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  • Thomas Unwin

2016 US Presidential Race: An in-depth look at Donald Trump’s policies

Gage Skidmore, 2011

Photograph: Flickr / Gage Skidmore

Trump is still leading the polls to be Republican candidate. According to Reuters, Trump has surged to 42% of likely republican votes, 25% more than Ben Carson, his closest rival. If he keeps up this momentum long enough for the Iowa primary election a week after New Year’s then Trump will most likely be the Republican candidate. But what exactly are his concrete plans to “make America great again” – he sets these out in 5 key policy areas.

Let’s start with his ‘Chinese policy’, where Trump looks to tackle America’s high trade deficit of $318 billion. China owns $1.2 trillion worth of US debt and if they were to start selling this debt it could have massive repercussions on the US economy. Trump’s policies attempt to address this issue, but with few solutions, as he only relies on his skills as a negotiator to bring China (whom he denounces as ‘currency manipulators’) to the discussion table and convince them to stop pursuing policies of ‘unfair tariffs’. This is reminiscent of Obama’s attempts to negotiate with China which didn’t have a fruitful end. Trump claims he will strengthen America’s trading position but economic forecasters have stated that the national debt is more likely to increase under Trump. Most worryingly Trump wants to strengthen the US military presence in East and South China. This would cause tensions with China to rise, who perceives any such actions as acts of aggression. This would ultimately hinder economic reconciliation in the future.

Trump’s views on the second amendment (the right to keep and bear arms) have remained staunchly in favour of lax gun laws despite the recent gun massacres. Trump hopes to reduce gun massacres with new policies, including rougher mental health checks and enforcement of greater penalties for violent gun crime. However this in turn has the potential to merely increase the culture of mass incarceration in the US and further stigmatise mental health issues. If we compare America to Australia, where possession of firearms is also legal but with stricter gun laws in place, there have been zero mass shootings (4 or more people shot in one incident) since a tougher stand was taken in 1996. In comparison, America has witnessed 994 mass shootings in the past two-and-a-half years. It seems that Trump is more interested in protecting the sacred second amendment than he is protecting the wider American population.

Tax cuts are immensely popular with conservative voters and Trump has the biggest of them all. He plans to “simplify the tax code” so a single person paying less than $25,000 or a married couple jointly earning less than $50,000 pay no income tax. He also plans to bring corporation tax down from 35% to 15%, and the top rate of tax for wealthy individuals down from 40% to 25%. This must be music to conservative’s ears but there is no way his tax plan is in any way cost effective or well-budgeted for the long-term. Under this plan the US would lose $10 trillion worth of revenues in 10 years and growth would not be high enough to correct this. This also doesn’t consider the increase in funding for Trump’s other policies such as border control reform. He does have plans to reduce tax evasion and close corporate loopholes, but these will most likely not be enough to eschew considerable economic losses.

Nevertheless, Trump does have some reasonable policies, such as the veteran’s administration reforms. There is a high number of homeless veterans in America who receive very limited care so it’s refreshing that a candidate has set out to tackle this. Trump’s plans would allow veterans access to physical and mental health care, increase job training and placements and provide women’s refuge. He would also streamline the administration process which would increase efficiency and reduce costs. These are very welcome initiatives, however due to Trump’s tax plans they will most probably not get the adequate funding to make it the success it has the potential to be.

Finally we come to the highly contentious topic of immigration. Trump’s most well-known policy is the proposed ‘wall’ along the 1,954-mile US-Mexico border (which he somehow intends to get Mexico to pay for). Experts estimate that it would cost tens of billions of dollars to build, with further expensive costs to actually patrol it. But this is a rather a light hearted policy which isn’t taken too seriously, but is used to epitomise Trump’s ruthless immigration policies and xenophobic attitude. This includes more brutal and costly border controls by tripling border officers, having higher penalties for Mexicans overstaying without visas and more raids leading to more immigrants in jail. The most costly policy is the mass deportation of all illegal immigrants rather than the more successful citizenship programme. This would cost $114 billion and would result in a loss of 6% of GDP which Mexicans contribute towards. More importantly though, this would break-up law abiding families in the US. These policies derive from unfounded prejudiced views that Mexicans are a burden to American society and cause lower wages, which various studies have disproven.

Overall, It can be concluded that Trump’s policies are quite unreasonable, offering more fear-mongering rhetoric rather than concrete solutions. Yet despite this, Trump’s lead in the polls show little signs of him slowing down. As much as we laugh at his campaign antics, we should start taking him seriously as a candidate, and offer rebuttals to his proposals, or else we won’t be laughing when he is sat in the White House.

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