TL;DR: Trump’s campaign promises sounded attractive to supporters but if carried out, they impose real, long-term costs.
President Donald Trump’s first act in the Oval Office was to reverse one of President Barack Obama’s last executive orders to cut mortgage fees. If this is any indication, his first year in office will be spent reversing Obama’s policies and programs, and undoing his legacy. The reversal of progressive policies, particularly those that promote climate action, reduce inequality, encourages diversity and pluralism have significant long-term impacts.
But beyond the reversal of liberal policies, Trump encourages behaviors that are contrary to progressive ideals and widely-accepted norms. His campaign rhetoric on immigration ban, his disdain for ethnic minorities, his running battles with the media, and propagation of half truths can have long-lasting impacts on American society if Trump remains in power for more than four years.
The cost of a sick population
Obamacare (aka Affordable Care Act) was by no means perfect as it only addressed insurance coverage but not the rapidly rising cost of healthcare in the US. Nonetheless, insurance coverage has given more than 12 million previously uninsured Americans access to healthcare, many of whom live in poor and underserved areas in middle America. A repeal of Obamacare would imperil these beneficiaries, reducing their productivity and making them unattractive for employment. Repealing Obamacare will hit populations in the very areas that Trump promised to revive. But how to revive when operating in areas with low levels of education and with no access to healthcare would be costly for business? Unless of course they bring in migrant workers, which brings us to another hallmark of Trump’s campaign platform.
The cost of a regressive immigration policy
Immigration in the US has had many faces over the last 100 years. While it occasionally rears its ugly head, immigration has, without doubt, made the US a dynamic economy with a young population. Diversity encourages tolerance, fosters creativity and spurs innovation through the open exchange of ideas. Imposing a ban on immigration of selected nationalities reverses the culture of tolerance and discourages communications that could lead to innovation. Banning immigration of people based on the color of their skin and their religion means that the US could miss out on knowledge, skills and ideas that these people may have.
The cost of reversing trade deals
It is not a stretch of the imagination to say that globalization is here to stay. The entire world economy is structured around regional and global trade deals that have opened markets and brought about an unprecedented level of prosperity in most countries. Trump claims that America’s trade deals have led to manufacturing job losses but neglects to say that American farm owners have also benefitted the most from NAFTA. You win some and lose some. Trump’s job is not to reverse a system that even his businesses have benefitted from, but to ease the pain for those who have lost and to help them make the transition to new opportunities. Even if by a stroke of luck he manages to bring back manufacturing jobs, another industry is bound to lose out. The “Made in America” concept is noble and will be supported broadly, but should not trigger counter productive trade wars.
The cost of conflicts of interest
Trump enters the Oval Office with a whirl of conflicts of interests over his business interests. Unresolved conflict of interest does not directly hurt the man (or woman) on the street, but it undermines the institutions that give him (or her) a chance at an equal playing field. Unethical behavior by those in power, especially the president, favors the powerful and those with the means to influence policy, and disenfranchise everyone else. When rule of law is compromised and institutions are broken, it will take generations to mend them, imposing opportunity costs along the way.
The cost of ignoring climate change
The telltale signs that the Trump government is looking to hit the delete button on America’s climate initiatives are obvious and alarming. The cost of reversing climate action is enormous and well-documented. One significant cost of shifting from climate action to climate inaction is the removal of the regulatory impetus for private business to act sustainably. Voluntary initiatives are one thing but even the most well-intentioned private initiative can be tempered by the absence of regulatory push and incentives.