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3 winners and 4 losers from Trump’s first 100 days

President Trump speaks at the Department of Veterans Affairs Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images
Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

Trump’s first 100 days have seen him achieve a relatively small number of his stated goals. Sure, there have been some regulatory rollbacks, an immigration crackdown, and a Supreme Court confirmation. But otherwise Trump has endured court rulings frustrating his efforts to crack down on “sanctuary cities” and travel from Muslim countries, and has gotten next to nothing accomplished in Congress.

That being said, the first 100 days definitely left some political actors better off than others. Here’s who finished the period better than they started it, and who took some hits.

Winner: Obamacare

Anti-Trump Activists March To Trump Tower In New York Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

Here’s an excerpt from a piece I wrote on November 9, the day after the presidential election, predicting what Donald Trump and Paul Ryan would do to the Affordable Care Act with their newfound governing majority:

There is now a governing majority capable of repealing Obamacare. All of it.

Republicans will almost certainly control the Senate, and definitely control the House, and while the law took a filibuster-proof majority to pass, House Budget Committee Chair Tom Price has designed a bill that would repeal it but work through the budget reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority in the Senate. Price's bill would end the Medicaid expansion and repeal tax credits for low-income Americans. It would repeal the taxes used to finance the law and its mandate. This plan would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, cost 22 million people health insurance.

There’s some reason to suspect the Republicans in Congress wouldn’t go full steam ahead. It’s hard to deny 22 million people health insurance without paying an electoral price for it. They could do the transition gradually, or phase out Medicaid expansion first, since Medicaid recipients are poor enough that they rarely vote for Republicans anyway. But after six years of Republican pledges to repeal and replace, it’s hard to imagine the first part of that equation not happening.

Emphases mine. In retrospect, the only part of that assessment that really held up was the caveat. Here we are, 100 days into Trump’s presidency, and the odds of a meaningful repeal package passing Congress are barely higher than they were when Obama himself was president.

This was clearest on March 24, the day that Ryan threw in the towel on his initial effort to pass the American Health Care Act, and the whole repeal effort appeared moribund. Now, the AHCA persists as a kind of zombie bill, with a current effort underway to get ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus members on board by making the bill even harsher, by letting states limit protections for people with preexisting conditions and get rid of requirements that insurance plans cover “essential health benefits.”

But as my colleague Dylan Scott has noted, anything that gets the Freedom Caucus on board risks alienating less conservative House members in the Tuesday Group, who are extremely concerned that the legislation will cause thousands of their constituents to lose insurance. And sure enough, as soon as the Freedom Caucus concessions were announced, previously undecided House Republicans not in that Caucus started declaring their opposition. Even if the effort somehow makes its way through the House, it’s DOA in the Senate, where only three Republican no votes can sink the whole thing — and where some of the bill’s provisions could be subject to a 60 vote threshold, which Republicans will never meet in a million years.

Having Trump as president is still unquestionably worse for the health of the law, especially the insurance marketplaces, than having Hillary Clinton in office would’ve been. The sheer uncertainty Trump has created about whether the law’s cost-sharing subsidies, which defray copays and deductible costs for low-income families, will continue has risked market chaos.

But to paraphrase Joe Biden, Obamacare is alive and the American Health Care Act is (mostly) dead. That’s got to count as a win for the largest piece of American welfare state expansion since the 1960s.

Winner: Big business

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin And National Economic Director Gary Cohn Brief The Media At The White House Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Donald Trump famously promised in May 2016 to turn the Republican Party into a “workers’ party.” The implication was clear: Republican elites before him like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney prioritized deregulation for businesses and tax cuts for the rich, and offered little or nothing for working-class people, specifically working-class white people. Instead, the party relied on social issues like abortion and immigration to earn their votes. But Trump would be different. He wouldn’t be bought off by the globalists. He would defend Social Security and Medicare, crack down on trade, and wouldn’t be a toady of Wall Street like Crooked Hillary.


The first signs that this was just a lie came during the transition. Trump announced that he was literally handing over control of economic policy to Goldman Sachs — GS alums Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, to be precise. He also turned over his foreign policy to an oil executive, Rex Tillerson.

But he also named staffers who challenged the conservative-libertarian economic consensus that Mnuchin and Cohn reflected. Most notably, there was Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, who as CEO of Breitbart laid out a comprehensive economic nationalist platform in strident opposition to the laissez-faire policies of Paul Ryan. As Julia Hahn, a Breitbart writer turned Bannon deputy at the White House, wrote in October, “The open borders, internationalist worldview of Clinton and Ryan stands diametrically opposed to the ‘America first’ agenda of Donald Trump.”

