President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Experts from The Heritage Foundation weighed in with responses on various policy fronts. Here’s what they had to say.
Tax Reform Is Delivering Results
President Trump is right. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is providing tremendous relief for the American people.
Within less than a month of the bill signing, over 260 businesses across all industries announced raises, bonuses, and new investments directly benefiting over 3 million Americans. Next month, almost every American worker will have a larger paycheck thanks to tax reform.
Tax reform is expected to result in hundreds of thousands of new jobs and wage increases for American workers of all income levels. Down from 35 percent—one of the highest in the world—the U.S. now has a globally competitive corporate tax rate of 21 percent, which will lead to even more jobs, higher salaries, and increased economic opportunities for Americans for years to come.
However, there is still work to be done. Many of the individual and business tax cuts expire before 2026, providing an opportunity for big government to raise taxes rather than cut spending. Congress and the president must work to make the tax cuts permanent for American taxpayers.
Most Americans Will Receive a Tax Cut
Most Americans now have lower tax rates, allowing them to save more and invest in their family’s futures. President Trump highlighted a typical family making $75,000. They will see their tax bill cut in half.
To illustrate the size of the tax cuts, meet the Joneses. They have three kids and a mortgage. As a sales rep and a part-time nurse, they currently earn $75,000 a year. Under the new bill, they can keep an extra $2,000 of their hard-earned money to invest in their children’s future.
Their neighbor Tom Wong is a teacher earning $50,000. About 10 percent of that currently goes to taxes, but under the new bill, he can expect a $1,100 savings. More than 80 percent of Americans receive a tax cut.
The Fernandez family, who run a family-owned blinds and shades business, will also get a tax cut. This year, their hard work paid off and their company earned $250,000. Now, they can invest an extra $13,000 in growing their business. They can also raise wages and give out bonuses to their employees instead of handing the money over to the government.
When Washington takes less of the American people’s money, everyone wins.
Small Business Deduction Should Be Replaced With Lower Rates
President Trump highlighted the new 20 percent pass-through business deduction, one of the few parts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that should not be extended.
Small and pass-through businesses that pay their taxes as individuals and face the new lower individual tax rates will receive a newly created deduction.
Although lower marginal tax rates for small and pass-through businesses are an important component of economic growth, the newly created discrepancy in top rates between individual income and small and pass-through business income will increase the incentives to treat income from wages artificially as business income.
This new tax privilege has no consistent policy rationale, arbitrarily favors certain types of businesses over others, introduces new complexity, and will provide new opportunities for unproductive tax planning. When the business deduction expires in 2025, Congress should not extend it and instead focus on further lowering individual tax rates to treat all income sources equally.
– Adam Michel, policy analyst, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies
Tangible Effects of the Tax Law
The president talked about how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will soon result in higher paychecks for the overwhelming majority of American workers.
In fact, some have already experienced a significant change in their after-tax pay. That is because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s lower rates and a higher child tax credit will provide higher disposable incomes. (See these examples of how the revised tax system will affect different workers’ and retirees’ annual incomes after taxes.)
Simpler Taxes for Individuals
The president emphasized how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will help ordinary, working-class Americans. In addition to higher take-home pay, the new tax law will also simplify taxes for tens of millions of Americans.
By replacing some existing deductions and exemptions with a higher standard deduction and lower tax rates, many workers will spend less time keeping track of tax records and filing their tax returns. They may even be able to save the cost of paying an accountant to help with their taxes.
We estimated that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will cut the number of taxpayers who itemize by more than half, saving between 21 and 28 million Americans the hassle of keeping track of and itemizing their deductions.
No More Individual Mandate Tax
As the president highlighted, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act got rid of a tax that fell most heavily on individuals and families making less than $50,000 per year.
Eliminating the Obamacare individual mandate will reduce the tax bills of many individuals and families—based on their own choices—by hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. And most importantly, it will leave taxpayers freer to make personal decisions absent the heavy hand of Uncle Sam.
The president highlighted what his administration has done to “restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their government.” This includes making the government more efficient and accountable to the American people.
Heritage responded to the president’s executive order to reorganize the federal government by producing two comprehensive reports that include proposals for cross-cutting government reforms, like making federal compensation more competitive with the private sector and reducing red tape; and more than 100 individual proposals to cut waste, duplication, inefficiencies, and unnecessary federal functions.
Many of those Heritage proposals are now part of the administration’s plans and some have already been implemented.
