Inside D.C.

Slow down, you move too fast

It’s only two weeks into President Trump’s first term in office and I’m already a little nervous and a lot confused.  My nerves come from the sheer speed at which decisions are being made, paper generated and positions galvanized. My confusion emanates from the same hurricane of campaign promise-keeping, but is exacerbated by seemingly conflicting statements from various Trump officials.

The torrent of executive orders, memoranda, proclamations and other executive actions begs why all of this action is being taken in the first two weeks rather than the first two months or at least when the president has a full cabinet upon which to lean and from which to learn.   My concern is not with the wisdom of specific policy positions, but rather the absolute White House imperative such positions be implemented so quickly and so unilaterally.  A little agency cooperation and agency understanding would go far in avoiding confusion, controversy and social media chaos.

A good example is the truly and almost magically bad rollout of the president’s immigration order, restricting the number of immigrants to the U.S. from seven mideastern countries for 90 days, Syria getting its own tougher set of restrictions. No one within the president’s inner circle should have been surprised by the reaction of the half of the country which voted for Hillary Clinton, yet the first 24 hours post-rollout was all confusion and conflation.  Most frustrating was the inconsistency among enforcement agencies, an outcome avoided by taking the time to ensure all that need to understand the policy truly understand the policy.

Another bit of confusion results from yet another executive order. I refer to the media coverage of the president’s intent to untangle the regulatory mess in which business finds itself thanks to Dodd-Frank. Some may question the wisdom or “optics” of signing such an order on the same day some of the most powerful U.S. finance and manufacturing executives are hosted by the president to talk “problems and solutions.”

However, a statement by Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs chief operating officer who left the financial giant to become head of the president’s National Economic Council, had me scratching my head, just a bit.  In explaining to the Wall Street Journal why making his former employer or similar attendees at the White House meeting happy is not the reason behind the Dodd-Frank rollback, he said, “It (the rollback effort) has to do with being a player in a global market where we should, could and will have a dominant position as long as we don’t regulate ourselves out of that.”

Interestingly, agriculture has argued to the new administration that killing off the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or over-reinvention of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) risks U.S. agriculture’s role in world markets, limiting its ability to expand.  Why does this argument work in justifying a roll-back of Dodd-Frank regulation but not in protecting U.S. ag’s role in a global marketplace?

I say we sit back and take a breather.  Let’s let the world absorb actions taken and statements made so far. We need to look inward a bit, particularly as applies to getting a fully operational administration in place.   Campaign promises can and will be fulfilled.  However, it’s best to solve existing problems without creating new challenges else you spend all your time solving problems.

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