Live Free Or Die: America (and the World) on the Brink (31 page)

BOOK: Live Free Or Die: America (and the World) on the Brink
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In July 2018, Trump reached an agreement with the European Union to work toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods. The EU agreed to purchase billions of dollars in American exports such as soybean and natural
gas, and to cooperate on reforming international trade rules. “The European Union is going to start almost immediately to buy a lot of soybeans—a tremendous market… from our farmers in the Midwest primarily,” said Trump.
66
In September 2019 Trump announced he had struck a deal in which Japan would cut tariffs on $7 billion worth of American agricultural products and the United States would lower tariffs on many Japanese industrial goods. The deal would also increase digital trade between Japan and the United States, but did not resolve existing or additional U.S. tariffs on Japanese autos.
67

Trump honored his promise to roll back the Obama administration's favorable trade and travel policies with Cuba that bolstered the regime while harming the Cuban people. Trump reimposed certain travel and trade restrictions but did not sever diplomatic or commercial ties or close the U.S. embassy in Havana. He continued to allow commercial flights from the United States and to permit Americans to bring Cuban goods into the United States.
68
In October 2019, he imposed new sanctions on Cuba because of its human rights violations and for supporting Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro.
69

President Trump kept his promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he believed damaged midwestern industries by undermining the bargaining power of American workers and stalling the expansion of the middle class.
70
Trump also completed the United States–Mexico–Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) in early 2020. USMCA revises Mexico's labor laws, encourages greater North American car production, and pries open Canadian markets for American dairy farmers.
71
Despite widespread resistance from Democrats to reopening NAFTA negotiations in the first place, eventually they overwhelmingly joined Republicans in approving the revised deal in both the House and the Senate.

President Trump has taken strong and unprecedented moves against predatory behavior by communist China. An investigation he initiated found that China was engaged in numerous unfair trade practices against the United States, including stealing technology and
intellectual property from the computer networks of U.S. companies, using licensing procedures to pressure technology transfers to Beijing, and imposing substantial restrictions on the investments and activities of American companies. In March 2018 Trump announced that in response, he would impose tariffs on various Chinese products, pursue action against China in the World Trade Organization, and restrict China's U.S. investments.
72
He has also limited the ability of Huawei, a government-backed Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer, to operate in the United States.
73

In the summer of 2019, the administration placed 25 percent tariffs on some $250 billion worth of products that benefit from China's unfair industrial policies.
74
He later announced he would impose 10 percent tariffs on another $300 billion worth of goods, effective September 1, 2019.
75
When China threatened to retaliate with increased tariffs on American products, Trump threated to raise tariffs to 30 percent on the initial $250 billion worth of goods and 15 percent on the additional $300 billion worth of goods, effective October 1, 2019.
76

Although the Democrats denounced Trump for sparking a “trade war” with China, his hardball tactics have paid off. After further negotiations, Trump and China reached a phase-one deal, whereby the United States would leave the 25 percent tariffs in place and impose 7½ percent tariffs on $120 billion of the remaining $300 billion worth of goods.
77
In exchange China agreed to make substantial purchases of American goods and to adopt structural reforms in intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, and currency and foreign exchange.
78
In December 2019 President Trump said that at Beijing's request, “phase two” talks with China would begin soon. In this phase Trump aims to eliminate even more of China's malign trading activities.
79

REBUILDING OUR DEFENSES

To fully appreciate President Trump's revitalization of our military, you have to understand that President Obama deliberately engineered a decline in our military, which I pointed out as it was happening. Obama expanded our military commitments for both military and nonmilitary purposes while gutting its funding. President Trump has taken the opposite approach—to disentangle our forces from unnecessary wars and assignments while building up our defense capabilities to deter future wars and increase our readiness should they occur.

Soldiers themselves testified to Obama's fecklessness toward the military. A
Military Times
/Institute for Veterans and Military Families poll showed that more than half the troops had an unfavorable opinion of Obama and his military leadership, while just 36 percent approved.
80
Service members seemed to doubt his military priorities—maybe, for example, because of incidents such as Obama using a commencement speech to West Point cadets to tout his global warming agenda, which he called a “creeping national security crisis.”
81
“There's no question that this era will go down as the third ‘hollow' army, and it's the president's fault,” said the Heritage Foundation's James Carafano, speaking of Obama. “For all his promises, the operations tempo hasn't gone down as much as he hoped, and he has invested little in the military.”
82
The Obama administration's failure to reinvest in our military was the “biggest factor” in our allies' underinvestment in defense, says Carafano. Writing in 2017, he noted that “the defense budget has been cut by 25 percent over the last five years.”
83

Obama's disarmament is shown by “defense-spending arithmetic,” says Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute. The Pentagon lost $250 billion in purchasing power from Obama's changes to the five-year defense plan he inherited from the prior Bush administration. In 2009, right off the bat, Obama ordered defense secretary Robert Gates to cut $300 billion from Pentagon programs, which effectively eliminated several major weapons acquisitions projects,
says Donnelly. A particularly damaging cut was the F-22 fighter, which was designed to employ stealth technology to ensure America's air superiority. Obama and Gates terminated the program at 187 planes—just one-fourth of the 750 the Air Force planned.
84
The Navy and Air Force have also retired ships and planes without replacing them. The Defense Department planned to build 300 F-35 fighters per year to replace the lightweight fighters in the Air Force, Navy, and Marines—but they built less than 10 percent of the planned number. Obama also significantly cut our troop numbers from 560,000 to around 450,000.
85