Reforming the Federal Workforce
Congress should respond to the president’s call to “to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers—and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”
Removing a federal employee should not be tantamount to a criminal prosecution and take well over a year to complete. In addition to making it less burdensome to remove federal employees, The Heritage Foundation proposes a comprehensive set of federal compensation reforms that would make the federal government more competitive and result in over $300 billion in taxpayer savings over a decade.
– Rachel Greszler, research fellow in economics, budget, and entitlements, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity
Eliminating State and Local Deductions
One important component of the president’s tax reform was the (partial) removal of state and local tax deductions.
Heritage research has found that state and local deductions contribute to enormous distortions in the tax code, unjustly benefit high-income taxpayers in high-tax states, and incentivize states to raise taxes. These deductions, coupled with the municipal bond interest deduction, account for an estimated $1.7 trillion in revenues over the next 10 years.
Even partial removal of these deductions not only provides justification for significant rate cuts that will boost economic growth, but also removes incentives for states to unnecessarily raise taxes.
– Kevin Dayaratna, senior statistician and research programmer, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity
– Rachel Greszler, research fellow in economics, budget, and entitlements, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity
Sizing Down the Administrative State
On Tuesday, President Trump said that his administration has eliminated more regulations during its first year in office than any prior administration in American history.
A longstanding criticism of the administrative state has been that it imposes unduly burdensome costs on the American economy through the issuance of a blizzard of unnecessary rules that stifle investment and reduce employment.
In 2015 alone, the Obama administration imposed more than $22 billion in annual costs on the nation. During the presidential campaign and first year of his administration, President Trump made clear that he intends to address that problem. In fact, he and senior members of his administration have vowed to remake the administrative state as we currently know it.
The president has tried to carry out that reform in two ways.
First, he appointed Mick Mulvaney to head the Office of Management and Budget, and Neomi Rao to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Together, they see their mission as implementing the president’s goal of eliminating unnecessary regulations.
Second, President Trump has issued a series of executive orders directing senior agency officials to aggressively review the effects that excessive federal agency regulations have had on economic growth, to eliminate unnecessary rules, to ensure that agencies do not act in an ultra vires manner, to respect the values of federalism, and to always measure and be guided by the costs and benefits of any rules an agency considers.
Third, as an additional step in his regulatory reform program, President Trump signed 15 congressional joint resolutions passed under the Congressional Review Act of 1996. Those joint resolutions nullified agency rules promulgated during the last year of former President Barack Obama’s administration or, in one case, in 2017 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
– Paul Larkin, senior legal research fellow, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Institute for Constitutional Government
Inconsistent on Trade
The first year of the Trump administration has seen more movement toward economic freedom than most proponents of limited-government, pro-growth policies had hoped for. However, the trade policy and rhetoric of the past year runs counter to these job-creating trends.
One of the problems with discussions on international trade is the vocabulary. Words that mean one thing in the context of personal or business finance mean something else in an international balance of payments context.
Suppose a foreign company builds an oil processing facility on a barge in Houston. If the facility (and its jobs) is towed away to another country, the value of the facility counts as an export and shipping the barge away tilts the balance of trade toward a surplus. If, instead, the facility is permanently moored in Houston, it adds to our foreign debt.
For most people, “trade surplus” sounds better than “foreign debt.” In both cases of our hypothetical example, a foreign company paid for something made by Americans, but in the worse-sounding case the permanent operating jobs stay in the U.S.
Both theory and the data show that with international trade, the money flows both ways in similar magnitudes—even when we have a trade deficit. The shortfall of a trade deficit is necessarily made up by a surplus on the inflow of foreign investment.
To be sure, violating trade rules should be challenged and trade agreements can be improved to address things like intellectual property rights protection. However, trade deficits are not signs of unfair trade or trade violations.
Allowing trade policy to be driven by a misconception can take us away from the job-creating economic freedom we are seeing play out so well on the domestic side.
– David Kreutzer, senior research fellow in labor markets and trade, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity
New Trade Deals
The president’s call for new trade deals that are fair and reciprocal, and that protect American workers and American intellectual property, bode well for a ground-breaking free trade area agreement between the U.S. and Britain.
President Trump’s administration has already made it clear that Britain is at “the front of the line” for a trade deal, and his statement tonight makes clear why.
