WHEN THE CIRCUS CAME TO TOWN

This month, after 146 years of featuring the “Greatest Show on Earth”, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus is giving its last performance. As with some of those things many of us have enjoyed over the years, changing tastes, higher operating costs, and in this case, animal rights activists, have forced the drop of the final curtain. But not to worry! What has proven to be a wonderful replacement for Ringling Brothers is alive and well in Washington.

Since the days of FDR, it has been customary to grade new presidents on their first 100 days in office. Saturday was Day 100 for Donald Trump; and by most accounts, he has not turned in an exemplary performance. His immigration orders have met considerable juridical resistance; and the promised repeal of Obamacare is going to be a long time coming, if at all. Trying to squeeze a tax reform bill into the first 100 days was a minor disaster; and we barely escaped a shutdown of the Federal government when Congress passed a stopgap, one week funding bill.  All we needed to complete the 100 day circus was an elephant act.

In fairness, it has not been all bad. I think most will agree we have a new Supreme Court justice who is well qualified, regardless of his party affiliation.

I suppose the things President Trump will be most remembered for are his broken promises and frequent changes in position. For example, it now appears the Chinese are not currency manipulators, and NATO is no longer obsolete. But turning to the supply chain, one promise is better off broken. Throughout the campaign, Trump promised to withdraw from NAFTA which he one called “the worst deal ever”. As recently as last Saturday he was prepared to terminate U.S. participation. But as often has been the case with his advisors, they were deeply divided on the subject. What apparently swayed him however, were two telephone calls – one from President Pena Nieto of Mexico and another from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Both asked him to reconsider and renegotiate, rather than withdraw. In agreeing to so, at least he brought some semblance of order to the table. Last month I wrote about NAFTA and its benefits (“Why Kick a Winner?”); and hopefully, the “renegotiation” will not be too heavy handed on our part. Mexican officials already have said they would not negotiate with a gun to their head; and for the U.S. this very well could be one of those “be careful what you wish for” moments.

The first 100 days yielded a deafening silence on the infrastructure funding legislation. Supposedly, the White House was going to advance a plan right after dealing with health care; but false starts with that, as well as tax reform, no doubt kicked the infrastructure can down the road.

Another interesting and well-received promise was the privatization of air traffic control, a major priority for most airlines. They and other advocates, believe that private ownership would provide the more stable funding necessary to keep the NextGen program on track. NextGen will upgrade the system from a radar base to a satellite-based GPS to manage aircraft in flight. This program would have a very positive effect on air operations, economics, and safety. Hopefully, this is a promise that will be kept.

Last weekend, President Trump said the job wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be. I hope this means he will listen to sound advice from those who understand how things work in the political circus – Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, for example. But as they say in every circus, the show must go on – regardless.

Written By: Clifford F. Lynch