The build-up to US president Donald Trump’s 100th day in office has been, as is his custom, conflicted.
Worried about negative publicity, Trump has recently tried to downplay the 100-day mark as an “artificial barrier.” Which it arguably is—but he set it himself, declaring a bold set of 28 promises to fulfil in 100 days in his “Contract with the American Voter” (pdf). Over the past week the White House has been working overtime in an effort to get something substantive accomplished before the milestone. A hasty wish list of tax cuts—which almost certainly won’t be passed in its current form—was sent to Congress, a last-ditch effort at repealing Obamacare came and went, and the administration released an error-strewn press release lauding “100 Days of Historic Accomplishments.”
As we did after 50 days, Quartz has gone through his original 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
- Politics! = Something done/compromise made
- Failing!= Little done/minimal success
- Sad! = Nothing Done/Disappointing result
- Total disaster! = Things are worse than before
Overall verdict: The new administration got off to a flying start, with a series of executive orders that frustrated opponents and set in motion a decent number of his easier campaign promises. That trend has slowed dramatically, however, as a series of scandals concerning the campaign’s alleged contacts with Russia and White House infighting dominated the news. Meanwhile, the inexperience of Trump, his cabinet, and his staff has bogged down decision-making and execution.
Of the 10 pieces of incredibly ambitious legislation Trump promised to deliver, the only one he really attempted was a replacement for Obamacare. And the storied dealmaker couldn’t even persuade (paywall) his own party to vote for that.
Trump has achieved some success repealing a slew of Obama executive orders and generally chopping away at the size of government, while he earned foreign-policy plaudits for bombing a Syrian air base and pushing China to harden its stance towards North Korea. But, when measuring what Trump has done versus what he promised for the first 100 days, one word from his vocabulary fits best: Sad!
Six measures to clean up corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC
Promise 1: Constitutional amendment for term limits on members of Congress.
Rating: Sad! This would have been almost impossible to pass, but Trump didn’t bother trying. Nor did he publicly back Republican senator Ted Cruz’s proposed amendment on the matter.
Promise 2: Freeze hiring of federal employees—with exceptions for military, public safety, and health—to “reduce the federal workforce through attrition.”
Rating: Sad! Trump put this into action with a 90-day freeze on his first full day in office (paywall). However, he lifted the freeze 10 days early. More importantly, to have any real effect, a hiring freeze would have to last much, much longer: Between Jan. 1 and March 1 (the latest date we have data for), the federal workforce fell by around 1,000 people out of 2.82 million. That’s 0.04%.
Promise 3: For every new federal regulation, an existing one must be eliminated.
Rating: Tremendous! Done and Done. Trump issued an executive order demanding exactly this; and then another one calling for agencies to cull as many costly regulations as possible. He’s facing a lawsuit from groups who say it hurts workers and the environment, but he’s already gone beyond what he promised.
Promise 4: Five-year ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after government service.
Rating: Sad! Trump has made improvements to some of Obama’s ethics rules, but he’s weakened other important ones, such as a rule that forced lobbyists to wait two years before getting a White House job. Former officials can also still lobby agencies they haven’t worked for and Trump’s done nothing to stop former Congressional officials becoming lobbyists.
Promise 5: Ban White House officials from lobbying on behalf of a foreign government for life.
Rating: Politics! We gave Trump a “Nice!” rating on this after 50 days, because his five-year lobbying ban also stops employees from lobbying for other governments. He’s since gone down a grade, however, because top campaign staffers, like ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, are actively seeking work for foreign governments. Trump has not opposed that publicly and still speaks regularly to Lewandowski.
Promise 6: A complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.
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.
Promise 7: Announce his intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal.
Rating: Total disaster! Trump did announce these intentions on the White House website. He then seemed poised to declare that the US would officially leave, but quickly backed down following a change of heart by his own party and calls from the leaders of Canada and Mexico. Leaving is now off the table for the time being (it’s unclear if he even has the power to unilaterally do so).
Promise 8: Announcing withdrawal from the TPP.
Rating: Tremendous! Not a difficult promise to fulfill, but Trump kept his word and announced America’s withdrawal from the deal (paywall) on his first full working day in office.
Promise 9: Direct the Treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator.
Rating: Total disaster! As tensions with North Korea escalate, it’s become abundantly clear that Trump needs China as an ally, leading to a total backtrack on his earlier rhetoric. While he’s earned some strong plaudits for this turnaround, his new foreign policy strategy is the complete opposite of his campaign pledge.
Promise 10: Identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately.
Rating: Sad! On Mar. 31, Trump signed two executive orders meant to identify foreign trade abuses within 90 days. The president has since launched into looking at steel and aluminum imports, but the only trade measure he’s officially adopted imposes a 20% import tax on Canadian lumber.
Promise 11: Lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas, and clean coal.
Rating: Tremendous! Trump is still debating whether to withdraw from the Paris agreement, but he has already revoked several regulations that limit the polluting effects of energy production. He has also rescinded president Obama’s climate action plan.
Promise 12: Lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward.
Rating: Politics! The administration has approved the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but it may be some time before work begins (if it ever does).
Promise 13: Cancel billions in payments to UN climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.