Trade in goods between the U.S. and Britain is well-balanced. Each country has massive investments—worth over a quarter of a trillion dollars—in the other. And there is no question that Britain, as a nation with tremendous intellectual capital and a legacy of common law more than a millennium old, is committed to property rights and the enforcement of trade rules.
In a world where free trade has become controversial in part because of the failure of nations like China to respect their commitments, free trade with Britain—which will soon be free of the controls imposed by membership in the European Union—is in the American interest.
In 2014, The Heritage Foundation was the first to make this argument, and the case for a U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement is stronger today than it has ever been.
– Ted Bromund, senior research fellow in Anglo-American relations, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
Renewing the Federal Bench
President Trump briefly mentioned his work appointing excellent originalist judges, but his historic success in remaking the federal judiciary cannot be understated. To date, the Senate has confirmed 13 courts of appeals judges—more than any president in U.S. history.
Trump stated that he is “working with the Senate, [to] appoint judges who will interpret the Constitution as written.” With the appointment of judges like Neil Gorsuch, Amy Barrett, David Stras, and others, he has done this flawlessly. But with more than 160 vacancies, the president’s work is far from done.
– Tiffany Bates, legal policy analyst, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Institute for Constitutional Government
President Trump correctly praised the constitutionalist judges he has appointed and continues to appoint. He also highlighted the defense of the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment and the protection of religious liberty under the First Amendment. Bravo, President Trump!
– Alden Abbott, deputy director, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies
Giving Inmates a Second Chance
Trump focused on economic policies that are creating an economic boom that benefits everyone, embracing workforce development, and enabling everyone to “realize their full potential.”
Therefore, he rightfully addressed legal reform that would better prepare convicted criminals to return to society, as 95 percent of all convicted offenders do, to lead law-abiding, prosperous lives.
“As America regains its strength,” Trump said, it is important for Congress to tackle prison reform in order “to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance at life.”
The Trump administration should work with Congress to incentivize eligible convicted individuals to participate in mentoring, job skills training, addiction treatment, and other recidivism reduction programs. Thus, the administration can share the success of conservative states like Texas that have reduced crime rates and corrections spending, and increase public safety and prosperity for all.
– John-Michael Seibler, legal fellow, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Institute for Constitutional Government
Ending Chain Migration and the Diversity Visa Lottery
President Trump rightly called for an end to chain migration and the diversity lottery in his State of the Union address.
The U.S. immigration system gave out over 72 percent of its green cards in fiscal year 2018 for family-based or diversity reasons. At the same time, the system allocated only about 12 percent of its green cards for employment-based reasons.
For some perspective, U.S. lawmakers should look at the immigration systems of other traditional immigrant-receiving nations such as Canada and Australia. Those countries strongly value merit- and economic-based immigration.
In 2016, Canada gave out 26 percent of its permanent resident visas on the basis of family and 52 percent on an economic basis, while Australia gave out 33 percent for family and 67 percent for economic.
It is past time for the U.S. to embrace a merit-based economic system. Yes, we should reunite spouses and minor children, but the majority of the U.S.’ green cards should go to immigrants who want to work in the U.S. and have a company that wants to hire them. It’s a win for those immigrants and a win for the U.S. economy.
– David Inserra, policy analyst in homeland security and cyber policy, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy
Cracking Down on Gang Activity
The president correctly highlighted thousands of MS-13 gang members who have been expelled or imprisoned.
– Alden Abbott, deputy director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies
Celebrating Victories Against ISIS
President Trump was right to celebrate the progress made by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, whose ‘caliphate’ in Syria and Iraq has been essentially dismantled. The president deserves credit for green-lighting a series of tactical adjustments on the ground that have hastened ISIS’ fall.
President Trump is also correct to point out that ISIS is not yet defeated. Indeed, much hard work lies ahead. ISIS will likely launch an insurgency in Iraq and Syria and the threat will mutate further in years to come—not just in current ISIS strongholds across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, but also in the West. The U.S. must stand ready to respond to this.
Furthermore, the war on radical Islam does not begin and end with ISIS. Al-Qaeda—who President Trump also mentioned—remains highly dangerous. Any comprehensive U.S. strategy against Islamist extremism must also address the danger it poses.
– Robin Simcox, Margaret Thatcher fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy
Rebuilding Our Military
The president noted that “unmatched power is the surest means of our defense.” Unfortunately, America’s armed forces as described in the Heritage Index of U.S. Military Strength are in desperate need of rebuilding.
