Student and faculty concerned over Trump administration policy platform

Sunday, November 13, 2016 - 3:08pm

Following the unexpected victory of President-elect Donald Trump early Wednesday morning, in addition to issues of safety, racism and hateful speech, many students and faculty on the University of Michigan campus are worried about climate change, economic, immigration and women’s health policies under a Trump presidency and a Republican-dominated Congress.

Most concerning, LSA senior Hannah Moore said Tuesday night, is the fear of an entirely unchecked Republican controlled government and the policies that will be blocked by the executive and legislative branches. Republicans now have control over both chambers of the legislature and the White Housefor the first time since 1928.

“It’s really scary to know now that Republicans have everything. I think that’s really scary to Democrats — and all of us — because now he can get stuff done we didn’t think would be able to happen,” she said. “It’s really scary to see the policies that would happen since it would affect all of us.”

Climate change

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. played a large role in the most comprehensive international climate change agreement, the Paris Agreement passed in Paris in December 2015. If the deal is adhered to by 174 nations and the European Union that signed, temperature rises should be limited to 2 degrees Celsius. While Trump could not reverse the deal, he could still undermine the agreement by failing to meet the goals set for carbon limitations in the U.S.

Trump has previously stated during the campaign that he does not believe climate change is a real phenomenon, and that he would end U.S. participation in the Paris agreement.

LSA freshman Corey Lipton said early Wednesday morning that he fears Trump’s actions will negatively impact generations to come if he fails to fight to lower carbon emissions.

“What’s more important is the long-term outcomes that Trump will cause,” he said. “First and foremost, the worst impact of this is going to be climate change. The damage that will be done in the next four years for the climate will be irreversible and will be noticed for the next hundreds of thousands of years. That's just the tip of the iceberg of the damage that has been done tonight.”

Mark Barteau, director of the UM Energy Institute and professor of advanced energy research, said Trump’s election is a step backward from the progress made over the past several decades toward combatting climate change.

“I think it is a huge setback,” he said. “This level of cooperation that we saw in Paris was 40 years in the making. That potentially can be disrupted overnight. We are running out of time. Even with the track we are on, it would be difficult to stay below 2 degrees, so I would say it’s a tragedy.”

Women’s Issues

Throughout the campaign, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump highlighted her commitment to improving access to childcare and promoting women’s rights. However, Trump himself has contrasted some of those stances by suggesting abortion should be illegal and making lewd comments about touching women without their consent on a tape released in October.

Many women have also said they are concerned about access to birth control due to the stances both Trump and his Vice President-elect Mike Pence have taken during the campaign. During his tenure as governor of Indiana, Pence worked to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict access to abortions.

LSA freshman Marianne Drysdale said she is afraid the progress Planned Parenthood has made will be undone under the Trump administration.  

“I am a woman and I have worked for Planned Parenthood for two years, and I am really worried that all of that is going to go down the drain,” she said. “Trump is nominating a Supreme Court justice, and I’m disappointed that this percentage of the country is OK with a president who is outwardly bigoted.”

Cutbacks on Planned Parenthood would severely impact women of lower economic status, Social Work Prof. Kristin Seefeldt said, by restricting access to their services such as breast and cervical cancer screenings.

“It’s pretty likely that in the near future we will see dramatic cuts in the federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives,” she said. “I think that would have devastating effects on young women and women of lower socioeconomic status who really depend on the organization not just for birth control but for basic health services.”

The Economy

According to data from The Michigan Daily’s election survey, the nation’s economy was one of the most important issues to students during the campaign. However, it is currently unclear Trump’s economic plan would entail.

The idea of trickle-down economics, which was popularized during the Reagan administration and is part of Trump’s plan, revolves around the theory that higher tax cuts for the wealthy will benefit the lower classes as that money is reinvested in the economy.

According to Donald Grimes, economist at the University’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy, there is no strong evidence that trickle-down economics works better than social programs to stimulate the middle class, a key directive in the plan outlined by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“There is not really strong evidence at the national level,” he said. “On average the low tax states do a little bit better, but not a lot. It’s not going to move the needle a great deal either way.”

