As President Trump seems likely to leave office in January, the historically minded of us should reflect on his legacy. In the short-term, maybe until 2200, his reputation will doubtless be smeared. It took 250 years for King Charles II to get his due from historians, and Lord Liverpool, almost 200 years later, still has not received it. After 2200, however, Trump should be seen as a good President and a very consequential one. Even before that date, he deserves the largest and doubtless most visited of Presidential libraries.
Trump need not hope for redemption from this century’s Presidential historians. The well-respected Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia put the boot in even before the election: “Trump is the worst President ever — I can’t imagine historians will spend more than 10 minutes debating that.” That of course is merely an indicator of the insanity of the left for the last four years, but Trump need not expect it to stop, and from past experience relating to such above-average rulers as Charles II and Lord Liverpool, the vitriol can continue for a century or more.
Historians are after all both politically committed, almost all in the same direction, and intellectual lemmings, following each other over the cliff of monumental error. Of course, in this over-politicized era, any professor who wants a post at a respectable university really has no choice – Lemming U. will fire him if he attempts any kind of dissent. Fortunately, intellectual follies all eventually end, and those of us not dependent on an academic stipend can take a more balanced view without waiting 200 years.
There is no question that Trump has been a highly consequential president, the most important since Ronald Reagan. In foreign policy, he has reversed the monumental errors of the Bush family in relation to the Middle East and China. In international trade, he has reversed the leftist globaloney of the post-1990 period and moved back towards the traditional Republican trade policy of William McKinley and Calvin Coolidge. Overall, he has perceived that international institutions are by their structure overwhelmingly a force for evil and has taken the first steps to resist the move towards tyrannical global governance.
On domestic policy, he has recognized that unchecked immigration is extremely bad for the living standards of domestic workers, and has taken steps to check it. However, the change in direction and opening of the “Overton Window” towards restriction are more impressive than Trump’s concrete steps on immigration, which can all too quickly be reversed (I would not put it past a President Kamala Harris to knock down the fine if modest wall he has built). His trade policies have also moved in the same direction, so there is less economic disfranchisement of the modestly skilled than four years ago. The pre-2016 shilling for college degrees and the intellectual arrogance of the tech titans was unbearably offensive even to me; I can only imagine what it must have been like for those less educationally fortunate. Trump’s reform of penal laws, removing some of the threat of incarceration from African-Americans, also appears to have been helpful.
It is in economic policy that the greatest of Trump’s domestic triumphs have arisen, though this is also the area where I have the greatest doubts. On the negative side, he has shilled for the Fed’s easy money policies, and he has done nothing whatever to balance the Federal Budget, making the long-term fiscal problem somewhat worse. His tax cut of 2017 was too oriented towards the corporate sector – corporate tax needed to come down from 35%, but 21% was too far, and the overpaid drudges of the Fortune 500 have wasted the cut by indulging in an orgy of stock buybacks, which benefit nobody but their own stock option positions. We are due for a socking great stock market crash in the near future; hopefully voters will blame Biden for it, as they should, given the futility and destructiveness of his policies.
On the positive side, two economic data points, announced November 6 and almost ignored by the media, showed just how much better Trump is than his two predecessors. First, the unemployment rate fell to 6.9%, down from 10.2% only three months earlier. That is a remarkable drop and shows how quickly recessions can be conquered if you deregulate and don’t throw “stimulus” at them – Trump was very lucky that the second stimulus bill failed to pass. For comparison, the Obama administration got unemployment down to 6.9% only in November 2013, a full 49 months after the peak of 10.0% in October 2009. In other words, free market deregulated capitalism reduces unemployment 16 times as fast as Keynesian quasi-socialism. Lord Liverpool knew this, so did Andrew Mellon; it is a pity that our dozy Keynesian governments have forgotten it.
The second astounding statistic is that labor productivity in the third quarter was a full 4.1% higher than a year earlier. Productivity growth has been accelerating throughout the Trump presidency, a tribute to the effect of his deregulation, especially his removing deliberately obstructive regulations relating to climate change. With productivity growth at this level, the U.S. economy can finally start to make up some of the deficit accrued in the productivity-blight years since 1973 and especially since 2010. If it were able to do this over a sustained period, even a decade, the Federal budget deficit, Federal debt, social security financing, Medicare deficit and pension financing difficulties would all vanish as if by magic, as the economy grew like crazy and revenues flooded into all the underfunded systems that need them.
Overall, President Trump in 2020 improved his share of the vote among Hispanics and African-Americans in an excellent sign that Trumpism, and not a return to the limp wrists of the Bushes and Mitt Romney, must be the way forward for the Republican party. It is also a sign of long-term good health in the U.S. political system; a politics divided by race is thoroughly poisonous. Alas however, Trump underperformed Republican congressional candidates by about 3%, a measure of the “never-Trump” effect on the suburbs.
It appears that the wailing “never-Trump” writers, claiming to be “conservatives” yet finding nothing but fault in the President’s demeanor, denouncing him as unfit for the Presidency, put off enough dozy suburban center-right housewives from voting for Trump to cost him the election. They therefore deserve to reside in one of the more unpleasant levels of Dante’s “Inferno.” The truth is, several capable Presidents have been egotistical and noisy – think of Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson — or, worse, still unpleasant but quiet, like Woodrow Wilson. Presidents are not always nice, neighborly people that suburban housewives would like to sit down to dinner with. But those housewives should have been told to overcome their social distaste and vote for the good of the country and of their families. Never-Trump writers obscured this need, unforgivably.
Assuming he leaves office in January, President Trump can begin to plan the Donald J. Trump Presidential Center, for which he should receive some state funding, although he probably won’t want the National Archives and Records Administration to ruin it (President Obama has already rejected NARA management). Trump’s ability to put on a good show should make his Presidential Center a leader in visitor numbers among recent Presidents.
- The Obama Presidential Center when it opens in a few years will be primarily visited by numerous school parties, dragged there by their “woke” Chicago-area teachers. Polls of the visitors will unanimously vote it “Most boring school trip of the year” especially when they taste the organic shakes that are the coffee shop’s main specialty.
- The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, TX generally averages four visitors a week. In this, it beats the George H. W. Bush Presidential Center in College Station, TX. which averages three visitors a week. When this was discovered, staff at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Center issued a press release pointing out that Dallas has a much larger population than College Station.
- The William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, AR does much better for visitors; there are after all a huge number of ‘90s nostalgists hoping to catch saucy photos of Monica Lewinsky and other Clinton-era leading ladies. Visitors will also look forward to the “double-bacon-cheeseburgers-with-hot-sauce” just like the President used to eat, but alas, they will discover that Hillary was in charge of the catering, so the coffee shop once again serves only organic shakes.
The Donald J. Trump Presidential Center, or to give it its full title, the “Donald J. Trump Presidential Library, Casino and Theme Park” will through skillful marketing quickly smash all Presidential Center attendance records, easily eclipsing Mount Vernon, Monticello, Springfield and Hyde Park. Naturally, it will then publish advertisements in the major media, listing the United States’ greatest Presidents, ranked by attendance at their Presidential Centers.
George Washington will be No. 2.
(The Bear’s Lair is a weekly column that is intended to appear each Monday, an appropriately gloomy day of the week. Its rationale is that the proportion of “sell” recommendations put out by Wall Street houses remains far below that of “buy” recommendations. Accordingly, investors have an excess of positive information and very little negative information. The column thus takes the ursine view of life and the market, in the hope that it may be usefully different from what investors see elsewhere.)