Severe budget cuts over the last eight years and constant deployments for the last 26 years have not been kind to the military.
Ship crews are tragically untrained, and Air Force fighter squadrons and Army brigades are not ready. They are too small: the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force are smaller today than they have been in over a half century.
Yet America’s interests are under threat every day by challenges like North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles or aggressive postures by Russia and China. That’s why President Trump’s call to “fully fund our great military” is welcome.
But there is a hiccup. In order for the military to actually get the funds, Congress must act—first to find overdue agreement on 2018 defense funding, and then to approve the money the president requests for 2019. The longer it delays, the greater the danger to our country.
Modernizing Our Aging Defense
The president’s call to “modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never to use it, but making it so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression” is on target. Our nuclear arsenal is aging, the infrastructure decaying, and the scientists retiring. If we are not careful, our nuclear deterrent will be jeopardized.
The U.S. has not tested a nuclear weapon since 1992. Our intercontinental ballistic missiles are 48 years old, our sub-launched missiles 28 years old, and some of our bombers are 58 years old. We must invest in this critical area.
– Thomas Spoehr, director, Center for National Defense
US Continues to Wisely Distrust Russia
The Trump administration has stood firm against the Russian Kremlin this past year.
The U.S. cannot trust a Russia led by Vladimir Putin. He has proven to be nothing but deceitful when dealing with the U.S. He does not care about his country, nor his people. He only cares about maintaining his power.
Under President Trump, the U.S. has maintained and increased economic sanctions against Russia. This is good news. Russia continues to fight in eastern Ukraine and occupies Crimea, breaking the Minsk II ceasefire agreement.
Russia still occupies a massive area of Georgia’s territory—20 percent, in fact—according to a recent report by Luke Coffey of The Heritage Foundation. Russia’s invasion, illegal occupation, and meddling of these further proves that it cannot be trusted.
In the 2018 State of the Union address, President Trump declared that our rival, Russia, challenges “our interests, our economy, and our values.” This could not be truer.
The White House has acted realistically and wisely against the Kremlin during President Trump’s first year in office. This is reassuring because it demonstrates our president’s understanding that Russia is a threat, and that Putin cannot be trusted.
– Alexis Mrachek, research assistant, Russia and Eurasia, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy
Strong on Iran
President Trump singled out Iran for special attention in his speech, saying: “When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent. America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom.”
This is an important message to send not only to the people of Iran, but to the Islamist dictatorship that holds them hostage.
President Trump previously had blasted the regime in a series of tweets that zeroed in on an important factor that sparked the protests: simmering resentment over the economic, financial, and human costs of Iran’s aggressive foreign policy, which has diverted billions of dollars from Iran’s domestic needs to pay for the regime’s military interventions in Iraq and Syria, support for insurgents in Yemen and Afghanistan, and financing of a wide variety of terrorist groups.
Washington must continue to drive up the long-term political, economic, and military costs of Iran’s hostile foreign policy. It should underscore that the regime’s support for terrorism and Islamic revolution, which provoked sanctions and exacerbated Iran’s economic problems, are direct threats to the long-term interests of the Iranian people.
The U.S. should support the right of Iranians to challenge the heavy-handed repression and corruption of a tyrannical regime, but it should hold off on endorsing specific opposition leaders or movements until their character and goals are assessed.
Until then, the Trump administration should do its best to publicize and promote the legitimate political and economic grievances of frustrated Iranians and support their efforts to recover freedom from a tyrannical regime that depends on thugs to suppress its own people.
President Trump also mentioned that he has asked Congress to work with the administration to “address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal.”
A possible legislative fix would impose additional constraints on Iran’s nuclear activities by mandating the restoration of nuclear sanctions if Tehran crossed designated red lines on enriched uranium stockpiles, centrifuge development, nuclear-capable missiles, or other benchmarks.
Washington could unilaterally extend key restrictions on Iran’s accumulation of fissile material beyond the sunset provisions that expire within 15 years under the deal.
This would deprive Tehran of the option of ramping up to industrial-scale uranium enrichment to shorten the time required to stage a nuclear breakout. Tehran would need much more time to make the final sprint to a nuclear weapons capability, giving Washington more opportunity to fashion diplomatic, sanctions, and possible military responses.
The Obama administration settled for deferring, not preventing, an Iranian nuclear capability. President Trump has rejected this course and adopted a hardline policy that will include renewed sanctions if the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is not adequately reinforced or renegotiated.
