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6 May 2020

Trump Is The Antithesis Of American Greatness (2)

By: Alon Ben-Meir
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In at least 10 areas, Trump has inflicted a severe injury on the American public, on the country as a whole, and on America’s reputation abroad. Unless measures are taken by a new President to reverse the consequences of Trump’s reckless actions and policies, they will permanently erode America’s global standing, degrade our democracy, tear apart our social fabric, and compromise our constitution that held the country together for two and a half centuries. 

This is Part 2 of a four-part series.

Donald Trump ran for office using the slogan “make America great again.” America was great before he came to office, but sadly three and a half years later under his leadership, America’s greatness appears to be in the distant past. In less than one term in office, Trump systematically chipped away brick by brick at America’s magnitude and made the office of the Presidency a laughing stock in the eyes of small and major powers alike. Whereas countries around the world used to show tremendous respect and admiration for America as a country, for its social and political values, cultural riches, scientific innovation, and commitment to human rights, under Trump America’s star has dimmed precipitously and ominously to a point from which it may take years to recover. Electing Trump for another four-year term in office will set America too far back, causing major damage on many fronts that may well be irreversible.

Deepening poverty
Trump has sought to change how the federal poverty level is calculated, which will reduce the number of individuals and families eligible for government benefits—the poverty level is used to determine eligibility for over 40 government social programs, including SNAP and Medicaid. Trump decided to close a “loophole” whereby in most states, families that qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) automatically qualify for SNAP, without having to go through a separate application process. This puts another hurdle in the path of struggling families that need assistance.

Moreover, Trump’s tax cuts, touted to benefit all Americans, actually benefited the wealthiest Americans the most. More than 60 percent of tax savings went to only the top 20 percent of earners. Trump claimed that because of the tax cuts, working families would receive on average $4,000 more per year, but according to census data, those families only received on average $500. Now Trump is proposing a 10 percent tax cut on the middle class as part of his “Tax Cuts 2.0” plan, which will be released in September—a blatant ploy to pander to voters close to the election, as he well knows how unpopular his first round of tax reform was.

To be sure, poverty in America has increased over the past four years from which children in particular have suffered the most. It is estimated that over 11 million children face hunger on a daily basis, with an increasing number who drop out from school, as prolonged hunger causes developmental impairment and leads to behavioral problems. While Trump did not create the problem of poverty, he has done nothing to address it—he cannot “make America great” while allowing this kind of pervasive poverty to destroy an entire generation.

A whole generation that could have a brilliant future is being completely neglected, which is a terrible loss of human resources for America. That these disheartening if not tragic conditions are to be found in the richest country on earth does not make America great. Trump’s claim rings hollow, as he could not demonstrate in any starker terms his indifference toward the poor and the despondent, which puts America to shame under his morally bankrupt leadership.

Inspiring the rise of racism
Racism in America is not a new phenomenon, as over the years African Americans, Hispanics, and other non-white citizens suffered from discrimination. Under Trump though, racism is on the rise because his bigotry is constantly on display, infecting millions of his followers who blindly emulate him with pride. He misses no words to express his disdain against people of color. In January 2018 he said: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

A study from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at CSU San Bernardino found that hate crimes had increased by 12.46 percent in 2017 from the previous year in an analysis of the 10 largest US cities; 2017 was also a record high in their 7-year analysis. In its 2019 report, it notes regarding antisemitism specifically that “Jews were the direct target of half of the bias/extremist homicides in 2018, in the worst year ever for anti-Semitic killings in the United States.”

White nationalists have become more active, and more violent, with 17 instances of white nationalist/far right-motivated homicides in 2018 (up from 13 in 2017). The Center’s 2019 report states: “Hate crimes overall have spiked over the last decade around political events and rhetoric. The expansion of white nationalism has created a coalesced movement and a violent extremist fringe.” It further states that “August 2017, the month of the violent Charlottesville rally…was tied for the second worst month since November 2008, even though the homicide and assaults there were not reported as hate crimes.”

While the overall percent of hate crimes based on anti-black bias dropped (from 50.2 percent in 2016 to 47.1 percent in 2018), the total number of hate crimes motivated by race/ethnicity/ancestry has increased (4,426 in 2016 to 5,155 in 2018), with black victims facing the largest share of targeted violence.

In short, Trump is a racist through and through, and could never hide his penchant against non-white Americans regardless of their positions and daily contribution to the wellbeing of the country. What he said about a federal judge overseeing class-action suit against Trump University sums up his bigotry: “He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico. The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings — rulings that people can’t even believe.” A president who promotes racism is not making America great again, he is debasing the greatness of America, and for that he will be remembered with scorn and contempt.

Impairing immigration policy
Since entering office, Trump proposed or implemented policies against immigration which run contrary to the US’s history as a country made up of immigrants. Initially Trump called for massive deportations to “remov[e] the millions of illegal aliens” from the US “as fast as they come in.” To stop illegal immigration, Trump insisted on building a wall along the Mexican border that so far has cost over $11 billion, regardless of the fact that such a physical wall will not stop a determined migrant from entering the US—in fact, most undocumented people in the US are those who overstayed their visas (typically traveling by plane), not those crossing the southern border (700,000 visa overstays in 2017, versus 300,000 crossing the Mexican border, which was also a record low).

To inflict severe pain on immigrants, in May 2018 Trump instructed the separation of more than 2,500 children from their parents, who were held in cages unfit to domestic animals. In January 2020, the Trump administration further expanded its “Muslim ban”, targeting in particular people of color. Furthermore, he refused to provide a path for citizenship to nearly 800,000 DACA recipients and to the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, the majority of whom have been living in America for decades with children born in the US. Finally, he insisted that asylum seekers should remain in Mexico while stopping pregnant women from entering the US to prevent them from giving birth on American soil, which would automatically make the newly born child an American citizen.

What Trump has sadly forgotten is that this country was built by immigrants from all over the world. Millions of immigrants came to the US to realize the American dream, from the workers who built America’s railroads to the millions who today farm American land, the tens of thousands of scientists, artists, and writers, and many others from all walks of life that have made far-reaching contributions to the advancement of America, which made the country the forerunner in just about every field of endeavor.

It is the tradition of generally welcoming and embracing these immigrants that made America great in the first place, but leave it to Trump to stop the flow of immigrants in the name of making America great again, when in fact his immigration policy is depriving the US from attracting the talents needed to sustain America’s greatness.

* Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. - alon@alonben-meir.com

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