The Best and Worst of 2017 by David Montgomery

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It was about one year ago, just after President Trump’s inauguration, that I wrote my first column for the Spy. That makes me think this the right time to reflect on the year, and I propose to do so by making a list of the best and worst of 2017. Doing so also allows me to put my marker down on topics I regret not having had time to write about at more length.

Except for the ones that I put in first place, I will list what I consider the 10 best or worst of 2017 in no particular order.

1. Since it is most recent, I start with tax reform. Passage of major tax reform legislation by both Houses of Congress is an historic event, and up to the last vote I still did not believe it would happen. Even so, this particular instance of tax reform just barely makes it into my top 10, because so many opportunities to do far better were lost.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) gives barely one-tenth of the income growth that the original proposal by Speaker Ryan and Chairman Brady would have achieved. As debates went on, parts of the bill that would have broadened the tax base and eliminated special treatment were dropped, and as that happened the revenue increases needed to fund broad rate reductions went away. Special interests used specious arguments to preserve their tax breaks, and in particular killed proposals to tax imports and exempt exports that would have raised revenue and stopped offshoring. Because these sources of revenue were thrown out, key incentives for investment had to be made temporary and thus almost useless.

Still, corralling enough votes to pass the legislation was up there with the greatest of legislative miracles. As a measure of how hard it was, the last reform of comparable magnitude occurred during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

2. Another top 10 item has to be hearing the President use the phrase “Islamic terrorism” to describe the threat that we face. I am always cheered when accurate descriptions replace euphemisms. More importantly, there is no way we can protect ourselves at home or hope to win abroad if we refuse to admit who our opponents are and ignore the important clues their religion gives us about what motivates them and how they will conduct their campaign against us.

3. While efforts at tax reform have dominated the news, the Trump Administration has been making quiet but immense progress on regulatory reform. I am convinced that regulatory reform is the primary cause of rapid increases in employment and investment as well as rising stock market prices since the election. An estimate that I agree with puts the cumulative cost of government regulation at about 10% of GDP. In 2017 federal agencies issued only 3 new regulations while starting the process of eliminating 67 existing regulations. In addition, 1,579 regulations planned under President Obama have been delayed or withdrawn. That clearly belongs in any list of the 10 best. Regulatory reforms in 2017 saved over $500 million per year, while the Obama Administration is estimated to have imposed as much as $15 billion in costs during its last 8 months.

4. The changes that President Trump and Secretary Mattis made in rules of engagement for our warfighters in the Middle East are serious candidates in my mind for the best event of 2017. Freeing commanders and troops in the field from micromanagement by the White House and Pentagon lawyers has made possible in less than a year the reconquest of 95% of the territory that President Obama ceded to ISIS.

5. Just to show the list really is not in any order, Tucker Carlson comes to mind next. I had not watched him regularly until the night President Trump announced that he would name Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Watching Tucker Carlson give the demonstrators against Gorsuch enough rope to hang themselves with their incoherence and mindless repetition of memorized slogans was a delight. I have continued to find him a light in dark places.

6. Once again, mass killings by terrorists, madmen and racists made the news. But horror and evil also provide some with the opportunity to demonstrate heroic virtues. Stories emerged from the horrific events about teachers and other armed and unarmed citizens, as well as police, who ran toward the knives, gunshots and careening vehicles to save others. They are among the best of 2017.

7. Hard to decide whether this is a best or worst, but watching Hillary’s self-destruction by means of whining and fingerpointing had to be among the most amusing events of the year. I look forward every day to reading about her new additions to the list of people and events that are to blame for her losing the election.

8. In the same vein, I have greatly enjoyed watching left-wing agitators and their enablers in the news business deal with the revelation that they have been protecting and lionizing sexual predators in the film, news and politics industries.

9. I hope the Franciscans who manage the Roman Catholic role in the Status Quo in Jerusalem will forgive me for my delight at President Trump’s intention to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. I see it as another dose of realism in foreign policy and recognition that Israel’s security requires maintaining control of the territories it conquered after being invaded by its neighbors in 1967.

10. By a wide margin, the most important event of the year, with the most salutary long term consequences for liberty and justice, has to be the appointment of Justice Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. May God bless and strengthen him.

Now for the worst (or dumbest)

1. The Republican debacle in dealing with Obamacare was infuriating and discouraging. After repeatedly voting in favor of very specific legislation to abolish Obamacare during the years when their votes did not matter, once they were in power Republicans in the House and Senate could not come close to agreeing on fundamental changes. In the end holdouts killed even modest reforms.

2. Republican failures in Congress were mirrored in the Washington Nationals annual post-season collapse – another example of how those in Washington DC can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every time.

3. For most disgusting of 2017, I nominate Kathy Griffin, followed closely by Chelsea Handler, Amy Schumer and the other foul mouthed, alt-left celebrities who escalated their fantasies about doing in the President until even their sycophants in the media were repulsed by their bad taste.

4. There is a depressing similarity in the worst events of 2017. The boycott of the inauguration by Democratic Members of Congress will be remembered as a new low in respect for American institutions and tacit approval of the violence and destruction that those who could not accept Donald Trump as President inflicted on the nation’s capital.

5. It will be hard for me to forget all the ways in which division and hostility were made worse in 2017: sports figures kneeling during the National Anthem, protestors and politicians toppling statues and writing half the country out of our historical memory, and other insulting exhibitions of disrespect by small and uninformed groups of activists for the rest of us and for our national and regional symbols. I thought that only happened in communist countries and third-world dictatorships.

