His record on reducing government has so far been impressive. So why isn’t it getting more attention?
Despite all the Never Trumpers predicting economic turmoil, more deals with “Chuck and Nancy,” and triangulation towards big-government liberalism, President Donald Trump has so far proven to be the most libertarian president since Calvin Coolidge.
On multiple fronts, Trump and his advisors, notably Mick Mulvaney, have managed a record-setting list of accomplishments that leave past self-aggrandizing constitutional conservatives in the dust. On key issues of regulatory reform, rolling back federal power, appointing constitutionalist judges, and rethinking America’s place on the international stage, Trump is setting the gold standard for future libertarian and conservative presidents.
To start with, the Trump administration has been rolling back federal regulations at a faster speed than any other first-year president. As of October 12, 469 government rules have been stricken from the books, more than twice and three times the numbers of George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s first years respectively. And according to Neomi Rao, the administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Trump administration has either withdrawn, delayed, or placed under reconsideration more than 1,500 total regulations, which will save the economy more than $570 million annually.
On the international stage, Trump has moved away from the liberal internationalism of the past, taking the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which many libertarians have argued didn’t actually promote free trade, and the Paris climate treaty, which would have cost the U.S. an estimated $3 trillion. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley also announced a $285 million reduction in the U.N. budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The president additionally signaled in a tweet on January 1 that he plans to cut foreign aid to Pakistan and Palestine. And while Trump isn’t the pacifist that many of his libertarian supporters had hoped he’d be, especially when comes to the war in Afghanistan, his first year in office saw a radical decrease in American involvement in Syria, with an end to aid for CIA-backed rebels in the region.
The Trump administration is also conducting the Defense Department’s first-ever audit, which will hopefully lead to fat-trimming from its massive $639 billion budget.
Another first is Trump’s move to devolve executive power and restore Congress’s checks and balances. Unlike his predecessor, Trump is not governing through executive fiat and has kicked the ball back to Congress on a number of issues, including DACA, Iran sanctions, Obamacare subsidies, and 15 regulatory nullifications, which is 14 more than all the other presidents combined.
Of course, Trump’s longest standing accomplishment will be his record-breaking number of judicial appointments, almost all of them strict constitutionalists, including Neil Gorsuch (Supreme Court), Don Willet (Fifth Circuit), James Ho (Fifth Circuit), Leonard Grasz (Eighth Circuit), Amy Coney Barrett (Seventh Circuit), Stephanos Bibas (Third Circuit), Allison Eid (Tenth Circuit), and Joan Larsen (Sixth Circuit). Judicial nominees are an important test for modern presidents. They were the reason many Republicans and independents who were on the fence about Trump during the campaign ended up voting for him, and Trump hasn’t let them down.
Possibly the most surprising thing about Trump’s first term is how he’s mended fences with former political enemies. Some of his new friends are hugely disappointing (Nikki Haley, Lindsey Graham) but others, such as an alliance with Senator Rand Paul, have been beneficial. Over a couple rounds of golf, the junior senator from Kentucky has been able to influence Trump on several key issues; his growing influence over the president led Axios to dub Paul “the Trump Whisperer.” Paul has pushed Trump to issue an executive order on purchasing health care across state lines and was a key ally in passing the tax reform bill that lowered the tax burden for nearly 80 percent of Americans.
Trump is obviously no Ron Paul—he still wants to increase military spending, place tariffs on foreign competitors, and continue the costly wars on drugs and poverty—but then again he never claimed to be. And his record of accomplishment is not only a far cry from the moderated centrism or unproductive gridlock predicted by his naysayers but outstanding as presidential first years go. Yes, there’s room for improvement. But libertarians, especially those who consider themselves “Never Trump,” need to realize that this president has so far proven their best champion since Silent Cal nearly a century ago.