Libertarians react to Trump speech

Say he misses mark on key policy

For immediate release
March 1, 2017

President Donald Trump at lectern in U.S. Congress, giving speech on Feb 28 2017 (color photo)
Pres. Donald Trump speaking to the U.S. Congress (Feb. 28, 2017)

Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee, released the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s address to congress last night:

In his speech before congress, President Donald Trump offered a mix of vague promises, bad policy proposals, and some good ones.

In the “good” category, Trump:

  • proposed cutting the regulatory might of the FDA so as to cut the development time for drugs and to drive down prices. This will save lives, reduce human suffering, and save many billions of American dollars;
  • implied he would end the Obamacare mandate to buy insurance (although he did not explicitly promise to do so). This would remove a huge burden from businesses and individuals who don’t want or can’t afford today’s vastly overpriced plans;
  • implied he would reduce insurance regulations so plans can be much lower priced and can be more tailored to the needs of consumers. This will restore important health freedoms and save trillions of dollars;
  • proposed allowing the purchase of medical insurance plans across state lines. This will further reduce premiums and cut away at egregious state insurance regulations that drive up costs;
  • suggested his plan to force the F35 fighter jet to compete with a Boeing F18 will cut spending, which it likely would. The F35 is the perhaps the  military’s most overpriced and ineffective equipment purchase in its wasteful history;
  • ordered a hiring freeze on certain federal government employees;
  • proposed cutting the corporate income tax, which would create jobs and reduce consumer prices.

In the “bad proposals” category, Trump proposed a number of new or expanded Big Government programs, including:

  • more retaliatory tariffs on imports, which will drive up prices for American consumers and kill American jobs. He erroneously believes that “trade deficits” are a problem. They actually represent a deficit of dollars in exchange for a surplus of goods—which balance each other out. This is why it’s called “trade”;
  • the largest increase in military spending ever—a department that’s already full of waste and so poorly managed that it is incapable of being audited. It needs to be dramatically downsized;
  • elimination of the military sequester aimed at slowing the increase in spending. It hasn’t proved very useful, but any constraint on military spending should be retained;
  • $1 trillion in new spending on “infrastructure”—a redux of Obama’s wasteful TARP program. Highways should be funded locally. Federal interference drives up the cost and creates tremendous waste;
  • new spending on: a women’s entrepreneurship program, drug treatment, women’s healthcare, and child care. These programs drive up taxes and kill jobs. They should be left to the productive, low-cost private sector;
  • forcing employers to fund paid family leave. This will kill jobs and harm small businesses;
  • VOICE program aimed at painting immigrants as criminals, when in fact they are at least as peaceful as the average citizen;
  • stepped-up border patrols, which will block productive workers from providing needed labor at a low cost to American individuals and businesses;
  • building a wall along the border with Mexico, which will waste money and harm relations with our neighbor, while failing to stop entry by those who impose a threat;
  • “demolishing ISIS,” suggesting he will sustain U.S. meddling in the Middle East. This will help ISIS recruit terrorists worldwide and destroy more property and human life.

Areas where Trump did not make his proposals clear enough to surmise whether he aims to expand or reduce government include:

  • Medicaid block grants. If this reduces red tape and total spending, it will be a move in the right direction;
  • Eliminating two regulations for every new one created. This can be easily manipulated since some regulations have a far greater impact than others;
  • Funding school choice for disadvantaged children. Choice is good. More taxpayer funding is bad;
  • Creating a task force to propose a plan to reduce violent crime and dismantle drug cartels. This can only be successful if lawmakers end or reduce the federal government’s War on Drugs. Trump has suggested he will escalate this war.

Trump talks big about small cuts in government spending to distract from his proposed massive increase in overall spending.  We need the opposite: to dramatically downsize major federal programs as well as programs across the board, to balance the budget, and to reduce total taxation. So long as lawmakers refuse to cut the overall size of government, they will continue to kill American jobs, create dangerous levels of government debt, inflate the dollar, deplete American wealth, and leave millions of people financially insecure.

Libertarians call on President Trump and congress to focus on cutting the overall size, scope, and authority of government so that the economy flourishes and Americans are gainfully employed, healthy, safe, and financially secure.

With respect to Trump’s specific proposals, Libertarians wish him every success in implementing his better ones, and every failure in implementing his bad ones.