Saturday, June 20, 2020

What I Got Wrong

And what I got right... an analysis of my Trump predictions. 

I made a list of predictions at the very beginning of the Trump presidency. One year later I did an early analysis of them. Now that we are nearing the end of the first (only?) term, I thought I'd look back to see how my predictions fared. 

I was optimistic in three areas: taxes, regulation, and presidential power & authority

On taxes I was doubly right on the surface--the Congress was the key and they have gotten better. Specifically, we got the corporate tax reductions/improvements that Obama wanted but couldn't negotiate along with improvements for deductions (standard deduction increased making future itemized deduction eliminations more likely and SALT was limited making state and local taxes more burdensome thus more resented). Now, one could very correctly counter that the HUGE increases in fiscal spending fully supported by Trump during and especially before the pandemic are simply future tax burdens. This mitigates strongly against my prediction. 

On regulation I was mostly right if not a bit underestimating of the chances of progress

On presidential power & authority I was mostly wrong so far, but that prediction is a long-game idea that remains to be seen. Perhaps we have indeed grown and are continuing to grow more skeptical and reluctant on this front. Still, I see a conservative base that believes ever more in the legitimacy of strong central power and the left is still AWOL on the issue. I get the strong impression that the left still clings to the nonsensical unicorn theory of "if we just get the right person in charge, all will be well . . ."

The recent pandemic and subsequent police abuse protests stand as testament as the left criticized Trump for not being enough of a strongman and then the right rallied around the police state. And consider the reverse of the optimistic take. What if in 50 or so years people look back at things Trump said and somewhat of how he acted and take it way too seriously--like serious at all? For instance when he says I have absolute power, what if people in the future look back to that as a serious proclamation that a president claimed and wasn’t completely challenged on? 

On the initially overlooked judicial and U.S. attorney appointments I was right one-year in to be optimistic overall. Many have been very good to great like the high-profile case of Gorsuch. 

I was pessimistic in ten areas: tradeimmigrationnationalismwardrug policygovernment meddlingfree speechinternet freedomsurveillance state, and gender issues/tolerance

On trade (it took a while) and immigration I was very pessimistic and right on the mark. Being right about these and others is so very depressing.

On nationalism, gender issues/tolerance, and add to that the missing elements of social division and discord (especially the racial element) I was unfortunately wrongly not pessimistic enough--to be clear I would ideally have been wrong for being too pessimistic. He is a mass polluter in this realm. I fear this has knock-on effects for future "outsider" presidential candidates in that we will overvalue pleasantry over policy by mislabeling those who question the establishment as yet another divisive person.

On wardrug policy, and government meddling my initial (one-year in) analysis was that I had been not pessimistic enough. I think the following years have proved me more correct originally as the wrong positions of the Trump administration softened. 

On free speech, internet freedom, and surveillance state we have the reverse case where matters over gotten worse as of late. My predictions are moving from appropriately pessimistic to another unfortunate case of not pessimistic enough. We'll see...

I'll leave it to the reader to assess how my initial overall prediction has held up:
The Trump years (and they will be years despite the hope of so many for impeachment or that he would divorce America to be president of some younger Eastern European country) might be an odd combination of dramatic progress and colossal retreat. I think the eventual decisive factor will be how strong and righteous Congress is. I believe the case for optimism has a greater magnitude than the case for pessimism, but the negative sensitivity is high--meaning prospects are skewed with more downside risk than upside potential while the balance is still to the upside. 
For my grade on the last part (the balance or risk being to the upside), stay tuned for a provocative post comparing our presidential candidates. 

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