04/13/2017

The Trump Presidency Begins

Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal

Instead of “The Trump Presidency Begins,” an alternative headline for this column might have been “Trump’s Presidency Begins.” Each describes a different reality.

Until recently, “Trump’s presidency” has been about one thing—Donald Trump. It’s been Trump 24/7. Mr. Trump owned the presidency the way Mr. Trump owns a tower on Fifth Avenue. For better and for worse, Trump’s presidency was all about him.

In the past few weeks—the Gorsuch appointment, the Syrian strike, the meeting with China’s Xi Jinping —we are finally seeing the beginning of the real Trump presidency.

Like all the others dating back to George Washington, the presidency is not an object captured by one person; it is an office held in trust for the people of the United States.

The Trump-centric phenomenon of these early days is the product of our celebrity-centric times, not least the presidency. He drove it with social media, and the media torrents washed back over him.

There are some realities, though, that the media torrents haven’t washed away yet. America’s institutions, its politics and the distant world are still too large for anyone to hold and command alone. That is the lesson of recent days.

Neil Gorsuch was nominated by Mr. Trump to fill the ninth seat on the Supreme Court. What followed was a mighty political struggle. The opposition to Judge Gorsuch, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, revealed that the legal philosophies of progressives and conservatives have arrived at incompatibility.

Confirming Judge Gorsuch required the Trump presidency to recede so its political allies could rise and execute. The legislative branch eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, thereby preserving the president’s prerogatives.

While the Gorsuch drama played out on the Senate floor, Mr. Trump met at Mar-a-Lago with China’s Xi Jinping, who traveled nearly 8,000 miles to meet the American president. Possibly, the Chinese thought that Muhammad going to the mountain would flatter the flatterable Mr. Trump. Instead, the strikingly low-key meeting acknowledged the high stakes for the two nations and the world.

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Thanks to "bracket creep," the inflation of the 1970s pushed millions of taxpayers into higher tax brackets even though their inflation-adjusted incomes were not rising. To help offset this tax increase and also to improve incentives to work, save, and invest, President Reagan proposed sweeping tax rate reductions during the 1980s. What happened? Total tax revenues climbed by 99.4 percent during the 1980s, and the results are even more impressive when looking at what happened to personal income tax revenues. Once the economy received an unambiguous tax cut in January 1983, income tax revenues climbed dramatically, increasing by more than 54 percent by 1989 (28 percent after adjusting for inflation).

 

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