Stephen Miller, the president’s chief policy adviser, is slightly more conventional in his economic views, but also called for a nationalistic reimagining of trade and immigration policy, agreeing with Bannon that legal immigration is the real problem.

As the administration took office, the battle lines became clear. On one side were the nationalists: Bannon, Hahn, arguably Miller. On the other were what Bannon and his allies pejoratively termed the “globalists”: Cohn, Jared Kushner, Ivanka, the “New York gang.” And as my colleague Andrew Prokop has written, the New York gang appears to have decisively defeated the nationalists so far.

The nationalists have gotten an immigration crackdown, that’s true (more on that later). But they wanted more than that. They wanted to either stay out of the Syrian conflict or back Assad. They wanted to pivot away from NATO and toward Putin's Russia, lessening sanctions on the latter. They wanted to crack down on foreign trade. And while they were basically fine with repealing Obamacare and cutting taxes, these aren't nearly as significant priorities for them as they are for the Mnuchin/Ryan wing of the party.

And on foreign policy, and trade especially, the nationalists have been rejected. Bannon and trade advisor Peter Navarro wrote up a draft executive order withdrawing from NAFTA, only for billionaire Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and ultra-establishmentarian Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to, with help from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, persuade Trump to abandon the idea for now. Trump has gone back on his promise to label China a currency manipulator, a move which would have opened the door to trade tariffs. He did slap some tariffs on Canadian lumber, but then again so did George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, the finance-connected wings of the administration seem to be setting the priorities. Mnuchin and Cohn are speeding ahead with a tax reform effort that is anything but worker-centered, and would in fact raise taxes on millions of working families so as to radically cut taxes on corporations and particularly owners of pass-through companies … like the Trump Organization’s subsidiaries. The White House is supporting congressional efforts to keep trying to repeal Obamacare’s taxes. And Trump issued executive orders seeking to dismantle key financial regulations and to make it easier for companies to move overseas to evade taxes.

Whatever this is, it isn’t “economic nationalism,” and it’s not creating a “workers’ party.” It’s the kind of economic policy that big business has been craving for years, to the exclusion of the priorities of the Bannon wing.

Winner: Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Sessions Addresses Ethics And Compliance Initiative Conf. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It was lonely being Jeff Sessions for the past four years. He was a vocal proponent of cracking down on immigration, both legal and illegal, at a time when the Gang of Eight was trying to build Republican support for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, and the party as a whole was becoming convinced that they needed to reach out to Latinx voters to have a chance in hell of winning again.

He was also an old-school, tough-on-crime conservative as the right became more and more open to large-scale criminal justice reform, including reducing sentences for non-violent offenses, expanding the use of non-prison punishments, and cracking down on police abuses like civilian shootings and civil asset forfeiture. Hardcore conservatives like Ted Cruz were saying stuff like, “Too many young men, in particular African-American young men, find their lives drawn in with the criminal justice system, find themselves subject to sentences of many decades for relatively minor non-violent drug infractions.” Rand Paul made ending mass incarceration the centerpiece of his presidential bid.

And then along came Donald Trump. He was an unapologetic demagogue on immigration who launched his presidential campaign by declaring that Mexico was sending rapists across the border. His rhetoric on crime evokes some strange combination of 1980s New York Post headlines and Escape from New York. It’s no surprise that Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump in the primaries, and appeared with him at a campaign event as early as August 2015.

Once Trump, against all odds, took the White House, Sessions’s moment had finally arrived. Criminal justice and immigration enforcement are obviously issues in which the legislature has input, but prosecutorial discretion means that executive agencies have a lot of power. Lucky for him, Trump was willing to make him attorney general, giving him sweeping authority over both issues.

And while Sessions’s former aide and close ideological ally Stephen Miller has stumbled at times — like during the botched rollout of the Muslim country travel ban, where Miller’s own press statements helped the effort get blocked in court — Sessions has nonetheless come to totally dominate criminal justice and immigration policy in the Trump years.

Since Trump and Sessions took over, border apprehensions have dramatically plummeted as immigrants avoided crossing in fear of the new administration. Overall immigration arrests have spiked. The administration adopted a new policy of arresting immigrants at courthouses, including immigrants there to file restraining orders. And while both the travel ban and an executive order targeting “sanctuary cities” got held up in court, the administration’s effort to review and potentially crack down on H1-B visas for high-skilled workers was not.