To strengthen the deterrent effect of sanctions, it would be preferable if the administration worked closely with Congress to address the flaws of the Iran nuclear agreement. Bipartisan congressional support is an important pillar for sustaining long-term U.S. foreign policy.
But if Congress is not willing or able to present a united front against Tehran on the nuclear issue, then President Trump must go it alone to prevent Iran from becoming the next North Korea.
– Jim Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs
President Trump repeated his call for a major initiative to repair the nation’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and rails. The more pressing need is to eliminate the regulatory barriers that impede these projects and vastly inflate the costs.
Any new infrastructure funding should be conditional on meaningful regulatory reform, starting with the National Environmental Policy Act. The average time to complete a NEPA impact assessment of a transportation or water-related project—just one of several permitting exercises—expanded from 2.2 years in the 1970s to 6.6 years in 2011. Each day of delay increases taxpayers’ costs.
Ultimately, NEPA must be rescinded. In the interim, there are several steps Congress and the Trump administration can take to mitigate the harm caused by this obsolete statute:
- Narrow NEPA reviews. The multitude of other regulatory requirements makes a full-scale NEPA review both unnecessary and redundant. Reviews should be limited to major environmental issues that are not dealt with by any other regulatory or permitting process.
- Mandate time limits. As with many other environmental statutes, deadlines for agency decisions at every procedural step should be established.
- Eliminate GHG determinations. There is no credible scientific evidence that positively attaches a specified volume of greenhouse gases to environmental impacts. In the absence of any cause/effect nexus, there is no rational purpose to requiring agencies to undertake an analysis of GHG emissions as part of the NEPA process.
- Limit alternatives studied. The NEPA process is unnecessarily prolonged by evaluation of alternative actions that stray beyond the actual purpose of the proposed project. NEPA evaluations should be limited to alternatives that would accomplish the stated goal at less cost and with available technologies.
– Diane Katz, senior research fellow in regulatory policy, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity
Details Still Forthcoming
As expected, the president gave a nod to his upcoming infrastructure push, which is anticipated to be announced within the next two to four weeks.
The president is correct that there is much that can be done to modernize the nation’s infrastructure. The solution, though, is not to further entrench the federal government’s pervasive influence over infrastructure. It is to fix the broken system that has resulted from extensive federal interference in regulating and controlling the funding of the nation’s infrastructure.
The president is right that the current regulatory delays that impede infrastructure projects are a “disgrace” and must be addressed. As the president referenced, projects can be delayed for years, needlessly increasing the completion time and total costs for most projects.
On average, it takes infrastructure projects of all types over five years to receive a final environmental impact statement—just one aspect of the federal review process. Some larger projects are stuck in this regulatory purgatory for decades. Minimizing this time to two years (or even one) would be a fundamental improvement over the current system.
There are a host of similar reforms that the administration should undertake to efficiently and responsibly build a better infrastructure system. Indeed, Heritage estimates that enacting a package of strategic reforms can fully drive the $1 trillion in infrastructure investment that the administration is seeking to accomplish without the need for new federal spending.
However, it must be noted that in broadly deriding the nation’s infrastructure as “crumbling,” the president mischaracterizes the condition of the U.S. infrastructure. In reality, the nation’s major infrastructure is in satisfactory condition:
- The number and share of the nation’s bridges that were deemed “structurally deficient” (not unsafe, but demonstrating elevated maintenance needs) has declined by more than half over the last 25 years and now represents under 10 percent of the nation’s total.
- 93 percent of the miles driven on the National Highway System are on pavement that is in fair or better condition.
- Airports move more people than ever before with a near perfect safety record for scheduled commercial service.
- The nation’s seaports continue to be among the world’s largest conduits for international trade.
A thoughtful infrastructure proposal will consider this data instead of rhetoric that calls for billions of dollars of unnecessary new federal spending.
While the president only briefly detailed his infrastructure plan, the administration has an opportunity to pursue free-market principles as a means to drive infrastructure investment. The nation would benefit tremendously if the president embraces this opportunity.
– Michael Sargent, policy analyst for transportation and infrastructures, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity
A New Direction on Energy
President Trump has made the right decision to end the war on conventional energy sources, which began with several energy executive orders and culminated with his decision to withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
Pulling out Paris and reversing Obama-era climate regulation was a dodged bullet for the American economy.
