The editors of the Washington Post have engaged in their own speculations about the next four years under a hypothetical second Trump term:
What are the sources of U.S. prosperity — of our ability to generate and enjoy more than 15 percent of the global economy with just over 4 percent of the world’s population? They include a predictable rule of law; a professional civil service; a position as global leader that lets us help set the rules and have the U.S. dollar accepted as the only true international currency; and high, if not world-leading, standards of health care and education.
Also key has been a broadly shared commitment to fairness and equal opportunity, even if we argue ferociously about how to translate that commitment into policy. We have prospered, while other developed nations have begun to stagnate, by attracting talented, entrepreneurial and ambitious immigrants from all over the world. Our commitment to freedom has allowed immigrants and native-born alike to contribute to the fullest extent of their abilities.
I agree with some of their assessments of the sources of our prosperity and disagree about others. I think it’s the first time I have ever read the claim that the source of U. S. prosperity was the DMV. I understand how that crept into their list—it’s clearly a reaction to Trump’s announcement about civil service reform. That’s the risk of public employees aligning themselves predominantly with one of the political parties. The other party will come to see them as adversaries. While I think that substantial civil service reform is long overdue and non-appointed individuals working for State, the various intelligence agencies, Justice, and the IRS are clearly out of hand, I’m not convinced that the direction in which Mr. Trump wants to reform the civil service will not create more new problems than it solves. The real problem, as usual, is the Congress which is eager to delegate its authority to bureaucrats, the executive, just about anybody.
While rule of law issues have accelerated under the Trump Administration, they have been a growing problem for decades. Rule by executive order is inconsistent with the rule of law. That, too, is a problem for which Congress bears most of the blame.
I agree that fairness and equal opportunity are among the factors that have contributed to American prosperity but I’m less convinced that the common practice among large tech and staffing companies of bringing in junior employees from abroad to supplant domestic employees and paying them lower wages than domestic employees, which is much of what passes for legal immigration nowadays, is either fair or equal.
He craves the approval of autocrats who wish our country ill while abandoning and insulting allies; the latter will not stand by and take his abuse for four more years, while the former will exploit his credulity. Already the United States finds itself humiliatingly isolated on key issues, like relations with Iran. As Mr. Trump fulfills long-held ambitions to undermine alliances with Europe, Japan and South Korea, the United States will be further enfeebled; China, increasingly dominant; the world, ever less stable.
I fully acknowledge that I don’t understand President Trump’s thinking at all and that is particularly true in foreign policy. So far he is all hat and no cattle. Or not very many cattle, anyway. Being the president for four years and not starting a new war is not nothing. It has been beyond the grasp of presidents for the last 40 years. My own criticisms of our foreign policy is that we have given a lot while our negotiating partners have mostly given lip service and that we have been overly reliant on military force. The source of our power in the world is our economic strength. Any president who takes his focus off that will undermine our strength and authority.
Finally: Mr. Trump has proven himself, in the covid-19 catastrophe, incapable of leading in crisis. What if the next virus is far more deadly — which health experts say is entirely possible? What if the next emergency involves a risk of nuclear war, given Mr. Trump’s abject failure to rein in the nuclear programs of Iran or North Korea? Can anyone trust him to manage such a challenge, atop an administration from which he has hounded almost all knowledgeable and experienced officials?
As we’ve written before, we believe former vice president Joe Biden well-suited to be president. You, undecided voter, may be less sure; maybe you disagree with some of the policies he espouses — that’s fine. We would simply ask you to weigh your concerns about the unknowns of a Biden presidency against the certain dangers of a second Trump term. On the one hand, a tax, a minimum wage, an energy policy you might not like; on the other, the demise of U.S. democracy, prosperity and global leadership. It shouldn’t be a hard call.
There are lots of other things that are inconsistent with the rule of law. In that list I would include letting corporations grow so big and powerful that they are above the law, crafting policies specifically to help individual corporations or individuals, enforcing laws selectively and most of all politically, declining to enforce the law at all and judicial or prosecutorial discretion. The list goes on.
And to the list of factors behind American prosperity I would add a sound currency, something which both Mssrs. Trump and Biden appear to be nonchalant.