Donald Trump’s final ride on Air Force One departed Joint Base Andrews to the song My Way projected over loudspeakers on the runway.
He was different from the common politician. Not because of any extraordinary ability, but because of how he saw government: It should not be complicated, and it shouldn’t be the answer to everything.
Something happens when people get to Washington. Politicians get insulated from people. To voters, problems seem simple enough. Just do something about the issue--or at the very least--follow through on your campaign promise. Washington gets caught in a murk of its own making.
Politicians tend to herd. Acting or moving too far from established consensus--even in search of solutions, and even if the consensus begets no progress—gives Washingtonians too much exposure. Some pressing issues have no neat solutions, so they get passed over and forgotten.
Trump found no comfort in the herd. He did things his way, and the country benefitted from it. Three administrations passed on moving the U.S. embassy in Israel before Trump did it. He tore up NAFTA even though it offended the neighbors. He asked NATO allies to pay up, even if it made the cocktail parties uncomfortable. He championed tax cuts and shrinking federal regulation and the economy exploded. He recognized that the American people, not the government, are the greatest innovators and creators.
Trump found success in his ardent refusal to appease the crowd. He stepped out in front of the nation and proposed America-based solutions for America’s problems—some of which haven’t been touched in decades.
Washington gets so stale—so insulated—quickly. Tepidity plagues the elected. Good government needs renewal. And good policy needs a boldness that doesn’t serve a long Washington tenure.
In these first few weeks of a new administration, we are seeing our government turn tail and run from the front of the pack to the middle of the herd.
Recent federal decisions have been perplexing, to say the least. They don’t seem to be ones made with the greatest benefit in mind, but instead, decisions made to appease the political agenda of the nation’s largest herd. That is, Hollywood, Big Tech, the majority of mainstream national media outlets, and those who have been around Washington, D.C. for longer than a decade.
The draw of their accolade seems to be so compelling to the new administration that policy is being set by it.
The Keystone Pipeline project would have spanned over 875 miles, connecting Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The decision to revoke the federal permit for this contract killed an estimated 10,000 jobs. And this decision was made despite a lengthy State Department report that concluded that the pipeline would not significantly contribute to carbon pollution.
This was a decision made for political points, not the average American’s bottom line.
The administration’s new federal additions to unemployment benefits will mean that 62% of recipients will make more while unemployed than when they had a job. The signaled federal increases to minimum wage is a burden casually handed to a restaurant industry already sunk by government restrictions.
And what do the Washington proponents of continuous eviction and foreclosure freezes expect when the freeze is lifted? What of the untenable debt that both landlords and tenants will accrue? This isn’t granular, nuanced policy—it’s feel-good fantasy government.
On day one, the Biden administration made it a priority to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. The UN shortly thereafter informed the U.S. that it doesn’t need to rejoin the accord—we are already exceeding expectations.
It’s all the same old song and dance.
Growing government to tackle every issue is not bold. And when it’s done after countless failures of the same approach, it’s not leadership.
For the past five decades, government spending aimed at decreasing the poverty level in the U.S. has grown from $700 per person in the 1960s to $22,700 per person by 2020, after adjusting for inflation. Yet the U.S. poverty rate has not decreased. In fact, it has remained around 10-15% for the last 55 years.
Also since the 1960s, the U.S. has increased spending on education over 300%. Despite this, the US ranks strikingly low among the world’s education standards.
The impulse for the federal government to spend more is not good governance. The rest of the world’s proclivity for socialized industries is not evidence of success. We need leaders who are willing to stand out—and if necessary stand alone—to propose new solutions to old problems, and to be honest about what is broken.
We need innovators and leaders who don’t see themselves as the answer. The ingenuity and drive of the American people should be the source of our solutions. Government should empower that, not replace it.
Washington’s way doesn’t work. What we see coming from Washington are the same approaches to the same problems that have always delivered the same results. When the money is spent, we will be back at the well of the American taxpayer.
We need another visionary, not another politician. Washington needs a leader who is willing to set government aside. Let every American say, “I did it my way.”
Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.