embattled presidency approaches, it’s official: the self-proclaimed champion of America’s forgotten workers has no jobs plan.
In announcing his new tax plan, President Trump quietly abandoned his biggest legislative initiative aimed at creating American jobs, and postponed again his ambitious but vague trillion-dollar infrastructure jobs program.
While most news organizations are focusing on Trump's proposed tax cuts, the bigger story may be Trump’s disappearing jobs agenda. While Trump’s presidency is deeply unpopular, his focus on American jobs is the rare issue where he commands wide support. One recent poll found 73 percent of respondents approved of his performance on jobs.
Trump's problem is translating his rhetoric into reality. Just two months ago, Trump endorsed a "border adjustment tax" designed to favor domestic manufacturers and thus create American jobs.
"I certainly support a form of tax on the border," the president told Reuters. "What is going to happen is companies are going to come back here, they're going to build their factories and they're going to create a lot of jobs and there's no tax."
Trump also hinted he would send Congress legislation enacting a trillion-dollar infrastructure jobs program.
Another right-wing rebellion on Capitol Hill suffocated his plans. The border adjustment tax (BAT) was opposed by the Koch brothers’ conservative advocacy network and the domestic retail industry, led by Walmart and other firms that sell imported goods. With no interest in or understanding of the legislation, and a nonexistent congressional relations operation, Trump had no ability to secure approval of the idea.
Today, the Koch brothers' victory is complete, and Trump’s failure is official. Facing certain defeat on the BAT, Trump abandoned his attempt to create American jobs.
About Trump's new proposal, the New York Times notes:
As of late Tuesday, the plan did not include Mr. Trump’s promised $1 trillion infrastructure program, two of the people said, and it jettisoned a House Republican proposal to impose a substantial tax on imports, known as a border adjustment tax, which would have raised billions of dollars to help offset the cost of the [tax] cuts.
What happened? Trump got rolled by the combined lobbying machine of the Koch brothers and the retail industry. Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs' political action organization, ran TV ads denouncing the BAT as a $1.2 trillion tax increase on seniors and the working poor. Another Koch-funded group defined the measure as a tax increase on millennials.
The head of the Retail Industry Leaders Association declared, “The border adjustment tax is harmful, untested, and would put American retail jobs at risk and force consumers to pay as much as 20% more for family essentials."
Against this Washington juggernaut, the disorganized and disengaged president didn’t stand a chance. As the Times more gently put it, “Mr. Trump acceded to pressure from retailers and conservative advocacy groups.”
Trump’s retreat clarifies his governing priorities. During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump promised to pass a massive jobs program in his first 100 days. In office, President Trump put repeal of Obamacare first. That failed. He pivoted to tax reform designed to stimulate job creation. That too has failed.
“The border adjustment tax may be revisited later, but was considered too controversial to include now,” the Times reported.
The story of the day is Trump's proposal for tax cuts that will increase the deficit.
The story behind the story: After 100 days, Trump has not only failed to pass a program to create American jobs, he has failed to offer one.
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