The 2020 “Everything Terrible Trump Has Done” Year End Summary Report

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Overview

Since the earliest days of Donald Trump’s Presidency, we have attempted to catalog all of the harmful actions committed by his administration. Furthermore, by categorizing these actions by policy areas and scoring their relative impact, we have attempted to understand how the Administration operates and measure where it’s done the most damage.

Trump’s third year was the most significant to date, with a shutdown, multiple war scares and an impeachment. The administration continued to be dominated by scandal, and the importance of foreign policy gradually increased. Meanwhile, policies continued to be defined by Trump’s own bull headed political style.

Yet in many ways this was simply more of the same, and the year was a very long slog without any sort of decisive developments. Trump almost blundered us into a war, but not quite. Impeachment became inevitable, but with the Republicans holding the senate it’s hard to see Trump actually being removed. The yield curve on treasury bonds inverted several times, usually a sure sign of a recession, but it never quite happened. Yet, while Trump has been insulated from consequences so far, they have none-the-less put him in a poor position going into an election year.

Introduction

During the 2016 election, an issue arose surrounding Donald Trump and his brand of politics. While the candidate was obviously controversial and offensive to a large swath of the electorate, the sheer volume of controversies surrounding Trump’s candidacy, which broke nearly daily, made it easy for the average voter to lose track of them all and difficult for them sift through it all in any meaningful way. This made it easy for the electorate to become desensitized to Trump’s antics, and tune out his actions as so much white noise, even if what he was doing was highly consequential.

To rectify this, we endeavored to compile all the horrible actions of the Trump Administration into a single list itemize. This list, the Trump Omnibus, was intended to serve as a reference for opponents of the Trump administration in political debates, particularly in arguments which in some ways involved the phrase “c’mon, what has he done that’s that bad”. Likewise, it was hoped that the length of the omnibus would convey to observers a self-evident illustration of just what a disaster the Trump administration has been for the country.

One year into the administration the omnibus has expanded to include more than 1763 unique actions touching on virtually ever aspect of American life listed unbroken across 76 pages. We believe that this makes the omnibus successful in its original intent of conveying the sheer breadth of ways the Trump Administration is terrible.

However, as the omnibus continues to stretch to the point where it’s impossible for one to fully process, there’s a danger that it may fall victim to the same problem that it was intended originally intended to address. To that end, we wanted to go one step further and provide an overall analysis of all the actions recorded within the omnibus to put everything into context. This would also enable us to identify relevant trends or interesting patterns in terms of how the Administration operates. To that end, we’ve produced this report.

How The Omnibus and This Report Was Prepared

The actions recorded in the Trump Omnibus are compiled on an ongoing basis throughout the year. The Omnibus uses a variety of sources, including the mainstream media outlets, press releases from federal agencies, and reputable NGOs such as the ACLU. When actions added into the omnibus their source and date are recorded.

Once actions are compiled into the Omnibus they’re categorized into appropriate policy areas. First they’re sorted based on what they impact, namely civil liberties and human rights, physical and material well-being, the proper functioning of political institutions, and national security. They are then sorted into 1 of 13 policy categories, such as immigration, healthcare and social spending, environmental policy and so forth. They’re then sorted further into 1 of 23 subcategories.

Finally, the actions are scored relative to their impact. First actions are scored on a scale of 1-10 based on the scale/scope of their impact, their legal formality, and their permanence. Next actions are rated on a 1-4 based on how much of an “active” change they represent, as in whether an action is a wholly new action, or it represents rolling back a policy of the Obama administration or simply represents a failure act. Finally these scores are combined into a composite impact score.

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A more complete description of the methodology used in this report can be viewed here. A spreadsheet version of the Omnibus, with scores and summary pivot table, can be viewed here.

 

Results

With all the items in the omnibus categorized and scored, we can now begin to review all the worst things the Trump administration has done in the past year and identify notable trends and patterns.

Overall Impact

The third year of the Trump administration turned out to be be incredibly consequential, starting with the longest government shutdown in US history and ending with an impeachment, with plenty of near wars and violations of basic human dignity in between. The year was the first after Republicans lost control of the house, and while the Trump administration’s legislative agenda was anemic before, this year it basically ground to a halt. Meanwhile, the administration continued to be increasingly absorbed in scandals of its own making. This was reflected in our scoring by the increasing prominence of actions categorized as degrading government institutions. Similarly, foreign policy continued to rise in prominence, though in the greater scheme of things it still remains a side show. A table of full results can be seen here.