Rating: Sad! Trump’s budget, if approved, threatens dramatic cuts to international aid and UN funding. However he won’t have an easy time getting these cuts approved, especially considering some members of his own party (senator John McCain, for instance) oppose them.
Promise 14: Cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.
Rating: Tremendous! Trump didn’t need to overturn any of Obama’s actions to keep his promise because Obama’s existing executive actions are all constitutional. And yet, he overturned a whole lot, signing a heap of laws under the congressional review act.
Promise 15: Begin the process of selecting a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list.
Rating: Tremendous! Trump didn’t just select a replacement: Neil Gorsuch was successfully confirmed on April 20, in what remains arguably the most significant achievement of Trump’s administration thus far.
Promise 16: Cancel all federal funding to “sanctuary cities.”
Rating: Sad! Trump’s executive order to stop funding to “sanctuary cities” was halted by a judge on April 25. The administration has never clearly defined exactly what a “sanctuary city” is.
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.
Rating: Sad! Trump has expanded the types of convictions that can lead to the removal of undocumented immigrants. However, so far that hasn’t got him anywhere near his goal: repatriations are actually down 1.2% (p. 5) from last year.
Promise 18: Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into the country will be considered “extreme vetting.”
Rating: Total disaster! Courts have halted both of Trump’s executive orders aimed at limiting immigration from a number of Middle Eastern countries and stopping refugee intake.
Broader pieces of legislation to be introduced
Aims and promises:
- Grow economy at 4% per year, create 25m new jobs;
- 35% tax cut for middle class family with two children;
- Biggest cuts for middle class;
- Number of tax brackets reduced from seven to three; forms greatly simplified;
- Business tax rate reduced from 35% to 15%;
- One-time 10% repatriation offer for untaxed corporate money being held overseas.
Rating: Failing! In a last-minute dash to fulfill his promises, Trump sent the briefest of brief plans for tax cuts and reform to Congress on April 26 (paywall). In its current form, however, this plan will make Democrats furious and irk Republican budget hawks, giving it basically zero chance of passing.
Aims and promises: Establish tariffs to discourage companies from laying off workers in order to relocate abroad.
Rating: Sad! Trump has taken no legislative action here at all. So far, the only lip service he’s paid this promise is an utterly vacuous “Buy American, Hire American” executive order.
Aims and promises: Spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years.
Rating: Sad! Trump has done nothing to further this promise. Although certainly achievable, he’d still have to win over swathes of GOP budget hawks to pass such a large act.
Aims and promises:
- Redirect education dollars to give parents the right to send their kids to the school of their choice.
- End Common Core and bring education supervision to local communities.
- Expand vocational and technical education.
- Make two- and four-year college more affordable.
Rating: Failing! Trump signed an executive order that limits the federal government’s involvement in education, and the president has overturned a number of Obama’s education-related actions, such as one providing guidance for transgender students. Trump’s budget proposal would cut the public school budget dramatically, while investing in private schools, but these measures do nothing for affordability of college (or grade school), plus no intervention has been made to expand training.
Rating: Total disaster!
Trump’s own party couldn’t get the numbers to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), his Obamacare replacement, and attempts to revamp it have had no success so far.
Aims and promises: Allows Americans to deduct childcare and eldercare from their taxes
Rating: Sad! Trump has incorporated a child care tax break into his budget proposal, but no concrete action has been taken so far.
Aims and promises:
- Fully-funds the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border;
- Gets Mexico to pay for the wall;
- Establishes harsher punishments for illegally reentering the US after deportation and overstaying visas.
Rating: Sad! So far, the wall has not been financed, Mexico has forcefully refused to pay for it, and it’s very unlikely that a budget containing financing for the wall will make it through Congress.
Aims and promises:
- Reduce surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a task force on violent crime;
- Increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police.
Rating: Sad! The task force was created, but the surge in violent crime it’s supposed to be addressing does not actually exist. Training programs have also not seen an increase in funding, and any attempt to cut funding to “sanctuary cities” will further limit local law enforcement resources.
Aims and promises:
- Expands military investment; ends the defense sequester (mandatory cuts introduced in 2011 to keep federal spending capped)
- Gives veterans the choice of public health treatment or going to a private doctor
- Protects infrastructure from cyber-attacks
- Introduces new screening measures for immigration
Rating: Politics! No overarching legislation here but:
- Trump’s budget proposal includes a massive $54 billion boost in military spending, which he says will end the sequester.
- Trump signed a law to temporarily extend the current troubled program on veterans health choices, while his Veterans Affairs secretary works on a longterm solution.
- On cyber, Trump separately promised to have a hacking protection plan within 90 days of taking office. However, he didn’t even seem to have a team in place by that date, and a promised executive action on cyber hasn’t materialized.
- Two attempts at slowing immigration have been deemed unconstitutional by federal judges.
In short: Any level of success here hangs on whether he can get his proposed military spending increases passed by Congress.
Aim and promise: Ethics reforms to “drain the swamp.”
Rating: Total disaster! Allegations of widespread ethics violations have been a constant in Trump’s short time as president. He 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, refused to release (paywall) White House visitor logs, and been accused of bringing in his own Wall Street “swamp dwellers.”