On March 10, US president Donald Trump hits his 50th day in office—halfway through the crucial first 100 days. The president promised a clear list of things to get done over that period in his “Contract with the American Voter” (pdf). So, we’ve gone through that contract—a mixture of easy wins, direct guidelines, and weighty legislative ideas—and graded Trump on how well he’s doing, using a scale of his favorite catchphrases:
- Tremendous! = Complete success
- Nice! = Good result
- Watch! = Looking up
- Failing!= Looking down
- Sad! = Disappointing result
- Total disaster! = Nothing done
Overall verdict: The new administration got off to a flying start, with a ream of executive orders that sent his opponents reeling and set in motion a decent number of his easier campaign promises. However, since then scandals about his campaign’s alleged contacts with Russia have embroiled his administration, the Democrats have impeded his cabinet nominations, and the inexperience of Trump, his cabinet, and his staff have bogged down decision-making and execution.
Trump set himself targets that Franklin D. Roosevelt would have had to work up a sweat to meet. As it is, he’d do well just to pass a replacement for Obamacare by the end of his first 100 days.
Six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC
Promise 1: Propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress
Action: Nothing we know of. Republican senator Ted Cruz has proposed exactly such an amendment but only persuaded 10 other lawmakers to back it, all of them Republican. It would need two thirds of both the Senate and House to pass, so needs a lot of Democrats on side. So far, the president hasn’t been much help in supporting it.
Rating: Sad! Keeping this promise would be almost impossible but Trump hasn’t tried.
Promise 2: A hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce the federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health).
Action: Announced a 90-day freeze on his first full work day in office (paywall). However, it is hitting the military’s hiring of civilians—making life difficult for military families.
Rating: Nice! Apart from the hiccups around military hiring and the fact that there are more exemptions than promised, the freeze is working as intended.
Promise 3: A requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.
Action: Trump has signed an executive order demanding exactly this and specifying that no new regulation can add a net cost to American businesses. He then added another executive order, calling on agencies to target any costly regulations that can be culled.
Rating: Tremendous! Done and done. His opponents say the moves are harmful for workers and the environment, and 2-for-1 is certainly a crude metric—but Trump has gone beyond what he promised his voters.
Promise 4: A five-year ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service.
Action: Trump signed a five-year ban on administration officials lobbying agencies they have worked for. However, they can still lobby other agencies, and Trump has weakened some Obama-era regulations, including on lobbyists joining the White House and former officials doing unregistered lobbying. To stop lobbying by Congressional officials, he would need Congress to pass its own ban; he has made no public attempt to do so.
Rating: Failing! Trump has made improvements to some Obama ethics rules, but weakened others and made no impact on Congressional officials becoming lobbyists.
Promise 5: A lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.
Action: Trump’s five-year lobbying ban included a lifetime ban on activity that would require registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Rating: Nice! This puts a big dent in foreign lobbying capabilities, though it’s not clear if there are loopholes allowing shadow lobbying or employment with government-linked think tanks.
Promise 6: A complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.
Action: None so far.
Rating: Sad! Foreigners already can’t donate to US political campaigns. Trump hasn’t done anything to stop foreign citizens raising money from US citizens.
Seven actions to protect American workers
Promise 7: I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205.
Action: Trump has announced these intentions on the White House website.
Rating: Watch! Announcing intentions is nice, but had the bar for this promise been any lower it would be underground. As for the nuts and bolts—so far actual talks with Mexico have been disastrous.
Promise 8: I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Action: Trump made the announcement on his first full working day in office.
Rating: Tremendous! Not a difficult promise to keep, but he kept it.
Promise 9: I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator.
Rating: Sad! Trump’s actions towards China have been blundering to say the least, culminating in his humiliating climb-down on the “One China” policy—seemingly in return for nothing. Quartz’s Heather Timmons dubbed the approach “speak loudly and carry a tiny stick.”
Promise 10: I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately.
Action: Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross has only been Secretary of Commerce for 10 days. So far, he’s imposed a $1.19 billion penalty on a Chinese telecom company that violated US regulations by trading with Iran and North Korea.
Rating: Watch! Identifying and ending “all” abuses may be a hard goal to reach. But Ross is off to a productive start, and more action may follow soon.
Promise 11: I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.
Action: Trump signed a piece of legislation that stopped Obama’s Stream Protection Rules, thus allowing coal companies to dispose of waste in waterways.
