Michael Grunwald Lays it on with a Trowel

trowel

In an article entitled Salesman-in-Chief, subtitled, Last night, Trump promised America could have all the cake it wants, and lose weight, too. What happens when he needs to deliver?, he writes,

President Donald Trump basically told Americans last night that he’s going to make sure we can have our cake and eat it, too—and by the way it will be a spectacular cake, it won’t cost much, and it’s going to help us lose a lot of weight.

Trump used his first speech to Congress last night to lay out a heroic vision of an America where “every problem can be solved.” He promised to ensure clean air and water while getting rid of environmental regulations. He vowed to ratchet down taxes on corporations and the middle class while jacking up spending on the military, immigration enforcement, infrastructure and veterans—and at the same time somehow rescuing America from its crushing national debt. He suggests that he’ll increase tariffs on foreign goods, and that foreign countries would respond by lowering tariffs on U.S. goods. And he pledged to replace Obamacare with terrific reforms that “expand choice, increase access, lower costs and provide better health care.” He didn’t explain in much detail how those reforms would work, or whether they would also do something about those embarrassingly skimpy gowns patients have to wear in the hospital.

The media takeaway was that Trump’s speech sounded optimistic, which was true compared to his dyspeptic inaugural address, and also true in the sense that infomercials promising baldness cures or eight-minute abs are optimistic. But there’s a fine line between optimism and magical realism. …

In the real world, policy choices have trade-offs. For example, Trump vowed to kill Obamacare’s individual mandate, but he also complained that insurers are abandoning the Obamacare exchanges—a problem that would only intensify if the mandate went away, and young and healthy consumers weren’t required to buy insurance. He suggested he could fix the problem by lowering the overall cost of health care, but in fact Obamacare has already helped bring health care inflation down to its lowest level in half a century. As for the big goal of “repeal and replace”? He handed that ball to Congress, where some Republicans want to eliminate many of the subsidies that have helped Obamacare cover 20 million additional Americans as well as the new taxes on the wealthy that helped pay for it, and other Republicans hope to preserve some of Obamacare’s benefits for the working poor. It’s not clear how they’ll pass anything, much less how they could pass—or even think up—a cost-cutting, tax-cutting, coverage-expanding, care-improving plan that squared Trump’s various circles.

The article continues in this vein, concluding that Trump will excuse the inevitable failure of his promises by “fudging statistics and declaring victory.”

My own view, is that, if and when he achieves a legislative result, Trump will most assuredly fudge and declare. But the question is whether anything will ever get passed on the first place, so that he has an opportunity to lie about its success.