Same goes for criminal justice policy. Sessions ordered a sweeping review of all "consent decrees" — agreements between the federal government and local police departments to make the departments enforce civil rights laws and avoid brutality and discrimination — and said that they "reduce morale of the police officers." He reauthorized the use of private prisons and closed a commission meant to ensure prosecutors don’t use junk science in prosecutions. He is slowly but surely trying to roll back much of the progress made under Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch and to avoid all but the most cursory federal oversight of police departments that brutalize black communities and violate civil rights.

In other words, he’s getting exactly what he wanted on the two issues closest to his heart.

Loser: Donald Trump

President Trump Signs Aluminum Imports Memorandum At The White House
A “Memorandum on Aluminum Imports and Threats to National Security” - nice.
Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump does not, it appears, care all that much about getting policy goals accomplished. His borderline indifference to health reform was startling to witness. He’s even been remarkably disengaged on tax reform, where he stands to gain millions of dollars by giving himself tax cuts.

But he does care about being popular. Oh boy, does he care. As just the latest example, consider this anecdote from a Friday piece in Reuters:

More than five months after his victory and two days shy of the 100-day mark of his presidency, the election is still on Trump's mind. Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

"Here, you can take that, that's the final map of the numbers," the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. "It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us."

George W. Bush did a lot of stuff wrong — really, really wrong — but he did not spend four years constantly radiating insecurity about having lost the popular vote. Trump’s first 100 days, by contrast, have featured the president and his aides again and again denying that he lost the popular vote, exaggerating the extent of his Electoral College victory, and generally convincing the American people that his skin is a nanometer deep and that hearing he’s not the most popular man in the world will cause him to crawl into the fetal position under his desk and not leave for hours.

So let’s evaluate Trump by his own standard: popularity.

And keep in mind, all of these other presidents (save for the Bushes’ post-Gulf War and post-9/11 surges, respectively) saw their approval ratings drop further as their terms progressed and they made more and more unpopular decisions. Trump will be very lucky to be at 39 percent by the time of the midterms next November, and even if he is, he’ll likely face devastating House losses of the kind that Obama experienced in 2010 and Bush did in 2006.

It’s true that Trump is probably making money hand over fist by being president. And that surely gives him some joy. But at the end of the day, he just wants to be liked. And he really, really isn’t.

Loser: Vladimir Putin

Russian President Putin Attends Russian-Japanese Business Dialogue In Tokyo
“My only friend … everyone I know goes away, in the end.”
Ma Ping - Pool/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin had some clear goals when he intervened in the US presidential election. He saw in Hillary Clinton someone eager to intervene against Russian interests in Syria, who’d take a tough line on further incursions into Ukrainian territory, and who was committed to maintaining sanctions against Russia to keep the pressure on. And he saw in Trump someone willing to make radical changes: someone who’d praised him repeatedly, who was critical of NATO, who seemed comfortable with Bashar al-Assad’s butchery and willing to consider a pivot to his side, who’d back Russia up at the UN and recognize its conquest of Crimea, and who’d lift sanctions.

Well, Putin’s intervention worked. Trump got elected. And it’s hard to see what policies he’s won in the process. Trump didn’t cozy up to Assad; he bombed Assad. When Exxon asked for a waiver so they could drill for oil in Russia, the Trump administration turned them down. Trump declared that Crimea had been “taken” by Putin. America’s financial contributions and treaty commitments to NATO are unchanged. The sanctions have not been lifted. US troops are still in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — whose past working on oil deals with Putin might have given Russia hope — said that Russia’s election hacking was “serious issue, one serious enough to attract additional sanctions.”

It’s still early going. But so far, Putin has gotten very little in the way of actual policy changes from the Trump administration. It’s enough to make you wonder if it was worth hijacking another country’s election in the first place.

Loser: Immigrants

Customs And Border Protection Patrols U.S. Border As Illegal Crossings Plummet
Migrants about to be deported back to Mexico.
John Moore/Getty Images

If you want to get a sense of the psychic toll that Trump's presidency has already taken on immigrant communities, I encourage to read this feature by Vox's Dara Lind on how a Latino community in Austin, Texas, is coping. Many stayed in their homes for weeks out of fear (unfounded fear, as it turned out) of roadside checks by ICE agents. Victims of domestic abuse expressed fear of coming forward, which is understandable given the new "courthouse arrest" policy of the Trump administration.

