Ignore the tweets: Trump already reshaping government
This President has an uncanny ability to deploy a single comment on Twitter that sends huge sections of the media into a tizzy. We saw it over the last few days in the spat between Mr. Trump and NFL players, and we will likely see more.
That's where the attention flows. But it tells us absolutely nothing about what the Trump administration has accomplished since taking office in January -- let alone what it may do in the months ahead. This piece, however, looks where others don't -- at the profound changes the Administration has made to the regulatory state. It's here, out of sight, and certainly not on Twitter, where the President is making huge inroads:
First look at policy and regulation. Trump dropped out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he wants changes in the Paris Climate Accord, and he’s renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. The vast majority of policy decisions are not made in the Oval Office but rather in the bowels of Cabinet departments, agencies, and commissions. The administration is beginning to dismantle President Obama’s regulatory framework, and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that virtually every controversial Obama-era regulation and policy is in jeopardy.
Decisions on the environmental front came first, but we are likely to see significant policy challenges across the whole policy horizon. The changes likely to occur in decisions by the National Labor Relations Board alone are huge. Corporate executives who find Trump’s style objectionable are nonetheless pleased with his aggressive approach to regulations.
And let's not forget his influence on the federal judiciary:
If Trump doesn’t get a single additional nominee for the Supreme Court, he will have already made an enormous impact. If newly minted Justice Neil Gorsuch, age 50, stays on the Supreme Court until he’s the same age as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is today, he will have served 34 years.
Then consider the potential for more changes. The oldest current member of the Court is Ginsburg, one of the most liberal members, who is 84. The next oldest is the swing vote on many issues, Anthony Kennedy, 81. Next oldest is another liberal, Stephen Breyer, 79. You have to go back a decade to find the next two oldest justices, Clarence Thomas, 69, and Samuel Alito, 67. Both are conservatives, as is Chief Justice John Roberts, 62. If there’s another high-court vacancy and Trump appoints someone in the mold of Gorsuch, the Supreme Court could have a conservative majority for a decade or more. Throw in openings on 13 U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal and 94 U.S. District Courts, and it’s likely that Trump will have a profound effect on the federal judiciary.
And while we're on the topic, the potential for change at the Federal Reserve:
The seven-member Fed currently has three vacant seats, and a fourth will open up in October, when Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer steps down. Also consider that while Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s term as a Fed governor doesn’t expire until the end of January 2024, her term as chair runs out Feb. 3. Trump has not indicated whether he will renominate her or seek a replacement. At the very least, a majority of the Fed governors, as well as its chair and vice chair, will be Trump appointees.
These are the areas where the Administration is already, or soon will, have an enormous effect on policy that reaches across not just the executive branch, but into the judiciary and the financial markets, as well. These changes will last far longer, and have greater influence, than anything the President taps into Twitter -- and it's here we should be putting our attention.