What I Learned in 2017

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

With a political amateur in office, there is no better time to take an American Politics course. I would never have thought that quoting tweets with words like #Noko in an academic paper would be acceptable. As I was writing my essays, I had to constantly remind myself that I was actually quoting the President of the United States. But the President’s tweets are only one of the many eye-rolling things about this administration. Today’s administrative failures have taught me an important lesson: the nation’s political issues call for the expertise of political scientists and academics, rather than political outsiders. Political amateurs like Trump are a threat to international relations and democracy in the U.S.

Today’s nation faces domestic issues like the growing wage gap and general mistrust of institutions. Meanwhile, internationally, the simmering crisis with North Korea and embroilment with the Syrian Civil War has been economically and militarily exacting. Certainly, Trump’s juvenile emotional outbursts and the prevalence of celebrity politics are certainly not helping.  Trump’s callous tweets continue to successfully dismantle U.S. relations with North Korea.  Before Tillerson took a third trip to Asia in an effort to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, Trump threatened in August that “military solutions are fully in place, locked and loaded.” In August, he accused Rex Tillerson of “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”  Efforts to forge better relationships with North Korea are futile when they don’t represent the interests of the President.

The Trump administration’s decision to slash the State Department budget by 30% was yet another faulty, myopic move.  Meanwhile, Tillerson should be hiring more highly-qualified foreign policy professionals, not eliminating many of the State Department’s most experienced diplomats.  Faced with a dearth of resources, diplomats have also reported a lack of guidance and assistance from other employees. The administration’s inexperience and inability to cater to the needs of the State Department has demoralized and paralyzed the diplomatic corps at a time when contact with North Korea is more important than ever.

Politically inexperienced bureaucrats also threaten domestic policies as demonstrated by the new GOP tax overhaul. The new tax bill will reportedly increase the nation’s deficit and exacerbate income equality in America.  Academics like Joe Thorndike, tax historian and director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts, notes that “to [his] knowledge, no major tax cut has ever generated enough growth to pay for itself completely.” The Joint Tax Committee predictions took into account expected economic growth and found that only $400 billion of the $1.5 trillion would be recouped. Yet, many Republican boosters of the tax cut like House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling claim that the economic growth that would be created “will be more than enough to make up the static $1.5 trillion [deficit] over 10 years that this is being estimated.” Evidently, the administration is failing precisely because it is not making informed decisions based on the expertise of academics and professionals.

Today’s politically inexperienced bureaucrats have failed us at home and abroad. American democracy has always had its flaws, but the today’s bureaucrats are making a grim situation worse. The nation does not need political outsiders drifting into the Oval Office. Rather, the future is in need of civic-minded scholars who possess political skill and emotional maturity.

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 


  1. I don’t have any more respect for Trump than you do, but a couple of things need to be clarified.

    First, income inequality is a red herring. The real question is: Are the world’s poor better off or worse off than they were previously? By all important measures, they are much better off. Hundreds of millions in 3rd world countries have been recently lifted out of grinding poverty. Poor people in the US have it much, much better than poor people did a generation or two ago.

    Second, the defiicit under Obama increased by $10 trillion. Tepid economic growth was a main culprit.

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