Pace

It’s always frustrating trying to gauge the significance developments at any particular point in the Trump Administration. Things always seem to be escalating or reaching a tipping point, and its hard not to fall into hyperboles and declare that whatever is happening represents some new low. It’s hard to know in the moment how important people “should” consider something, since certain thing don’t go anywhere, like a lot of things in the Russian scandal, while things are forgotten which really shouldn’t be, like the disastrous handling of Hurricane Maria. At the very least, though, we’re getting across how important things seem at the time.

And that’s pretty much all you can say about the last year of the Trump administration, it seemed important at the time. There were lows, of course, but the highs were very high, or at least they felt like it. The year started with the longest government shutdown in US history, got a bit slow through the spring, then ramped up gradually throughout the year till it climaxed in an impeachment and very nearly the start of World War III.

How important all this will turn out to be in the long run is still to be determined, but this year probably can be considered as the most eventful of the Trump administration so far.

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Policy Focus

In Trump third year in office the administration’s focus continued to shift away from economic issues and towards foreign policy while scandals relating to abuses of power continued to escalate. The pace of activity around healthcare, deregulation and taxes continued to slow, though environmental deregulation and trade disputes did remain fairly consistent. On the other hand, major scandals, particularly those around Ukraine and impeachment, have tested are testing whether or not the US system can effectively police a President who’s flagrantly abusing power when his party controls the levers of power and doesn’t care. Similarly, developments in foreign policy have also ramped up as Trump’s foreign policy has become increasingly erratic and aggressive. Social issues have been fairly consistent.

As in the second year, this is likely due to the fact that Trump has become more willful as President, and his personal initiatives and abuses are consuming more of everyone’s time. Conversely, though, this may also be because Trump has already exhausted all the low hanging fruit in terms of deregulation through administrative fiat. Likewise, while Congressional Republicans are generally willing to shield Trump from consequences as a matter of partisan solidarity, they seem to have a fairly dysfunctional relationship. They barely work together, and don’t seem to have a coherent strategy for enacting major domestic regulation. Though, of course, a major exception to this is packing that Trump and Congressional Republicans have been very effective at packing the courts.

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Uniqueness

Over time the agenda of the Trump administration has been gradually drifting away from conservative orthodoxy as Trump’s own priorities and unique abuses of power take center stage. In his first year in office, we figured roughly 2/3rds of the impact was attributable to policies that would be typical to any Republican administration while only about 20% was unique to Trump. By contrast, in this last year, about 43% was attributable to things unique to Trump versus 35% that we figured was typical for Republicans.

All this, of course, is a little subjective, however we do feel it reflects a very real trend. This is largely reflective of the fact that Trump and congressional Republicans don’t have a great working relationship, They’ve been able to cooperate on appointing conservative judges and blocking any effort to hold Trump accountable, but they’re not able to implement any broad base legislative package. Partly this is due to a measure of hostility and ideological disagreements the two, but it’s also likely due to Trump’s own bullheaded nature and inability to stick to anyone’s programme.

In lieu of legislation, most of Trump’s impact comes from his own executive office. And since Trump mostly implemented the conservative wishlist of economic deregulation and conservative social policies in his first year, what’s been left ever since is the sort of fights Trump wants to pick. That is to say mass deportation, trade wars, reckless fights with other countries and rampant corruption.

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The Ukraine Scandal and Impeachment

One item that warrants special attention is the scandal in Ukraine. In many ways the scandal may seem like a repeat of the Russian scandal, which is perhaps why many seem ready to look past it. This is perhaps why public attention to the scandal seems to be quite muted relative the height of the Russian scandal. Yet the truth is almost the exact opposite, the scandal in Ukraine has had a far more profound impact than the Russian one, both in terms of the concreteness of the evidence and the pace and severity with which it’s unfolded. This is reflected in our metrics. There’s been a pretty consistent flow of damning revelations and developments since the story broke last September, and at points it’s made up about half the administration’s overall impact. By contrast, the Russia scandal was a relatively slow burned, with relatively minor developments spaced out over the span of a few months. Suffice it to say, there’s a good reason the scandal led to impeachment.

