President Trump: One-year Review | Interview with Victor Hanson

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[January 22, 2018]

By Cathy Zhang and Pamela Tsai, America Daily

Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration. It is a year that has not been short of heated debate about where the country is headed and how the Trump presidency is making a dent in US history.

America Daily interviewed Victor D. Hanson, the Martin, and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, on Trump’s first year.  Hanson discussed Trump’s performances both at home and abroad, as well as the philosophies behind the policies, and the challenges that he faces.

Domestic

Hanson said Trump, as a businessperson, sees the answer in economics rather than government redistribution or identity politics. Trump is trying to use upward mobility to solve a host of problems faced by the nation on all fronts, according to Hanson.

Trump’s report card appears to show the country moving in the right direction.

Real GDP growth shows continuous upward movement at a growth rate above 3 percent.

The unemployment rate fell to the lowest in the last 16 years. According to the Labor Department, new applications for unemployment insurance benefits plunged by 41,000 to 220,000 in the second week of 2018, the lowest level in nearly 45 years.

December unemployment rate from 2009 to 2017.

Source: US Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics

The stock market grows stronger and Wall Street is beaming with excitement. The Dow Jones Industrial Average passed 26,000 on Jan. 17 and continues a strong upward trend.

Source: Macrotrend

Hanson went on to examine the philosophies and the policies behind the upward movement.  Alongside cutting back government expenditures and regulations, lowering taxes, producing more energy, and opening land up to be utilized, Hanson said Trump also create a psychological environment in which people feel that, if they make money, they will be admired, not shamed.

“He feels we are not Europe, not a state-controlled economy, said Hanson. “People come to the US if they are immigrants, to do well for their families and themselves. They should have an opportunity to profit, make money, and to be admired for that.”

According to Hanson, Trump’s focus is not on identity politics. He wants upward mobility for the entire country, for everyone.

“When Obama said he was the president that represented the blacks or minorities, and yet the blacks’ income, Hispanic income, and black job rate were very dismal. They both improved in just one year, that’s sort of Trump’s philosophy,” said Hanson.

According to the employment statistics of the Bureau of Labor, the black American unemployment rate fell to 6.8 percent in December 2017, the lowest since the 1970s.  During the Obama administration, the black American unemployment reached 16.8 percent.

When asked what makes Trump’s philosophy at work, Hanson attributed it to Trump’s background.

“He came in without any political obligation to anybody,” said Hanson. “He has never been part of the establishment, and he is free to adapt to political positions that are considered too risky by those in the establishment. He is doing things that other politicians would feel were not wise, in a career sense.

 

“He is very wealthy, 71 years old. There is no subsequent career after his presidency. So he doesn’t care too much about what the New York Times or public TV or radio or Harvard University says about it. He really doesn’t navigate the circles as most presidents do. That liberates him, and we need this liberation.”

Hanson said when Trump is liberated, America benefits.

“When people look around the world and look at the US, they say ‘Wow, good economic growth, cheap energy, stable government, stable social fabric, very low corporate tax rate, I think I’d want to invest there.’ You start seeing companies moving back to US. All of these things resulted in what we haven’t seen in our lifetime.”

When talking about the criticism against Trump, Hanson said, “People are reluctant to give Trump credit because his personality, his characteristics are such that they find off-putting.”

Speaking of the relationship between Trump and people who find him off-putting, Hanson said, “They are not worried about Trump being so incompetent or without experience. That’s not the problem. The problem is that he gets too many things done—tax overhaul, deregulation, energy expansion, bringing companies and capital back to the US.”

“They loaded a gun and are shooting ammunition every day, each one makes a dent, a bigger dent, hoping he will finally collapse. They are attacking him and try to caricature him as a buffoon, a crude person that nobody wants to be associated with.”

“On the other side, Trump is building a wall thicker and thicker. He is trying to get more armor—good economic growth, low unemployment. The wall gets bigger and thicker. ”

“He’s the most conservative president, based on his first year, since Ronald Reagan, much more conservative than George W. Bush or George H. W. Bush.”

Hanson said Trump’s approval rating is underestimated by the public polls, due to the silent voters and supporters.  He estimated between 3 and 4 percent of the people who voted for Trump are silent. So if the Gallup poll says Trump’s approval rating is 42 percent, it is really more like 45 or 46 percent.

Foreign Policy and International Affairs

Speaking about Trump’s foreign policy and approach to international affairs, Hanson said,

“I think he thinks transnational organizations such as the EU, UN, or trade agreements are really not democratic, and they don’t have more authority than the US. What he is trying to do is to tell Americans that we have Bill of Rights, we have a unique Constitution, so we really don’t have to subordinate our decision to people who don’t have those institutions. Why should we listen to what China says, why should we listen to what African or South American countries lecture us when they can’t even offer freedom to their own people?”

 

“That’s very different from Obama. Obama’s attitude is every country is equal to one another. Trump’s attitude is this is a unique country, it’s not like any other country—China, Japan, Europe. It’s a free-market, highly individualistic country. We have the oldest democracy and we are the richest and most powerful nation. We shouldn’t be apologetic about it—we don’t have to be arrogant, but we should be proud of that.”

In discussing the source of America’s leadership in the world, Hanson said Trump’s philosophy is different from Obama’s. “Obama thinks people don’t admire us because we are not liberal enough. We are not like Europe enough. Trump said people don’t admire us because we don’t exercise enough confidence. We can produce more energy, we have the strongest economy, military, we like our friends and don’t like our enemies. People will always gravitate toward strong leaders.”

While facing relentless criticism and mockery at home, Trump’s presidency seems to be taken more seriously and respectfully abroad.

On his first official visit to China, Trump received a rare honor that has never been granted to any US president or foreign leader: an emperor-style reception and dinner at the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City served as the home of the Chinese emperors and the highest status for almost 500 years.

Being a strong and uncompromising critic of China’s unfair trade practice and championing the “America First” agenda doesn’t make Trump a less favored or respected leader, if not more, especially by America’s top rivalry China.

The most powerful business magnate in China and Taiwan, Jack Ma of Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce company, and Terry Gou of Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronics, both responded to Trump’s interest in bringing jobs and capital back to the US with a call to action.

“It’s kind of a revolutionary moment,” said Hanson.