The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis estimated that by 2035, participation in the Paris Agreement would produce an aggregate loss of $2.5 trillion in U.S. gross domestic product, resulting in $20,000 of lost income for a typical family of four and a notable increase in electricity expenditures.
Our modeling also found that heavy costs would be accompanied by negligible changes in the climate and sea levels.
On the other hand, the president has also given our country much to look forward to regarding American energy. His Energy Independence Executive Order, for example, has permitted fracking on federal lands, thus enabling our best and brightest to access our previously untapped vast oil and gas resources.
Heritage analysis found that capitalizing on our domestic energy abundance would make America a worldwide energy powerhouse, generating tremendous economic benefits. The gains include $2.4 trillion in gross domestic product from now until 2035, which is the equivalent of $27,000 per family of four.
We found that these benefits would also be accompanied by negligible changes in climate and sea levels.
Clearly there are stark differences in the direction the Trump administration’s energy agenda would take the economy as compared to the Obama anti-energy policies. One of the very few similarities is that both would make no noticeable impact on the climate.
Eliminating the Faulty ‘Social Cost of Carbon’ Measure
The president alluded to unnecessary regulations that are stifling the American economy and could stall infrastructure investment. A critical component to the Trump administration ending the war on coal and the war on American energy is eliminating use of the social cost of carbon in regulatory analyses.
The Obama administration used the social cost of carbon to justify its climate agenda. By placing a significantly high arbitrary price on a ton of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, the agency can inflate the benefits of regulation or inflate the costs of a new project, claiming that the project will emit X tons of CO2 over its lifetime and inflict Y damage on the planet through global warming.
At The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, we rigorously examined these models and found that can be readily open to manipulation by policymakers. Simple, very reasonable changes to the inputs in the model produce wildly different results, making them useless for regulatory analysis.
President Trump was rightfully informed by our research to eliminate these models as a justification for regulatory policy.
– Kevin Dayaratna, senior statistician and research programmer, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity
Moving Toward Energy Dominance
The president remarked that the war on coal and American energy is over.
The president deserves a victory lap on energy policy. In one year, the Trump administration made significant progress in accomplishing The Heritage Foundation’s energy agenda by opening access to the abundance of domestic resources and rolling back costly, ineffective regulations.
Through executive action, the administration approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The EPA reversed the staple of the Obama administration’s climate policies in repealing the Clean Power Plan, and Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
The administration also took the necessary steps to unwind the previous administration’s “keep it in the ground” anti-energy agenda. It revoked a moratorium for new coal leases on federal lands and proposed to make more than 90 percent Outer Continental Shelf available to energy exploration, which includes 98 percent of the undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas off America’s coastline.
The Department of Interior also opened new areas of federal land in Alaska to energy production, and the administration’s signature tax victory included a significant victory for energy policy in opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.
Tonight may be Trump’s victory lap in the Capitol, but the winners are spread throughout the country. Policy reforms that make energy markets freer and more competitive will not only be a boon to the American economy, but also for households who will benefit from more affordable energy prices.
Use Infrastructure to Implement a Lasting Legacy on Environmental Reform
America has a clean, healthy environment as well as safe, structurally sound infrastructure. However, our country’s major environmental policies are outdated and, consequently, stall infrastructure investment, misalign or create perverse incentives, and centralize power in Washington for little to no meaningful environmental benefit.
The EPA has used ever-expanding authority to implement stringent regulations with increasingly high compliance costs and diminishing marginal environmental returns. These environmental regulatory roadblocks impede infrastructure investment of all types, from roads and bridges to pipelines and transmission lines.
Any infrastructure proposal must come with substantial regulatory environmental reform, with a focus on transitioning authority to the states, creating market incentives, and removing costly, ineffective regulations to improve the environment at a lower cost.
– Nick Loris, Herbert and Joyce Morgan research fellow, energy and environmental policy
No Mention of Repealing Obamacare
Unfortunately, President Trump did not call on Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare this year. Without his leadership, millions of Americans will likely continue to suffer from the health care law’s skyrocketing health costs and reduced coverage choices.
As the president noted tonight, Congress did the right thing in December when it repealed the unpopular Obamacare mandate to either buy health insurance on a private market broken by Obamacare’s mandates or pay a tax. Now, lawmakers need to finish the job and fix the broken private market, so that all Americans have better and more affordable health choices.
For the past seven years, GOP lawmakers promised to undo the damages of Obamacare. And today, according to a Fox News poll, fully 82 percent of Americans are extremely or very concerned about health care.