In February, the community faced ICE raids, which one Texas judge says ICE told him was meant as punishment for the city's liberal immigration policies. While Bush and Obama had conducted raids in Austin too, Lind writes, "the fear triggered by the January 2016 raids was nothing compared with the current panic." The nature of the Trump administration, and the fact that its raids often happen in public, has created a climate of fear and uncertainty that paralyzes millions of undocumented Americans. Making matters worse is the administration’s clear message that no one is safe — even at least one DREAMer who came here when he was 9 and got explicit protection under the Obama administration has been deported.

The damage done by the administration is both direct and indirect. There are the direct deportations, which were cruel and harmful when Obama did them too but which Trump’s increased immigration arrests signal he’ll ramp up. Then there’s the climate of fear, which has increased with the uncertainty over whether Trump will continue Obama’s deportation protection programs, and due to his overall rhetoric of fate and fear and venom directed at immigrant communities.

But there’s also profound damage done through the sense that all the pain of the Trump years was intended, that it was something that immigrants’ native-born neighbors and countrymen in fact voted for and welcomed. They endorsed a candidate who promised all this and delivered, and many if not most of them did so because of his unusually anti-immigrant message. Undocumented immigrants have gotten a clear signal that their president hates them. But they’ve gotten a signal that their country hates them too.

Loser: The global poor

Girls read an educational book at an adolescent youth center in Uganda. Low contraceptive usage has fueled fertility, with 59 percent of girls in Uganda pregnant by the age of 20.
Girls read an educational book at an adolescent youth center in Uganda. Low contraceptive usage has fueled fertility, with 59 percent of girls in Uganda pregnant by the age of 20.
Neil Thomas/Corbis via Getty Images

One of Trump’s most underrated horrifying policy decisions was his reimposing of the “global gag rule.” At this point, it’s kind of a tradition for Republican presidents to issue executive orders banning federal funds from going to foreign family planning organizations that provide information on abortion. Republicans put it in place when they take office, Democrats repeal it upon their inauguration, then Republicans put it in again, and so on and so forth.

So it wasn’t surprising that Trump issued an executive order on this. The actual content of the order, however, was shocking. A my colleague Sarah Wildman explained, the policy historical has only applied to organizations receiving family planning funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). That's bad — the rule actually increases abortions, including unsafe ones that kill women — but it limited the impact to a budget of about $608 million annually. Trump, however, expanded the rule to include all global health spending, including from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Peace Corps, even PEPFAR, America's enormously successful anti-HIV/AIDS program launched by George W. Bush. That totals $9.5 billion every single year.

The humanitarian toll this will cause should not be underestimated. It could force PEPFAR to individually ask hundreds or thousands of clinics if they’ve ever referred people for abortions, and to deny money for live-saving HIV drugs to clinics that answer in the affirmative. Scott Evertz, Bush's director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, told Slate's Michelle Goldberg, "It would have been impossible to treat HIV/AIDS in the developing world as the emergency that PEPFAR said it was if the global gag rule were to be applied to the thousands of organizations with which those of us involved in PEPFAR would be working."

And this appears to only be the beginning of Trump’s assault on the global poor. Foreign Policy obtained a draft document from Trump’s budget team proposing sweeping cuts to USAID, including a 25 percent cut to global health programs.

"That will end the technical expertise of USAID, and in my view, it will be an unmitigated disaster for the longer term," Andrew Natsios, who led USAID under Bush, told Foreign Policy. "What you’re basically doing is eviscerating the most important tool of American influence in the developing world, which is our development program." Tom Kenyon at the global health group Project Hope added, "There's just no question people would die from this."

It's likely that this, like many of Trump's budget cuts, will face strong opposition in Congress, but even if a small fraction of these cuts go through the results would be lethal.

Trump’s policies on immigration and climate change are also affronts to the global poor. There is no single policy that the United States could adopt that would do more good for more people than expanding access to low-skilled immigration. An average Nigerian worker can increase his income almost 15-fold just by moving to the United States, and residents of significantly richer countries like Mexico can more than double their earnings. By acting to reduce the number of people from poorer countries who can live and work in the US, Trump is actively working to increase global poverty.

And by rolling back Obama-era climate mitigation measures, Trump is accelerating a global process whose effects on extreme weather and sea level rise are almost certain to hurt residents of poor countries more than those of rich countries (and in some cases already are). The Netherlands can afford to build dykes and sea walls to defend itself from the rising ocean. Bangladesh cannot. By fighting climate regulation, Trump isn’t just helping to doom the planet, he’s specifically hurting the most vulnerable people on earth.

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