President Trump, Deal Maker? Not So Fast

His 17 months in office have in fact been an exercise in futility for the art-of-the-deal president.

  1. No deal on immigration.
  2. No deal on health care.
  3. No deal on gun control.
  4. No deal on spending cuts.
  5. No deal on Nafta.
  6. No deal on China trade.
  7. No deal on steel and aluminum imports.
  8. No deal on Middle East peace.
  9. No deal on the Qatar blockade.
  10. No deal on Syria.
  11. No deal on Russia.
  12. No deal on Iran.
  13. No deal on climate change.
  14. No deal on Pacific trade.

.. Even routine deals sometimes elude Mr. Trump, or he chooses to blow them up.

.. “Trump is an anarchist,” said Jack O’Donnell, a former president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, who became a sharp critic. “It was his approach in business, it is his approach as president. It does not take good negotiating skills to cause chaos. Will this ever lead to concessions? Maybe, but concessions to what? Not anything that resembles a deal. I just do not see him getting much done.”

.. I don’t think it’s that counterintuitive to say that playing hardball will lead to better trade deals eventually,” said Andy Surabian, a Republican strategist and former aide to Mr. Trump.

.. We’ll see what the final outcome is, but it’s already a success just to get them to the table.”

.. the major tax-cutting package that passed late last year. But even that was negotiated mainly by Republican lawmakers, who said Mr. Trump did not seem engaged in the details.

.. And as legislative challenges go, handing out tax cuts without paying for them is not exactly the hardest thing that politicians do.

.. In effect, the agreement with Mr. Kim is like a deal to sell parts of Trump Tower without settling on a price, date, inspection or financing. It is not nearly as advanced as agreements that President Bill Clinton and Mr. Bush made with North Korea, both of which ultimately collapsed.

.. But no modern president has sold himself on the promise of negotiating skills more than Mr. Trump has. He regularly boasts that deals will be “easy” and “quick” and the best ever.

.. He has pulled out of Mr. Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, Paris climate accord and Trans-Pacific Partnership, but promises to negotiate better versions of those deal have gone nowhere.

.. Mr. Trump set his sights on what he called “the ultimate deal,” meaning peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. He said it was “frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought.” A year later, his team is only now preparing to release a plan.

.. “What the president seemingly fails to understand is that in foreign policy and in trade policy — unlike in real estate transactions — the parties are all repeat players,” 

.. “The country you insult or seek undue advantage over today you will have to work with again tomorrow.”

.. Mr. Trump’s approach so far has been to make expansive demands and apply as much pressure as he can. He argues that crushing sanctions he imposed on North Korea forced Mr. Kim to meet. He now hopes to extract concessions from China, Canada and Europe after slapping punishing tariffs on them.

.. “Trump is a bilateral player, in part because that’s what he is used to from his building days, but also because he keeps himself the king, the decider, the strongman,” said Wendy Sherman, who was Mr. Obama’s lead negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal. “In the case of North Korea, however, he wouldn’t have gotten this far — which isn’t all that far — without the South Koreans or the Chinese.”

..  When he gave up on immigration on Friday, he blamed it on Senate Democrats, even though the immediate impasse was among House Republicans who do not need the other party to pass a bill.

.. “Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,”

.. It was in effect an acknowledgment by Mr. Trump that he cannot reach across the aisle and can only govern with Republicans.

.. the challenge on immigration is that the president has to grapple not just with Democrats but also with Republicans who do not share his philosophy on the issue.

.. Mr. O’Donnell, the former casino president, said Mr. Trump has always oversold his deal-making skills. The casino he managed, Mr. O’Donnell noted, brought in $100 million a year yet still went bankrupt.

.. “The fact is, Trump casinos should have been one of the greatest success stories in the history of casino gambling, but bad deal making caused him to lose all three properties,” he said.

Trump Doesn’t Give a Dam

The $1.5 trillion number is just made up; he’s only proposing federal spending of $200 billion, which is somehow supposed to magically induce a vastly bigger overall increase in infrastructure investment, mainly paid for either by state and local governments (which are not exactly rolling in cash, but whatever) or by the private sector.

.. And even the $200 billion is essentially fraudulent: The budget proposal announced the same day doesn’t just impose savage cuts on the poor, it includes sharp cuts for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and other agencies that would be crucially involved in any real infrastructure plan. Realistically, Trump’s offer on infrastructure is this: nothing.

.. That’s not to say that the plan is completely vacuous. One section says that it would “authorize federal divestiture of assets that would be better managed by state, local or private entities.” Translation: We’re going to privatize whatever we can

.. Despite a modest rise in interest rates, the federal government can still borrow very cheaply: The interest rate on inflation-protected long-term bonds is still less than 1 percent, which is below realistic estimates of long-run economic growth, let alone the Trump administration’s fantasy numbers. So borrowing now to pay for essential infrastructure would still be good economics.

.. some Democrats feared that Trump really would go big on infrastructure, which might drive a wedge into their party and be highly popular besides.

.. An infrastructure program involving real money could be very lucrative for Trump cronies, or for that matter Trump himself. Yes, there are rules that are supposed to prevent that kind of profiteering, but does anyone think those rules would be enforced under current management?

.. Part of the answer is that in practice Trump always defers to Republican orthodoxy, and the modern G.O.P. hates any program that might show people that government can work and help people.

.. But I also suspect that Trump is afraid to try anything substantive. To do public investment successfully, you need leadership and advice from experts. And this administration doesn’t do expertise, in any field. Not only do experts have a nasty habit of telling you things you don’t want to hear, their loyalty is suspect: You never know when their professional ethics might kick in.

So the Trump administration probably couldn’t put together a real infrastructure plan even if it wanted to. And that’s why it didn’t.

National Parks for the 1 Percent

But the Trump administration has proposed nearly tripling the entrance fees to select national parks, to $70.

.. Trump administration wants to jack up the price of admission to our most spectacular public lands while moving to cut the Park Service budget by almost $300 million. The new fees would add $70 million.

.. he also plans to take away land already protected in ways similar to national parks.

.. You’d pay $107 to get into Disney World. But national parks are not theme parks, market-driven to match the latest entertainment blockbusters.

.. In the bizarro world of this administration, taxpayers are being asked to subsidize a dying industry, coal mining, while their government is slashing the budget for a growing one that is responsible for four times as many jobs.

.. Trump’s budget would drastically cut money for historic preservation, and eliminate more than 1,200 full-time employees.

.. National parks are “as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical,

.. We could, for instance, not build Trump’s nonsensical border wall, which looks like it will cost upward of $20 billion, more than eight times the entire proposed budget for the Park Service. (Wait — wasn’t Mexico supposed to pay for that?)

.. Or we could keep the estate tax, which affects only about 1 out of every 500 people who die every year, and raises $20 billion as well. 

The Trump Fog Machine

The Trump Fog Machine erased all his Tweets supporting the other guy in Alabama. No need for that. We do it for him, by following the fresh distractions. Trump is not Teflon. Things do stick to him. But he survives by saying or doing something so outrageous, so regularly, that we forget the last atrocity, and turn on one another.

.. So, this week his cabinet official charged with taking away health care from the poor and cutting the budget for cancer research is using our money to fly private planes at his pleasure. The multimillionaire treasury secretary wanted the same perk for his honeymoon.

.. He’s already tweeted the word “loser” 234 times, “incompetent” 92 times and “pathetic” 72 times. Call them projection tweets, showing the man for what he truly is.

..  He’s already lied about whether his tax plan will benefit the rich and his own family. It will, by eliminating the estate tax, and ensuring that the top 1 percent will get nearly 50 percent of the windfall.