The progressive media and other assorted leftists deny that Obama gutted our defenses. You'd actually think they'd be proud of it, since they constantly advocate downsizing military spending in favor of social programs. But even an NPR fact-check article in 2016 conceded that military “spending is down; the force is smaller than when Obama took office and its equipment is aging.”
86

Mark Moyar, author of
Strategic Failure: How President Obama's Drone Warfare, Defense Cuts, and Military Amateurism Have Imperiled America
, argues that President Obama's goal from the start was to shrink the military.
87
Republicans recaptured the House in 2010 promising fiscal conservativism. With free-spending Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, an impasse was inevitable. To entice Congress to raise the debt limit, Democrats agreed to Republican demands for spending cuts, which led to the Budget Control Act of 2011. This imposed compulsory spending caps—called sequestration—to be triggered if the parties couldn't reach an agreement on a spending plan to reduce the deficit. Somehow President Obama managed to secure a deal that allocated half the sequestration cuts to defense when defense constituted only 20 percent of spending.
88

National-security-oriented Republicans like John McCain naively believed Democrats would agree to a compromise, forestalling major defense cuts.
89
That didn't happen due to Obama's insistence on huge tax hikes, so sequestration kicked in and military spending was slashed. “Though President Obama denounced sequestration, his actions
suggest that at the very least he was comfortable with its gutting of the defense budget,” writes Moyar. “During the 2011 negotiations the White House had already begun to work on a new national-security strategy to accommodate drastic defense cuts.”
90

The Republicans' weakness and defeat in this battle is the type of thing that led to conservative grassroots discontent, and ultimately their embracing Donald Trump. Thankfully, President Trump is far more supportive of the military than Obama was. Within about a year of taking office, Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress increased defense spending projections by more than $200 billion for fiscal years 2017 through 2019.
91
In 2018, the Trump administration signed a $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act, the largest defense bill in our history, which added 20,000 more troops and included a 2.4 percent pay raise for the military, the biggest increase since 2010. “History teaches us that when you weaken your defenses, you invite aggression,” said Trump on signing the bill. “The best way to prevent conflict of any kind is to be prepared. Only when the good are strong will peace prevail.”
92

Under President Trump, this upward trend in defense spending continued—by design. His National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 included a record-high $738 billion for defense spending, a 3.1 percent pay increase for our troops, and the first-ever paid family leave allowance.
93
During his 2020 State of the Union address Trump proudly reported on his military buildup. “To safeguard American liberty, we have invested a record-breaking $2.2 trillion in the United States military,” said Trump. “We have purchased the finest planes, missiles, rockets, ships, and every other form of military equipment—all made in the United States of America.”
94

President Trump is committed to modernizing our military. He has made the U.S. Cyber Command a wartime concern to advance our efforts in cyberspace.
95
He also announced the creation of the United States Space Command in late August 2019. As the eleventh U.S. combatant command and drawing forces from existing military
branches, the command defends our nation's interests in space, which Trump calls “the next warfighting domain.” “Those who wish to harm the United States, to seek to challenge us, in the ultimate high ground of space, it is going to be a whole different ballgame,” he said. “Our freedom to operate in space is also essential to detecting… any missile launches against the United States. Ultimately, we have no choice if we are to remain the world's greatest superpower.”
96
Trump eventually overcame congressional resistance to establish the U.S. Space Force as America's sixth military service, beginning with 16,000 active-duty military personnel and civilian staffers, with more people to be added over time.
97

Trump has been concerned for years about inadequate health care for U.S. military veterans. On June 6, 2018, he signed the VA Mission Act, which significantly improved veterans' access to VA health care, including allowing veterans to receive urgent care in their own cities and improving their overall quality of care.
98
The administration has also improved veterans' access to telehealth services, including serving patients at home, outside a hospital or clinic, whereas before, these services mostly involved connecting clinicians and patients from different medicine facilities.
99
The administration passed the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 “to improve VA's ability to hold employees accountable and enhance protections for whistleblowers.”
100
Also in 2017, the president signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act to streamline the appeals process for veterans.
101
Trump created a White House veterans hotline, which opened in June 2017 and within two years had fielded more than 250,000 calls.
102
In June 2019, the Department of Veterans Affairs and White House launched a veteran suicide prevention task force.
103
In August 2019, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum to ensure that veterans receive expedited access to student loans and educational benefits available to them.
104

Finally, due to the Trump boom, the jobless rate for all veterans dipped to an eighteen-year low of 3.5 percent in 2018.
105

FOREIGN POLICY

President Trump has reversed Obama's lead-from-behind foreign policies that benefited our adversaries and punished our allies. He has shifted our policy from an America-last to an America-first emphasis. Trump succeeded in securing an agreement from NATO members to increase their defense spending by $130 billion.
106
He has directed millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Christians and other minorities persecuted by Islamic terrorists. With input from Vice President Pence, Trump redirected U.S. funds originally planned for more general distribution by the United Nations toward Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities targeted by ISIS.
107
Trump has supported democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere, imposing severe sanctions on repressive regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

BOOK: Live Free Or Die: America (and the World) on the Brink
10.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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