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Public Reaction

In past years We’ve tended to include a section about how the public has reacted to the Trump administration, but honestly it’d be a bit pointless this year. Ever since Trump’s first year his approval pretty much cemented in the lower 40% range. Sometimes those numbers will go lower when he does something really unpopular, like shutting down the government or throwing a bunch of people off their insurance by repealing healthcare reform, but it usually reverts to the norm immediately afterwards. It’s not even worth parsing Trump’s support among different demographics, it’s pretty much always what you expect it would be and never changes.

Honestly, it’s a bit like studying the western front in WWI. There are lessons to be learned here and there, but for the most part everyone is just blasting away at each other with progressively more firepower and but nobody is going anywhere.

In this war of attrition is that the anti-Trump side holds a decided advantage. Trump barely won his first term and it’ll be an uphill battle for him to win a second. Trump is still historically unpopular and people broadly disagree with his policies. Even the relatively strong economy hasn’t changed that, and it’s only going to get worse. No one should get complacent, of course, on the contrary people need to remember this so they don’t fall into dispair and give up.

 The 5 Forgotten Travesties of the Trump Administration

As we mentioned earlier, it’s a little hard to know in the moment what actions will turn out to be important. Something that may seem like it’s the end of the world may turn out to be totally inconsequential and forgotten. But then there are some items that are forgotten which really shouldn’t be. And this is certainly the case with the Trump administration, where it’s easy for things to get lost in the mile a minute coverage. So lets take a minute to remember some of those important, yet forgotten travesties.

The Response to Hurricane Maria

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The botched response to Hurricane Maria may be the worst single thing the Trump administration has done in terms of the real human suffering it’s caused. It’s also hardly talked about at. Yet it’s still a rolling disaster with consequences to this day. Puerto Rico still has massive blackouts, and projected to lose something like 14% of its population in the coming years. Moreover, the crisis is still being terribly mishandled. The initial $18.5bn allocated by the Federal Government for reconstruction was a fraction of the requested $46bn requested. Then again, in January 2019 when FEMA allocated $20bn for reconstruction, 60% of requests were rejected. More generally, reconstruction of the country has been marred by corruption and ineptitude, resulting in broad political discontent on the island.

ICE Detention Centers (i.e. all those concentration camps)

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Strictly speaking, I don’t think people have “forgotten” ICE detention centers per say, however given how coverage of them has largely dropped off after the Summer of 2018 you’d be forgotten for thinking they no longer exist. However they’re still there, and they’re still appalling. A recent report documented 20,000 instances of abuses in ICE facilities, including 800 instances of physical abuse and 400 instances of sexual assault.  Moreover, it’s estimated that more than 1,000 have been separated from their families even after the end of the administration’s Zero Tolerance immigration policy.

The Government Shutdown

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Remember when the Federal government was shutdown for over a month? Apparently not, the whole episode seems to have left virtually no long term impact on the public consciousness. Yet for many the episode was devastating. The whole episode cost the economy something like $11bn, and despite a measure passed by the House countless federal contractors have still not received any back pay. And we’ve learned absolutely nothing from the whole ordeal, the government still regularly flirts with shutdowns.

Those Taxes That Blew Trillion Dollar Hole In The Budget

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The 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act remains the administration’s sole legislative achievement to date, but since its passage it rarely comes in for much discussion. However, the tax cuts are still blowing a whole in the Federal budget. How much is a bit unclear, however the Congressional Joint Committee on taxation estimates the cuts will increase the deficit by $1 trillion over ten years. These cuts will almost tie the hands of future social programs and be used to justify further cuts  Moveover, when coupled with the administrations rampant deregulation they’re feeding economic speculation.

The New Nuclear Arms Race

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Hey, remember when Trump withdrew from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Treaty and tipped off a new nuclear arms race with Russia? Almost certainly not. The news barely registered when it happened back in 2017, and since then it almost never gets brought up in public discourse. However, it was actually a pretty big blow against nuclear disarmament, possibly even more a more significant one than Trump’s decision to nix the Iran nuclear deal. It was the main reason the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the nuclear clock to 2 minutes to midnight in 2018, where it’s remained ever since.

 

Conclusion

Unfortunately, there is no conclusion at this time, and there can be no conclusion until the Trump Administration is ended, preferably in massive electoral defeat, and the last remnants of its toxic legacy are undone and those it has harmed are made whole. For now, we will continue to maintain and analyze the omnibus; periodically releasing progress reports, in the hopes that doing so will help galvanize public opposition and aid in the task of long term movement building.