By: Mark Glennon*
Yesterday we covered the likely effects on Illinois from Trump’s appointment of a ninth justice to the Supreme Court, which are alone are huge. Below is the rest. What Trump actually will do is uncertain and credibility isn’t exactly his hallmark, but he has made a firm pledge on a specific 100-day action list and other priorities are starting to emerge from public statements by him and his transition team. For better or worse, here’s what we should probably expect:
Infrastructure spending. Trump is discussing a $1 trillion program which appears to have substantial bipartisan support. Never mind what it would do to the national debt and that it would be a massive Keynesian spending binge of the kind Republicans often deplore, Illinois could be a major beneficiary. Aside from the direct share of spending Illinois could get, Illinois manufacturers of construction and building materials would benefit, too. Caterpillar’s stock has already spiked 13% since the election, partially in hopes of just that.
Improvements to municipal bankruptcy law and possible “bankruptcy-light” statute. A wide range of improvements to Chapter 9 the U.S. Bankruptcy Code are available. Trump and a Republican Congress probably will be receptive. We wrote about some of them, which should be Illinois’ priority, in an article linked here. Further, proposals have been discussed for a sort of “bankruptcy-light” federal solution to the pension crisis. The Manhattan Institute has suggested federal legislation, discussed here, to directly allow states and municipalities to cut pension benefits.
And for anybody hoping for a federal pension bailout, you think Trump and a Republican Congress will shell out for what’s primarily a blue state problem? Forget it.
Roll-back of environmental regulation and expansion of domestic energy production. Trump’s pledge includes cancelling all Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive orders, and he almost certainly would drop the Clean Power Plan. That’s the highly controversial administrative action to force major expansion of renewable energy, now being challenged in court. Compliance with rules proposed under the plan is a major rationale underpinning the Clean Jobs Bill pending in Illinois. It would raise the target for renewable energy consumption in Illinois from the current goal of 25% by 2025 to 35% by 2030. The Clean Jobs Bill and other incentives for expanded use of renewables will likely perish.
Lifting regulatory impediments to domestic oil, gas and coal coal production, also a Trump pledge, should put renewed life in the Midwest’s drilling industry, which is now languishing. Illinois’s beaten-down coal industry might benefit somewhat, though competition with natural gas is that industry’s biggest problem, not regulation. In the very long run, given the huge gas reserves in the Upper Midwest, maybe the notion Rahm Emanuel once discussed of making Chicago the epicenter of cheap domestic energy is realistic. If Trump and Congress wanted to make it happen, America could become a major energy exporter, and the Upper Midwest could benefit.
Federal consent decree for Chicago on police conduct. A very expensive court mandate to address misconduct is widely anticipated for Chicago. Presidents, through their Justice Department appointees, vary in how aggressively those consent decrees are sought. Whether the reforms recently put in place for Chicago that include more cops and bodycams would be sufficient under a Trump Justice Department is unknown.
International trade — a big part of Illinois’ economy. Don’t expect much to happen, despite all the noise during the campaign. TPP (the Pacific Trade Agreement) and TTIP (the trade agreement for Europe) were dead with or without Trump. Changes to NAFTA would first have to be negotiated with Canada and Mexico, then probably have to be accepted by both houses of Congress. NAFTA became U.S. law by statute, not by treaty or executive agreement, making it questionable whether Trump could unilaterally exercise the termination right contained in the agreement. Congressional Republicans mostly believe in free trade, notwithstanding current political pressure to the contrary. So, expect little or no change in NAFTA at least for the near term.
Ironically, the Mexican Peso has weakened against the Dollar by over nine percent over the past month as Trump ascended, hurting U.S. exporters and helping Mexican exporters. That’s probably overdone.
Trump could unilaterally label China as a currency manipulator, as he has pledged to do, which could set off a major dispute and retaliation, but you have to wonder whether he would really go down that road or any other road towards a trade war.
It certainly is true, however, that in the longer run Trump could well succeed in negotiating far better terms of trade than we generally have now. Our own trade negotiator, the USTR, openly admits how unfair our trading terms currently are, and it’s long overdue that they be corrected.
Sanctuary cities. A huge battle is likely but it’s hard to see how Chicago wins. Trump has made clear that his first priority on any deportations is illegal immigrants who have committed other crimes. They are precisely the ones protected by sanctuary cities like Chicago. Trump can cut off federal funding if cities don’t comply, yet Rahm Emanuel says he is determined to keep the city’s status. Sanctuary cities are concentrated in states like Illinois where Trump lost big, so Trump may care little about local anger. Immigration law is a federal issue, so it’s hard to see Trump backing down or losing.
Obamacare and healthcare. Who knows? I don’t. We know for sure that the economics of Obamacare just don’t work. Trump wants to keep the preexisting condition coverage though that’s a primary reason insurances rates have become unaffordable.
Vindictive retribution against Chicago: Maybe. If Trump and a Republican Congress sought retribution against Chicago for the over-the-top hostility to Trump that Rahm and others have shown, it could be costly for the city — through the flow of federal dollars or otherwise. Don’t rule that out. The best insight into Trump’s worst traits, in my personal opinion, is the very close relationship he had with Roy Cohn, who was basically Trump’s mentor (described in detail here). Cohn was one of the most vile figures of the last century and was Joseph McCarthy’s counsel during the McCarthyism era. His trademark was ruthless vengeance.
On the other hand, maybe that vengeance would be expressed by pressing for criminal prosecution of the those who incited violence to disrupt Trump’s rallies, as shown in the Project Veritas videos. Chicagoan Robert Creamer is a central figure in those videos. Let’s hope.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.