Rating: Failing! Trump is ready to get rid of more restrictions on coal and other energy reserves, but so far progress on his “America First” energy plan has been limited. Plus, even coal executives don’t really think coal will have a comeback.
Promise 12: Lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward.
Action: On his fourth day in office, Trump signed two presidential memoranda to speed up the review and approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Keystone Pipeline.
Rating: Nice! Despite the protests, work on the DAPL has resumed (though those opposing it promise the legal battle will continue). But while the Keystone Pipeline memorandum demands an expedited review process, TransCanada (the company building and operating the pipeline) hasn’t yet received approval to continue construction.
Promise 13: Cancel billions in payments to UN climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.
Action: Despite rumors that Trump is considering leaving the 2015 Paris agreement and the UN climate chief’s failure to secure a meeting with the US State Department, no action has been taken yet.
Rating: Sad! Though something may happen soon.
Five actions to restore security and the constitutional rule of law
Promise 14: Cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.
Action: This is an impossible riddle. To be unconstitutional, an executive action would need to be struck down by a court—hence it would not need Trump’s intervention. Does he consider actions he disagrees with unconstitutional? In that case, it’d be very hard to cancel them all.
Rating: Total disaster! To be kept, a promise needs to be clear.
Promise 15: Begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution.
Action: Neil Gorsuch was nominated to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court.
Rating: Tremendous! Gorsuch was long rumored to be one of the top contenders on Trump’s (21-judge) list.
Promise 16: Cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities.
Action: Trump signed an executive order cutting federal funds to all “sanctuary jurisdictions” that don’t comply with the federal government’s guidelines on removing undocumented immigrants.
Rating: Watch! The order is set to be challenged in court—and cutting funds isn’t as quick as signing an executive order—but so far, Trump’s sticking to his promise on this.
Promise 17: Begin removing the more than two million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back.
Action: Trump wouldn’t have to “begin” removing undocumented immigrants, as Obama was already very active in deporting them. Through an executive order, Trump broadened the range of convictions that can lead to deportation, but it’s too soon to tell whether more people are in fact being kicked out. As for the second promise, it’s not clear which countries Trump was referring to; a country can’t refuse to let its own citizens back in.
Rating: Watch! This was one of the main promises of Trump’s campaign, and it’s likely there will be more actions related to it.
Promise 18: Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered “extreme vetting.”
Action: The first executive order trying to stop immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries was struck down. A second, targeting six of those countries, might meet a similar fate. Both orders leave out some of the main countries from which terrorists acting in the US have come, most notably Saudi Arabia.
Rating: Failing! Any country- or religion-based ban would be unconstitutional, and it’s unlikely a court would uphold it.
Broader pieces of legislation to be introduced
Promised law 1: Middle Class Tax Relief and Simplification Act
“An economic plan designed to grow the economy 4% per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief and lifting the restrictions on American energy. The largest tax reductions are for the middle class. A middle-class family with two children will get a 35% tax cut. The current number of brackets will be reduced from seven to three, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business rate will be lowered from 35% to 15%, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10% rate.”
Action: Precious little so far. Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin wants “very significant” tax reform by August, but even Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has cast doubt on that. Republicans are deeply divided over what they want this to look like and are crying out for leadership—which the White House is yet to deliver.
Rating: Failing! Since replacing Obamacare is the priority, it’s highly unlikely tax reform will get done within the window Trump promised. That’s not to say it won’t at some point, but it will take patient and detailed negotiating within the GOP factions and with business leaders, many of whom are already hitting out at House speaker Paul Ryan’s plan.
Promised law 2: End the Offshoring Act
“Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.”
Action: Trump has mooted a fat border tariff on imports from Mexico and perhaps China. His spokesman, Sean Spicer, tentatively suggested a 20% tariff to pay for the Mexico border wall. Many Republicans and, unsurprisingly, industry actors hate the idea, which would probably just end up hitting the US consumer. Paul Ryan favors a more complex border adjustment tax, but his colleagues and Trump’s staff are split on it, with Trump yet to make up his mind.
Rating: Watch! No one can agree, but everyone wants something. Who knows how this will turn out? Trump has broad powers on trade policy, so if and when he makes his mind up, he can happily ram something through.
Promised law 3: American Energy and Infrastructure Act
“Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over ten years. It is revenue neutral.”
Action: Lots of talk and some planning has begun, but it looks likely to be kicked into 2018.
