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Robert Reich: The No-Deal President – OpEd

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Trump promised to be America’s dealmaker in chief. But so far – whether he’s dealing with foreign governments or with Congress – Trump has shown that he can’t make a deal. Here’s the list:

1. No deal with North Korea. Following his June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un, Trump declared on Twitter that “there is no longer a nuclear threat” from North Korea. But in fact, there’s no deal. Trump gave Kim what Kim wanted – a photo op showing an American president granting North Korea co-equal status, and the cancellation of joint military exercises with South Korea. Yet Kim conceded nothing on weapons and missile programs. In fact, recent satellite imagery shows the North is actually improving its nuclear capability. Instead of surrendering its nuclear stockpile, American intelligence officials say North Korea is considering ways to conceal it at secret production facilities. A new report from the Defense Intelligence Agency concludes that North Korea is unlikely to denuclearize.

2. No deal on Nafta. Mexico and Canada insist they won’t budge.

3. No deal with China on trade. In November, Trump lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping of China after a one-on-one meeting in Beijing, during which Xi offered no concrete concession on trade. Now, we’re on the brink of a trade war with China, which is retaliating against U.S. tariffs.

4. No deal on steel and aluminum imports. Europe has imposed retaliatory tariffs on several products exported from the U.S. to Europe, including motorcycles (inducing Harley-Davidson to announce it’s moving some production to Europe), and causing GM to claim American jobs will suffer as a result.

5. No deal on the Qatar blockade.

6. No deal on Syria.

7. No deal on Russia. Even though Trump and Putin will soon meet, Trump has given away his bargaining leverage: Over the past few weeks he’s called for Russia to be readmitted to the Group of 7 industrial powers, suggested it has a legitimate claim to Crimea because many Russian speakers live there, and continued to sow doubts about whether Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election — or if it did, whether the sabotage actually benefited Hillary Clinton.

8. No deal on Iran. On May 8, Trump announced America’s exit from Iran nuclear deal. Since then, no negotiations. America’s allies insist that no new deal will replace it.

9. No deal on climate change. Trump simply pulled out of the Paris accords. There have been no negotiations since.

10. No deal on Pacific trade. No new negotiations since Trump exited from the Pacific Trade pact.

11. No deal with Group of 7 leading economic powers. Instead, in a pique of irritation at Canada’s prime minister, Trump refused to sign a communiqué his own team had agreed to. Since then, nothing.

12. No deal on DACA or immigration. Early this year Trump promised to sign what he called a “bill of love” to extend protections to 800,000 immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children. But since then, he has thrown in the towel on such protections.

13. No budget deal. Trump promised he wasn’t going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.” But in February he proposed cutting Social Security disability programs. And he proposed a 2019 budget that would slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, transportation and other essential government services, all while increasing the federal deficit. So far, no deal on any of this.

14. No deal on replacing the Affordable Care Act. Trump and the Republican Congress never agreed to a new plan, so Trump is quietly repealing the ACA administratively without a replacement. It’s estimated that at least 5 million people will lose coverage.

15. No deal on gun control. After the Parkland shooting, Trump promised to tighten background checks for gun buyers and said he’d consider raising the age for buying certain types of guns. On March 11, he abandoned his promise, bowing to the gun group and embracing its agenda of armed teachers and incremental improvements to the background check system.

Bottom line: Trump can’t make deals. He can only pull out of deals already made, or pretend he’s made deals that soon evaporate.


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Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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