The Breakdown of President Trump’s Introductory Address to Congress


Luke Dalessandro, Politics Editor

In President Trump‘s introductory address to Congress as president, Trump attacked a multitude of contentious issues with devastatingly novel framing. The president offered an agenda on many different topics, among them the crumbling infrastructure of the U.S., free trade, nation building, regulatory efficiency, and jobs programs.

Image result for polls on Trump's speech to congress
Reaction to Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress appears to contain widespread approval. Evidenced by a CBS/YouGov Poll, over three quarters of those who watched the speech reported approval.

President Trump’s address garnered widespread popular approval as well, with a CNN/ORC poll implicating 57% of those who viewed the address had reported a very positive reaction to the speech. Henceforth, a snap poll sanctioned by AOL found 78% had a positive impression of the speech. Optimistic reactions to the address have the appearance of being reflected in Trump’s approval ratings. According to a Gallup poll, with a sample size of 1,500 Americans conducted over March 3rd to March 5th, 44% now approve of Trump’s job as president while 50% disapprove. While still exhibiting a net disapproval score, this is far more positive for the president than the consensus of polls in February where a Quinnipiac poll had 55% of registered voters disapproving of Trump’s performance as president. Furthermore, a CBS/YouGov poll also found strong approval of the speech, with 76% contending approval of the speech, while only 24% stated disapproval.

Within the widespread approval of the president’s speech were a number of contentious claims on Trump’s record, particularly on his continuing agenda as well as the positive effects of his executive orders. In addressing his prioritization of infrastructure, Trump implicated investments in U.S infrastructure at the cost of international nation building and unilateral military intervention as desideratum, proclaiming “we’ve spent trillions of dollars, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.” The president went on to profess, “crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.” However, while the sentiment expressed here aligns with the presidents pro domestic investments rhetoric, Trump’s policy proposals and agenda have the appearance of being in direct conflict with this attitude. Less than a week into President Trump’s term, Senate Democrats proposed a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure investment bill over 10 years. Estimating their plan would create upwards of 15 million jobs, the plan included provisions allocating $210 billion to repair outdated roads and bridges, as well as another $200 billion for a separate infrastructure fund for a variety of transportation projects holding national priority. While Senate Republicans bemoaned the plan due to a lack of funding specifics, namely where the money for the infrastructure investments would come from, with Senator John Cornyn of Texas claiming, “Democrats thought that was an area maybe to find common ground, and then Sen. Mitch McConnell made the important point it needs to be paid for because we’ve got $20 trillion in debt.” In spite of this, Trump offered few specifics himself, and did not work with Democrats to work out a funding plan to proceed with infrastructure investments.

However, Trump did offer specifics on infrastructure investment in his speech to Congress, accordingly a $1 trillion dollar fund, saying “to launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produced $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States-financed through both private and public capital-creating millions of new jobs.” However, based on suggestions during the presidential transition as well as the context of the excerpt, the infrastructure investment bill likely to be provided by Trump is probable to rely on provision of tax breaks to private companies to incentivize work on infrastructure. However, the concept fails to address how the most pressing areas of infrastructure would find funding, due to their lack of profitability to private companies. This appears to provide a perverse incentive in which many pressing areas of infrastructure, such as newly funded water pipes in upwards of 33 U.S locales in which cheats on water safety inspections were used over lead concerns, are probable to go underfunded due to their lack of profitability. In any case, Trump’s ideas on infrastructure reflect a reliance on the trustworthiness of companies to prioritize the most pressing infrastructure projects over their profit margins.

To eliminate the alleged burden of regulations on the ability to start, operate, and close businesses, a key point of the Trump campaign was improving of regulatory efficiency via cutting of regulations and increased efficiency of the government in the regulatory process, relative to cost of implementing regulations. Not long after being inaugurated as president, Trump set the agenda on an astronomical cutting of regulations. During a meeting with business leaders Trump proclaimed, “We’re going to be cutting regulation massively. We think we can cut regulations by 75%, maybe more.” In an attempt to satisfy this goal, in the first two weeks of his presidency, Trump signed an executive order which mandated federal agencies cut any two old regulations for any new regulation they attempt to implement. During the signing of the order the president explained, “If there’s a new regulation, they have to knock out two. But it goes far beyond that, we’re cutting regulations massively for small business and large business.” During President Trump’s speech to Congress, he acclaimed the order, stating “We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated.” The order, officially known as the Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, while being applicable to Federal Agencies, does not apply to independent agencies. Among these are many of the rules implemented by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, most of which were crafted by independent entities. Even in application to Federal agencies, the framing of the order stays highly ambiguous, due to the phrasing that requires agencies ‘identify’ two rules to be repealed and find ways to offset costs of new rules, rather than explicitly mandating they be eliminated in the face of a new regulation. The order specifically states, “Toward that end, it is important that for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination, and that the cost of planned regulations be prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process.” On whether the vague language of the regulation has potential to lead to loopholes, Harvard Law Professor Jody Freeman referred to it as ‘arbitrary’ and ‘not implementable.’  Furthermore to the president’s goal of cutting regulations by upwards of 75%, as Section 5 of the order accentuated, “Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof.” As the Executive Branch does not have the Constitutional power to repeal or force the repeal of any rules in place due to laws passed by Congress, the president may find difficulty in reaching his quantitative goal for deregulation.

President Trump continued to the topic of free trade and outsourcing of jobs, extolling his formal abandonment of U.S participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Often referred to as the TPP, the 12 nations multinational free trade agreement was brokered by former president Barack Obama during his tenure in office. In fulfilling his campaign promise to not allow the TPP to pass through Congress, the president argued that through abandoning the agreement, American laborers would be safe from corporations outsourcing manufacturing to low wage countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam. Historically, the implications made by Trump to the detrimental affect of free trade agreements on domestic workers continue to reign accurate. The North American Free Trade Agreement, commonly known as NAFTA, was a large free trade agreement signed during the tenure of former president Bill Clinton. According to a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, U.S trade deficits with Mexico alone displaced upwards of 682,900 U.S jobs, that quantity being as of 2010. For evidently similar reasoning, Trump touted his withdrawal from the TPP, saying in his address, “We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.” On trade, Trump’s address remained consistent to his record, as one of his first executive orders as president withdrew the U.S from the TPP. In spite of the omissions present in Trump’s presentation of infrastructure and regulation, the substance of the president’s rhetoric and credibility on free trade coincided with his actions as president to this point.



As shown in the chart, the U.S trade deficit with Mexico increased exponentially after the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. (NAFTA).