E.j. dionne jr. thinking about america after trump – opinion – the times – beaver, pa gas 91 octane


PITTSBURGH — In the imaginations of his hopeful defenders, Donald Trump was supposed to transcend left and right. He’d break the Republican Party from the shibboleths of the Reagan Era and create a new ideology mindful of the interests of the party’s working-class supporters.

Trump signaled this regularly. He touted a big infrastructure program. He insisted he would never cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. He said his health-care plan would be more comprehensive than Obamacare, at times using the government-oriented systems of Scotland, Canada and Australia as models.

One notable casualty is infrastructure, even if his grand words from his State of the Union address are still on the White House website. "We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways all across our land," Trump declared. "And we will do it with American heart, and American hands, and American grit."

It barely budged the news cycle when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders effectively interred infrastructure last week, telling reporters that Trump’s promises were unlikely to lead to "a specific piece of legislation" this year. His main bragging points on economic policy are thus as thoroughly conventional for a Republican president as you can imagine: a big, pro-business tax cut and large-scale deregulation.

Here’s the reality: The economic crash of 2008 and Trump’s success among blue-collar voters in parts of the country that have fallen behind moved moderates as well as liberals alike toward a tougher critique of how the American economy is working. There is nothing ultra-left about this. It is just a reckoning with what is happening to the lives and livelihoods of millions of our fellow Americans.

So, yes, there are more adventurous ideas out there, and this week, the Center for American Progress will release an important set of proposals that reflect this new thinking. Particularly ambitious is its effort to create a job guarantee for residents of the nation’s poorest counties.

The center-left think tank’s agenda begins with a broad infrastructure program to keep the promise Trump broke, a major effort to modernize K-12 schools, and substantial investments to help communities prepare for natural disasters and extreme weather.

The job guarantee is an innovative gloss on an increasingly popular idea among progressives. Critics of guaranteeing work to the unemployed nationwide have argued that doing so would be hugely expensive and distort the job market. By focusing the guarantee on the 10 percent of Americans who live in the nation’s 676 most economically battered counties, the CAP version contains costs while delivering help to places where the need for new opportunities is greatest.

The affected counties, defined by unemployment and low participation in the labor market plus a variety of measures of poverty and income, are spread across 42 states and include areas that are both urban and rural, both predominantly African-American or Latino and predominantly white.

If you are politically minded, note that this idea transcends the dead-end argument about whether progressives should focus their energies on white or minority communities. It brings home the fact that inner cities and rural areas alike have been hit hard by economic change and need relief.

E.J. Dionne writes about politics in a twice-weekly column and on the PostPartisan blog. He is a government professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. He is most recently a co-author of “One Nation After Trump.”