6. The constant barrage in the mainstream media of condemnations of the President. My choice for the worst example is an evening news segment during the peak period of revelations about sexual predators. It had a 10 second report on latest accusations against Matt Lauer, then used the next 5 minutes to repeat unsubstantiated accusations against the President. But I am sure that is a piker compared to programs I missed.

7. I would mention Snowflakes among the most annoying aspects of 2017, but at least they provide humor in YouTube skits about safe spaces and hiring millennials. The increasingly prevalent notion that the purpose of higher education is to make students feel good about themselves and to protect them from being upset by ideas they don’t like is, on the other hand, just plain infuriating. I remember being challenged to think and argue about ideas by hearing both sides of issues, but it seems that searching for truth has been replaced by wallowing in feelings.

8. Celebrities and politicians continue to support Black Lives Matter and other racist demagoguery inciting violence against police and rioting in the very communities where the people they ostensibly care about live. Not new in 2017, but not improving either.

9. Armed alt-left terrorists calling themselves Antifa appeared in 2017 to silence conservatives. They moved into towns and campuses where even moderately conservative events or speakers were scheduled, beat up those attending and shut down the events. We once knew this as the tactic of the brown-shirts of Fascism, but it is condoned by college administrations and local politicians who cancel events and refuse to protect their targets.

10. In 2017, 125 police officers were killed in the line of duty, 8 in documented ambush attacks. That is my choice for the worst news of 2017.

David Montgomery was formerly Senior Vice President of NERA Economic Consulting. He also served as assistant director of the US Congressional Budget Office and deputy assistant secretary for policy in the US Department of Energy. He taught economics at the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University and was a senior fellow at Resources for the Future.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Gren Whitman says:

    To counteract Mr. Montgomery’s overwhelmingly right-wing presentation, let me share this:

    MY FAVORITE EVENT OF 2017

    As directed by Baltimore’s Mayor Catherine Pugh and the unanimous City Council, on the night of August 15, four Confederate “Lost Cause” monuments were abruptly yanked from their pedestals and trucked away. Most notable for me was the Lee-Jackson “double-equestrian” statue in Wyman Park, erected in 1948, 86 years after the battle of Chancellorsville. The others? Roger B. Taney, of Dred Scott infamy (1887); Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1903); and Confederate Women’s Monument (1917). Good riddance!

    Let me also say that despite Mr. Montgomery’s one-sided screed, black lives continue to matter, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton remain widely admired, the GOP is no longer “grand” by a long shot, and Mr. Trump continues to demean the presidency and endanger our nation.

    • Deirdre LaMotte says:

      I agree. This author is too amusing to take seriously. Trump is a sick joke but to paraphrase Carl Andre’s remark about Andy Warhol, “ In the end, Trump is a mirror of who 60 million deluded people are.

      • David Montgomery says:

        It is good to see an SJW reveal her true colors — contempt for almost half of her fellow citizens and more than half of her neighbors on the Eastern Shore.

  2. Jamie Kirkpatrick says:

    With regard to #2 on Mr. Montgomery’s “Achievement List,” if the label “Islamic terrorist” is to be lionized, can we also please identify some of our own homegrown actors as “Christian terrorists?” Heaven forbid we ignore those “important clues” relevant to their heinous motives either. An accurate description is an accurate description.

    • David Montgomery says:

      This repetition of the claim that Christianity and Islam are equivalent in their approval of violence is so false that it must be refuted. Christianity doctrine condemns violence against the innocent in all forms, and the Quran orders Muslims to attack, conquer and convert infidels by force. That is the source of Islamic terrorism, and why there is no such thing as Christian terrorism. The differences could not be more clear.

      Men and women who were raised as Christians and may even claim to be Christians have done horrible things, but Christian doctrine teaches that those actions — like killing unborn children — are gravely immoral. But the Quran explicitly authorizes Muslims to commit atrocities against infidels and makes those acts a free pass to Paradise, not Hell.

      I recommend on this topic an authoritative source that I am paraphrasing: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/why-i-believe-in-islam

  3. James Nick says:

    There are only two things that qualify for the best and worst of 2017. Everything else pales in comparison. Bar none, the very worst of the worst of 2017 was the ascendency of a lying con man and corrupt, incapable charlatan with a predisposition towards racism and fascism to the highest elected office in the land. A man that entered office with the lowest approval rating in history which only continues to plummet to Nixonian depths as time goes on. A man who has surrounded himself with obsequious sycophants and feckless family members many of which are already under indictment, under investigation, or have been shown the door at an unprecedented rate. A man whose policies and Twitter habit have made him and members of his administration international pariahs and whose personal unbounded narcissism and greed have made him an embarrassment to our country and a laughingstock around the world thanks to a continuing stream of salacious palace headlines being blabbed to the media.

    The very best of 2017 stems directly from the very worst. And that was the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller by the Republicans to investigate their own president within four months of his taking office for treasonous conspiracy by colluding with this nation’s sworn enemy during his campaign, felony obstruction of justice, and money laundering. There have even been sporadic reports of people pondering presidential mental fitness particularly when it comes to commanding this nation’s nuclear arsenal and of behind-the-scenes bipartisan groups brushing up on the provisions in 25th Amendment.

    If things work out right, the steady drip-drip-drip of leaks and actual forthcoming indictments will be gifts that keep on giving at least through this year’s midterm elections, if not beyond. Early indications from Virginia and Alabama make it look like the Democratic base has finally been awakened from its indifference to and passivity during off-year elections. Only days into this New Year, pundits are now talking about a building big blue tsunami ready to come ashore in November.

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