Rating: Failing! The promise to get this done within 100 days is looking doubtful in the extreme. Trump has lofty ambitions for the plan and may well get some of it done one day, but will have to win over a multitude of Republican budget hawks.
Promised law 4: School Choice and Education Opportunity Act
“Redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kids to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or home school of their choice. Ends Common Core and brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and makes two- and four year college more affordable.”
Action: No action taken.
Rating: Sad! Nothing has happened in the first 50 days, but Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, is still settling in—things might start moving in the next 50.
Promised law 5: Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act
“Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.”
Action: Trump’s first executive action was meant to “minimize the burden” on patients of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but the order itself didn’t include any specific measures. A bill to change some of the core elements of Obamacare (for instance the individual and employer mandates) is being discussed (paywall) in Congress, but, of the goals stated above, it addresses only the health savings accounts and the state’s flexibility in managing Medicaid.
Rating: Failing! The proposed Obamacare replacement doesn’t have many fans even among conservatives, so passing it will be hard. Even if it passes, it will fall pretty short of what Trump promised in his contract.
Promised law 6: Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act
“Allows Americans to deduct childcare and eldercare from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-site childcare services and creates tax-free dependent care savings accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.”
Action: No legislation has been introduced, but according to reports Ivanka Trump has been discussing a plan with members of Congress, although she has no official role in the administration.
Rating: Sad! Something might be moving on this front in the next 50 days, but so far the progress has been disappointing.
Promised law 7: End Illegal Immigration Act
“Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country of Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a two-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally reentering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a five-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally reentering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.”
Action: Trump did include the wall construction in his executive order on border protection. However, Mexico isn’t keen on paying for it. Initially, Trump had suggested imposing a custom tariff on imported goods, but after realizing that American consumers would ultimately foot that bill, he scrapped the plan. The latest hypothesis is a cut to the coast guard, transportation security, and emergency management budgets to cover the $21.6 billion that the Department of Homeland Security estimates it will cost. (Trump said it would cost $12 billion during his campaign.)
Though an executive order targets illegal immigration, there’s been no legislation on mandatory prison sentencing.
The administration has, however, started moving to make employment-based visas (H1-B) harder to get.
Rating: Failing! Not only does it seem unlikely that Trump will get the wall fully funded in the next 50 days, he’s even less likely to get any assurance that Mexico will, in some way, pay. Similarly, he might be able to move forward with the prison sentencing, but there are no signs yet that he is planning to, or that he’d succeed.
Promised law 8: Restoring Community Safety Act
“Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a task force on violent crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police; increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to dismantle criminal gangs and put violent offenders behind bars.”
Action: Trump signed an executive order directing the attorney general to create said task force on violent crime. Funding for local police hasn’t gone up; in fact, the threat to cut off funds to sanctuary cities, if carried out, might end up reducing local police budgets. So far, there’s been no move to give more resources to federal law enforcement.
Rating: Failing! The task force hasn’t yet had a chance to “reduce surging crime,” and it hardly would, since crime is not surging, contrary to Trump’s repeated claims.
Promised law 9: Restoring National Security Act
“Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values.”
Action: No overarching legislation has been introduced. However, the following measures have been taken separately for each pledge:
- Trump’s budget proposes a $54 billion increase in military spending. He has said this will end (paywall) the military sequester (the mandatory cuts introduced in 2011 to keep federal spending capped).
- Trump’s VA (Veterans Affairs) secretary is currently scrabbling to put a band-aid on the current veterans’ healthcare system.
- No action on cybersecurity so far, prompting a nudge from Obama’s top honchos at the National Security Agency. However, industry experts say they expect an executive order soon.
- Trump’s calamitous executive action on immigration screening was replaced this week. It goes into effect on March 16, and Hawaii has already said it will challenge it in court.
Rating: Watch! This is a vast array of plans that we’re unlikely to see in one piece of legislation, but Trump has taken some level of action on all four matters with varying degrees of success. We’ll have to see how this one pans out.
Promised law 10: Clean Up Corruption in Washington Act
“Enacts new ethics reforms to drain the swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.”
Action: No legislation has been introduced. Some of these issues have been approached through executive orders.
Rating: Total disaster! Trump partially delivered some of the executive orders on ethics he promised, but has failed to meet basic ethics standards like publishing his tax returns or conducting White House ethics training. He has hired plenty of former lobbyists and Washington old hands, and been attacked for bringing in his own Wall Street “swamp dwellers.”