President Donald J. Trump’s first year in office has been unlike anything we’ve witnessed from a president in modern times. He’s fallen to historically low levels in popularity polls. For every successful moment he enjoys, he soon suffers from a self-inflicted PR wound created by his own words or actions. But beyond the daily controversies caused by his impromptu Tweetstorms and ill-advised comments, Trump has presided over some notable accomplishments in his first year. Even though many conservatives still don’t like Trump (the so-called “Never Trumpers”), many of his achievements should please true conservatives. And while progressives abhor Trump’s personality and actions that have pushed the country to the right, some of the results from his first year, from a booming economy to a surprising victory against ISIS, benefit all Americans.
5. Trump Has Eliminated Hundreds of Federal Regulations
Trump campaigned with a promise to reduce federal regulations; immediately after assuming office, he signed an executive order to that end. It required that for every new federal regulation enacted, two existing regulations must be wiped off the books. He’s since canceled hundreds of existing or proposed federal regulations that date to the Obama era, governing everything from the environment and public health to business and labor. Whether you support these rollbacks or not, Trump can boast he’s delivered on that campaign promise.
4. Trump’s Approach Credited With Defeating ISIS
In mid-2014, ISIS jihadists controlled vast areas in Syria and Iraq and declared a caliphate (Islamic State). The horror stories about atrocities carried out by those extremists dominated U.S. news. Flash forward three years, however, and the caliphate has been mostly defeated; Iraq’s prime minister declared victory against ISIS in early December, and the extremists have lost 98 percent of the territory they once held. U.S. support played a critical role in that victory. A relentless air campaign battered the enemy, and several thousand U.S. forces on the ground were instrumental in training and equipping opposition forces facing ISIS.
Although this U.S. surge began under President Obama, many analysts credit President Trump’s decision to give field commanders more authority to act with assuring the victory. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last year that Trump “delegated authority to the right level to aggressively and in a timely manner move against enemy vulnerabilities,” ending what some said were efforts by the Obama Administration to “micromanage” the fighting. In typical Trump style, he boasted at a cabinet meeting last month about his role in the victory, telling Gen. Mattis he “knocked the hell” out of ISIS, but “Of course, I’ve made it possible with what I’ve let you do.”
Whoever deserves credit, the defeat of ISIS is one of the more underreported stories of 2017. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a conservative who endorsed Hillary Clinton, conceded in a column entitled A War Trump Won that the president deserves more credit. “If you had told me in late 2016 that almost a year into the Trump era the caliphate would be all-but-beaten without something far worse happening in the Middle East, I would have been surprised and gratified,” Douthat wrote.
3. President’s Influence on Courts Will Last Decades
Of the U.S. president’s many diverse duties, one the general public often overlooks is the ability to transform the federal judiciary. Of course, President Trump’s most notable judicial nominee, Neil Gorsuch, earned confirmation to the Supreme Court last year. But beyond that, Trump has been extremely successful in getting conservative judges seated on lower courts. For example, he has already appointed nine appeals court judges, the most by any president in his first year since Richard Nixon. As the conservative-leaning website Townhall.com notes, “President Trump has the opportunity to reshape constitutional law for at least the next 40 years with the sheer magnitude of young, conservative, judges he is appointing.”
2. President Gets GOP’s Longtime Dream of Tax Reform
For years, politicians from both parties have promised to push for tax reform legislation, but the efforts always fizzle. Trump’s greatest legislative achievement of his first year came to pass in December when he signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. It is the most significant tax reform in the U.S. since the 1980s, slashing the corporate tax rate and individual rates as well. Many progressive politicians contend the tax reform favors the wealthy at the expense of the middle class; Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi likened the bill to “Armageddon.” Yet in the wake of the bill’s passage — which happened entirely along partisan lines in the Senate — reports from even progressive-minded analysts have shown how the bill helps the middle class. And the anecdotal headlines build by the day, with hundreds of U.S. companies vowing to give bonuses and/or increase pay and benefits to workers. Some say the mere prospect the bill might be passed, and now the reality of its passage, have spurred the economy.
There are legitimate concerns, however, about the long-term effects of the law. Some of the tax cuts that benefit the middle class are due to expire in 2026 (although it seems unlikely any politician would fail to extend those in future legislation). There is also concern that the tax reform will add more than $1.4 trillion to the national deficit over the next 10 years. By comparison, the national debt grew almost $9 trillion during President Obama’s presidency.
1. Trump Getting More Credit For a Booming Economy
Many economists point to Trump’s pro-business policies for pulling the economy out of the slow growth of the Obama years. President Obama inherited an economic mess in 2009, yes, but the economic recovery that began in 2010 was the slowest recovery since the Great Depression (based on GDP growth). However, a Quinnipiac poll released in January 2018 showed more Americans credited Obama than Trump with the economic gains seen in 2017. Forty-nine percent credited Obama for the economy, while only 40 percent touted Trump. Some economists surveyed this month by the Wall Street Journal agree that Obama set the framework for the recovery with slow but steady growth, but they credit Trump for the sharp upturn in the economy in 2017. Almost 90 percent agreed Trump had a “Somewhat positive” or “Strongly positive” effect on the stock market, and 76 percent felt he had been a positive influence on GDP growth.
Whether you give Trump all the credit, no credit or somewhere in between, Americans are more optimistic about the economy than they have been in almost 20 years. Consumer confidence has reached a level not seen since 2000, and unemployment fell to a rate not seen since that same year. Going forward, this is clearly Trump’s economy, and most analysts predict another strong year in 2018.