UMass Boston Faculty Experts Hold Roundtable on President Trump’s Domestic Policy Agenda

Colleen Locke | February 02, 2017
Randy Albelda, Christine Brenner, Christian Weller, Erin O'Brien, and Jose Martinez-Reyes

Randy Albelda, Christine Brenner, Christian Weller, Erin O'Brien, and Jose Martinez-Reyes
Image by: Colleen Locke

McCormack Graduate School and College of Liberal Arts Host First of Two Roundtables

On Wednesday, UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School and College of Liberal Arts hosted the first of two roundtables looking at the implications of a Donald Trump presidency. This panel focused on domestic policy; on Tuesday, another panel will focus on President Trump’s foreign policy.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Jose Martinez-Reyes moderated the discussion, which touched on everything from health care and the economy to building a wall and activism. Here is just some of what the panelists had to say over the course of 90 minutes:

Randy Albelda, Professor, Department of Economics, College of Liberal Arts

On health care:

“The plan is to essentially turn Medicaid into a block grant, which means that states would get a set of money, it’s not clear what it’s based on, and no more. Currently the way Medicaid works is the feds give the states anywhere from 80 to 50 percent. Block granting will mean states will have to carry a larger load, which means they won’t be able to carry the other loads that they have, including public higher ed, including K-12 education. Middle income families and people benefit from what states do. So there’s going to be a whole trickle-down effect of these cuts.”

Christine Brenner, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs, McCormack Graduate School

On building a wall:

“What is different about the Mexican border is white Anglo Saxons don’t live there – Mexicans do -- Mexicans who represent an other and who represent fear for many Americans – Americans who are marginalized in the economy and who are worried that they take our jobs. Economists will tell you that they do not take our jobs – they take jobs we don’t want to do. In addition to that, we already have 670 miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, so Trump’s plan is to add an additional 700 miles of border. What we have seen as more wall has been built on the U.S.-Mexico border is the net result is not decrease in crossings, but it’s increase in deaths in crossings because they are crossing in more hostile terrain. I will also tell you from having lived in Texas for 30 years that no matter where you build a wall, the cartel will find a way to go over or under it. No wall is impenetrable.”

On what's next:

“I think what’s next is Donald Trump has a punch list, and it’s a punch list of promises he made. So if you’re a Trump supporter, you’ve got a checklist of all of the things he said. You’re just going down the list, saying, ‘This guy’s great. He keeps doing everything.’ So if you want to know what’s next, look at the list. That’s what’s next. We’ve already done an unbelievable number of things in 13 days.”

Erin O’Brien, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts

On policy backlash:

“Donald Trump enters with single party control of both the House and the Senate, and his fate is not necessarily tied to the Republican Party. We know in political science that presidents usually usually want to bring their party along – ride the coattails – and that has a moderating influence. Not for Donald Trump. Big domestic policy consequences don’t necessarily flow from big causes. Here’s what I see happening: I do think he will largely repeal the Affordable Care Act. The 20 million uninsured disproportionately fall in states that Trump won. Many of us expect a policy backlash, but I think it’s foolish to hope for that policy backlash.”

On politics and activism:

“Politics got us here. Politics can get us out. I’m not saying it’s easy – you need to devote time, you need to devote energy. Many of you who are here are politically engaged – double down. Activism in the streets combined by insider and outsider pressures does get to the guy, and does get to the administration. Secondly, rethink some of your alliances. The Democrats are in the minority in the House and the Senate. Divisions within the Republican party, if you’re someone who does not want the Trump agenda, are to be celebrated. Finally, states and localities have a real role here, a policy role and an activism role.”  

Christian Weller, Professor, Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs, McCormack Graduate School

On the economy:

“My argument is that Donald Trump will not help but hurt the economy. We now have a new problem thanks to Donald Trump. Businesses abhor uncertainty and we have someone in the White House who knows how to create one thing for sure, and that is uncertainty. With that, the chances of a recession in 2017 are increasing. I wouldn’t have said this two weeks ago, but I’m very worried about a recession.”

On tax credits:

“The tax credits for infrastructure – they’re very good if you want to build another Massachusetts Turnpike, because the idea is you give a tax credit and you give the private builders the ability to reap the money – the benefits through tolls. If you want to repair a bridge in Palmer, Massachusetts, which voted for Donald Trump, that’s not going to help you. You can’t impose tolls there, and already Republicans are sort of appalled at the idea of tax credits, especially for those in rural districts. Tax cuts and deregulation – we now have a whole host of evidence that those things did not work in terms of spurring job growth, economic growth through the Bush years – so let’s try it one more time.”

It was a packed house for the first of two Trump policy roundtables sponsored by the McCormack Graduate School and College of Liberal Arts.

McCormack Graduate School Dean David W. Cash will moderate the roundtable on foreign policy, Tuesday, February 7 at 4 p.m. in the Ryan Lounge in McCormack Hall.

The panelists are:

  • Leila Farsakh, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts
  • Maria Ivanova, Associate Professor, Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance, McCormack Graduate School
  • Sripad Motiram, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, College of Liberal Arts
  • Stacy D. VanDeveer, Professor, Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance, McCormack Graduate School

About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 17,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit www.umb.edu.

Tags: college of liberal arts , domestic policy , mccormack graduate school , president trump

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