Grimes also noted that because of the lack of very wealthy individuals in Michigan will mean the state won’t see many benefits from this policy, aside from a marginal boost to the auto industry.

“Michigan doesn’t have a lot of the rich,” he said. “So it would be a little bit below the U.S. average, but that would maybe provide some money for people to buy cars, so that might benefit Michigan.”

On the other hand, Seefeldt said the high chance of cutbacks on social welfare programs will be detrimental to lower socioeconomic status Americans.

“I worry a lot about what the consequences of Trump’s victory and both houses of Congress being controlled by Republicans will be for lower income families,” she said. “We are going to see cutbacks in the public safety net that is already pretty frayed as it is.”

LSA junior Lauren Gallagher, president of the University’s chapter of Students for Hillary, wrote in an email interview that the most important economic issue for students is debt, noting that Trump has not outlined a comprehensive plan addressing higher education reform, leaving many students concerned.

“The most pressing economic issue for most college graduates is college loan debt, an issue that Trump never mentioned or took a stance on during his campaign, so I have little hope that high rates will refinanced and that skyrocketing tuition prices will be addressed,” she wrote.

Immigration

One of the most prominent rallying cries of Trump’s campaign was the promise for tighter immigration laws, notably including his plan to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico. Trump has additionally called for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, an end to the acceptance of refugees from countries like Syria and a ban on all Muslim immigration.

Silvia Pedraza, professor of sociology and American culture, said the worst-case scenario on immigration would be if Trump followed through on all of his campaign promises, which she believes he is likely to attempt to do.

“The worst-case scenario is if Trump does fulfill all his campaign promises,” she said. “If he makes good on all of them the next four years will be terrible … and he has said he will make good on all of them.”

Pedraza also charged that Trump’s penchant for blaming the misfortunes of the working class on minorities fueled his rise to power.

“He has scapegoated some people that are very vulnerable,” she said. “He has demonized them and put his finger on them and has told these people that what is wrong with your life is because of them. That’s what Hitler did with the Jews in Nazi Germany … once you do that it seems that a lot of people either believe it or do not oppose it.”

Gallagher wrote Trump’s plans do not reflect the values of students who overwhelmingly supported Clinton throughout the election season.

“As we saw with the high number of millennials who supported Hillary Clinton in the polls on Tuesday, we are a generation that values diversity and believes that a diverse country that supports all peoples is strongest,” she wrote. “President-elect Trump's immigration plan stands in stark contrast to these ideals. Trump wants to deport large numbers of undocumented immigrants who call America home, he wants to severely restrict refugee resettlement and he wants to seal our Southern border in an unrealistic fashion.”

This lack of support, Pedraza noted, could lead to backlash if these policies take effect, given the protests against Trump that have already taken place.

“I think we are already seeing a backlash, young students and people in cities saying ‘this is not our president,’ ” she said. “I think there will be genuine protests from the part of many people in this country.”

Nonetheless, not all students are concerned about the abilities of the Trump administration. LSA junior Enrique Zalamea, president of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, wrote in an email interview with the Daily he believes Trump will work to pass legislation to benefit the country.

Considering policies moving forward, Zalamea wrote he hopes Trump will act on a number of issues, including a bipartisan effort on gun control.

“Recently, Trump proposed new gun control policies, which were incredibly conciliatory and bipartisan,” he wrote. “If this brand of sensible diplomacy is any indication of Trump’s policy record going forward, then the only thing stopping us from achieving progress is the ignorant stigma behind supporting Donald Trump — of which we have unfortunately seen in spades on this campus.”

Zalamea added that he thinks the presidency will be a successful one.

“Right now the Republican establishment is extending the olive branch to the American people, and if we continue down this track I expect great things from Mr. Trump’s presidency,” he wrote. “That’s the kind of president we need after the political gridlock in Washington and the slow economic grind we’ve been having for the past eight years.”