Conservatives stand ready with a health reform proposal that promotes increased coverage options by empowering states to run truly competitive health insurance markets and help the most vulnerable get access to high-quality care.
– Marie Fishpaw, director of domestic policy studies, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity
Addressing the Opioid Crisis
Tonight, the president reaffirmed his commitment to responding to the “terrible crisis” of opioid addition.
Combatting the nation’s opioid crisis is complex. The administration’s list of federal actions demonstrates the size and scope of the problem and response. Actions taken at the state and local level further underscore the depth of issues connected to the crisis.
There is no single action alone that will end this crisis. It requires a range of strategies to address supply, demand, and care for those in need. It is also not a problem the government can solve alone. It requires continued collaboration and coordination between federal, state, and local partners, and it takes communities, neighbors, and families joining together to help one another.
Policy initiatives in response to this crisis—whether federal, state, or local—should be careful to strike a proper balance, minimize unintended consequences, and be measured by outcomes.
– Nina Owcharenko Schaefer, senior research fellow in health policy studies
Tonight, President Trump wants to “get tougher” on drug dealers, but he also wants to get treatment for those in need. He already has addressed this problem in numerous ways.
President Trump expressed his awareness of the opioid crisis in his inaugural address, expressly noting that drugs “have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.” Since then, President Trump has mobilized much of his administration to confront the opioid crisis from all sides, declaring drug addiction and opioid abuse a public health emergency.
In March 2017, the president, by executive order, created his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis to evaluate the extent and effectiveness of the current federal response to drug addiction and to propose strategies to refine and improve that response. The commission worked expeditiously to produce its final report on Nov. 1, 2017.
In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched Rx Awareness, a prescription awareness campaign to communicate the very real and extraordinarily pervasive dangers of opioid addiction.
The Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit of the Department of Justice has, for the first time, secured indictments against foreign fentanyl manufacturers, and seized a large fentanyl and heroin sourcing web-based criminal market, AlphaBay.
Through its Opioids Action Plan, the FDA is working to impose new requirements on manufacturers of prescription opiates.
The National Institutes of Health is working with the academy and pharmaceutical industry to explore nonaddictive pain.
In September 2017, the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services announced an $81 million, six-year, collaborative multiagency research initiative to develop non-drug pain management solutions for service members and veterans.
The Department of Health and Human Services identified five specific strategies to combat the opioid crisis: improving access to treatment and recovery centers, promoting use of overdose-reversing drugs, strengthening understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance, providing support for innovative addiction research, and advancing better practices for pain management.
The State Department has taken a strong international stance by finalizing a binding United Nations agreement that adds two fentanyl precursor chemicals in Table I of the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988, which places them under international control.
The White House notes that, since President Trump took office, more than $1 billion has been distributed for prevention, treatment, first responder coordination, law enforcement funding in high-risk communities, prescription drug-monitoring programs, rehabilitation and recovery, and correctional systems.
– Paul Larkin, senior legal research fellow, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Institute for Constitutional Government
– Dylan Brandt, administrative assistant, Institute for Constitutional Government, Center for Principles and Politics
Right to Try
President Trump stood up for the right of seriously ill patients to try experimental drugs, something they are often blocked from doing by unnecessary regulations.
– Alden Abbott, deputy director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and the John, Barbara, and Victoria Rumpel senior legal fellow
Supporting Vocational Education
The president talked about the need for vocational education, a key option for many young adults because a traditional, four-year college degree is not for everyone.
Some high school graduates define success as being skilled in the workplace. College is a gateway to success for many young adults—but it doesn’t have to be the only path.
Critically, parents and families and students should be able to make choices about what is best for a student’s future. Congress and the administration should make sure obstacles like regulation and public sector unions don’t stand in the way of education opportunity.
Every student should have the chance at the American dream, no matter if that means entering the workforce right after high school or pursuing an advanced degree.
More Savings for Education
President Trump touted a victory for education and freedom in his speech this evening. He cited the additional funds many families will have due to the tax cut enacted at the end of last year and can use to save for college.
In the tax cut, lawmakers gave families more ways to use their own savings in tax-neutral college savings plans commonly known as “529 college savings plans.” Under the new law, families can save for future K-12 and postsecondary expenses with 529 plans.
Congress and the administration have more work to do, but the recent 529 expansion to include K-12 expenses is a good step.
– Jonathan Butcher, senior policy analyst, Center for Education Policy, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity