Friday, May 05, 2017

Op-Ed: Guam and 100 days of Trump

  • Updated 

The traditional 100-day mark by which new presidents are judged was reached last weekend. It is Donald Trump's turn to be judged by his record rather than just his tweets. For Trump, it has largely been 100 days of chaos and failures, and for Guam these have been 100 days of unfulfilled campaign promises, frustration and ominous signs for the future of our island and our region.

Trump began his term by fixating on the crowd size at his inauguration, falsely claiming it was larger than Obama's inauguration crowd. This controversy was followed by his first Muslim ban, which was blocked by the courts, and produced chaos and protests in airports. Despite this setback, the immigration issue remains high priority and Trump recently signed a new executive order re-assessing the H-2B program for the importation of skilled foreign labor. Even so, there is no sign of any consideration by the Trump administration to Guam's concerns including the deportation of habitual foreign criminals, and an over 80 percent reduction in the H-2B labor allowed for Guam. This labor reduction threatens a military buildup done right, and economic growth in other sectors of our economy.
Ignoring Guam's interests is not surprising given that Trump started his term by breaking a promise he made to Guam and the other territories. A year ago, Trump grandly promised: "No more will those who reside in the territories or commonwealths be ignored." He pledged that "[As] part of my administration, I will appoint a Territory and Commonwealth Advisory Committee, or 'TCAC' consisting of representatives from the Territories who would be tasked with reviewing all federal regulations affecting the territories." After the election, this promise was quickly broken by the new president-elect. There is no evidence of a TCAC. If anything, we see increasing federal hostility for the Chamorro Land Trust, the decolonization vote and local efforts to legalize marijuana.
What has caught the new administration's attention is the growing scandal about Trump's ties and collusion with Russia during the last election. The scandal has already consumed Trump's first national security advisor, who was forced to resign three weeks into his administration. The Trump-Russia scandal is now the subject of investigation by the FBI and several U.S. congressional committees.
All this has not even been offset by any legislative achievements. Trump's efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare spectacularly failed a few weeks ago, and a renewed effort is on the verge of collapse. Also in danger is Trump's tax plan, which heavily favors the rich and wealthy corporations and is estimated to add $7 trillion to the national debt. Since any changes to the tax code affect GovGuam's revenues, the adoption of Trump's plan will squeeze local revenues for vital services such as education, public safety and health care, including many other unfunded federal mandates.
Trump signed a flurry of executive orders, but half of these orders only called for studies and reviews. Others, like his second Muslim ban order and his funding threat to sanctuary cities, have been held up by the courts or have hit other roadblocks.
Some of his more substantial executive orders rolled back environmental initiatives as part of larger efforts attacking climate change research, and environmental programs. This is an ominous development for Guam and other islands, given the widespread concern of the effect of rising sea levels on coastal erosion, and the loss of habitable living space for people.
By March, Trump submitted his first budget which imposed far-reaching cuts – especially for assistance programs such as Meals on Wheels for the elderly and FEMA disaster programs. Also affected were grants to local nonprofit organizations such as Sanctuary Inc., Guam Humanities Council, KPRG public radio and the Guam Legal Services Corp., to name a few.
Trump ended his 100 days with a public speech focusing on his election victory instead of speaking to any presidential accomplishments thus far. Trump may or may not prove to be more effective during his presidency. In the meantime, only a One Guam approach, capitalizing on all federal connections established by both Gov. Eddie Calvo and Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, will ensure Guam fares well under a Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress.

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