For many years CHQ Chairman Richard Viguerie has preached “Personnel is Policy.”
It was true when President George HW Bush purged the Executive Branch of President Reagan’s conservative appointees on Inauguration Day 1989 and put himself on the path to being a one-term President.
And it has been proven true again as President Trump’s agenda has stalled due to the failure of some of his key staff to embrace and advocate the conservative-populist, America First pro-growth economic policies that helped win him the White House.
And when one sifts through all of the evidence and clues as to why the President’s tax reform package is nowhere to be seen, why the President hasn’t withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement and why many other elements of the President’s economic and domestic policy agenda remain not only unfulfilled, but unarticulated, one problem keeps coming to the fore:
The appointment of former Goldman Sachs President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn to head the President’s National Economic Council.
As Fiscal Times columnist and Fox News contributor Liz Peek recently observed, Cohn, a life-long Democrat and latecomer to the Trump train, is an ascendant force in the White House.
And Democrats and the mainstream media have rejoiced as they have watched Cohn, along with former Goldman Sachs partner and Bush acolyte Dina Powell, soften White House policy on issues such as cutting regulations, immigration enforcement and Obamacare repeal.
Cohn’s former political affiliation and past support of President Obama is not important, claims Peek.
What is important is how his liberal views could distort President Trump’s agenda.
For example, Peek says Cohn has taken a major role in crafting the White House’s stance on tax reform. Recently, in searching for a revenue source needed to balance proposed cuts in tax rates, it was reported that Cohn suggested a carbon tax. He has since denied advocating that approach claims Liz Peek.
Fortunately, the idea was quickly shot down, but its very consideration was alarming to conservatives.
Candidate Donald Trump campaigned on dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan, has proposed sharp cuts in the budget of the EPA and wants to resuscitate our coal industry. How does a carbon tax fit into that program – and Cohn supports a carbon tax?
That and many other emanations from the White House Economic Council make no sense, until you recognize that they reflect the Cohn worldview, not the conservative-populist worldview we thought President Trump held.
Cohn is also reportedly a free-trade advocate.
Remember, personnel is policy, and Cohn has appointed Andrew Quinn to the Economic Council as Special Assistant to the President for International Trade. As Liz Peek pointed out, Quinn was one of the lead negotiators of the multi-national TPP trade pact that Trump savaged on the campaign trail and has since junked.
How will Quinn work to revise our trade commitments and revise NAFTA?
Well, he likely won’t, thereby undermining the commitments the President made yesterday to American workers during his great speech at the Snap-On tool factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Likewise, the discord in the White House over fulfilling President Trump’s commitment to dump the Paris Climate Agreement can be traced to Cohn and his cadre of what have become known in Washington as “the West Wing Democrats.”
Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have called for the U.S. to withdraw from the agreement, while the West Wing Democrats led by Cohn support staying.
The smooth-talking Cohn has allegedly argued behind the scenes that the agreement is not legally binding and will not hobble Pruitt's effort to undo Obama’s climate rules.
So, if it is not legally binding, why stay in? To avoid the disapproving glances of Manhattan’s Democratic elite when one dines at Masa we presume.
While these active abandonments and betrayals of President Trump’s campaign promises are damaging, what has been even more devastating is what isn’t getting done – selling a Trump tax and economic growth plan.
Candidate Trump proposed cutting the corporate tax rate from its current level of 35 percent to 15 percent, with the intention of bringing jobs back to the United States.
The World Bank Group estimated that this cut alone would boost U.S. gross domestic product growth by roughly 0.9 to 1.3 percentage points over eight quarters.
Trump also indicated he wanted to cut personal income taxes for all Americans, reduce the number of individual tax brackets from seven to three, and change the structure of tax deductions.
The World Bank Group estimated that those cuts would reduce the average tax rate on personal income by about 2.5 percentage points and 7 percentage points for top earners. This potentially would increase GDP growth between 0.4 to 0.6 percentage points after eight quarters of being implemented.
"Taken together, these corporate and personal income tax reforms could—without consideration of additional policy changes by the new administration—raise U.S. GDP forecasts to 2.2-2.5 percent in 2017 and 2.5-2.9 percent in 2018," the report states according to Ali Meyer of the Washington Free Beacon.
These ideas are mainstream Republican Economics 101, but they are anathema to Democrats and liberals, so it should surprise no one that they seem to have disappeared from the discussion now that Gary Cohn is the leading economic voice at the White House.
Conservatives wonder: what the heck is Gary Cohn doing in the Trump White House when he was expected to hold this role in a presumptive Hillary Clinton administration?
The answer is nothing good, as our ongoing series on Gary Cohn and his “West Wing Democrats” will prove.