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Making America great again: 3 hopes and 3 concerns

FILE: President-elect Donald Trump points toward Republican Vice president-elect Mike Pence during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Wednesday, July 20, 2016.
FILE: President-elect Donald Trump points toward Republican Vice president-elect Mike Pence during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Wednesday, July 20, 2016.
Mary Altaffer, Associated Press

President-elect Donald Trump wants to make America great again. It’s hard to disagree with a goal like that, but Trump’s plans are causing both jubilance and angst around the country and the world. Here are three hopes and three concerns for a Trump administration.

Like his predecessor before him, Trump promises to bring change to Washington D.C. Regrettably, under Obama it never happened. But there is reason to hope Trump can bring real change to the federal bureaucracy with two of his proposals. The first is enacting congressional term limits. The current system empowers and encourages D.C. lawmakers to become professional politicians, but Trump promises a return of a citizen legislature. Real change can also come by bringing fresh thinking and action to the roughly 4,000 political appointments throughout the federal bureaucracy. The country will benefit from change at the nuts and bolts level of government.

Who Trump appoints to those 4,000 positions is a concern. Many people looked past Trump’s coarse behavior and rhetoric during the campaign with the rationalization that he would surround himself with good people. Picking Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate gave reason for hope, but a creeping sense of nepotism and cronyism gives rise to concern. Although Trump won the election and thereby the right to select people who share his policy agenda, political appointees must meet a level of expertise and competence that our system of meritocracy demands.

We can hope that Trump will rally political will to fix the country’s broken immigration system. Trump is correct that any solution must start by securing the border. Past immigration reform has been half-baked at best. Of the two elements of reform, securing borders and dealing with undocumented residents, in the past only the latter has been seriously addressed. Without securing the borders first the country will continue on an endless merry-go-round of dysfunction. With a secure border, the country can address existing undocumented residents compassionately and expeditiously, knowing we will not face the same challenge every few years.

Trump’s call for immigration bans based on race, religion and ethnicity is cause for grave concern. Demands to systematically round up and deport millions of undocumented residents is likewise concerning. Such action would break up families and distress local economies. As president of the entire country and its people, Trump must learn that words have meaning and when those words come from the Oval Office they have tremendous power. We should be concerned about Trump’s ability and willingness to modify his tone and reject words that feed flames of bigotry and hate.

Trump proposes a foreign policy, including treaties and trade relations, that puts “America first.” Of course, every citizen should hope for policies that serve the best interests of their country. U.S. foreign policy should cause our allies to respect and trust us. It is equally important for our enemies to fear us. The U.S. should not negate our self-interest by making bad deals with countries such as Iran, a country whose leaders consistently violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and openly criticize and threaten the U.S.

An “America first” strategy should also facilitate trade agreements that benefit job growth in the U.S. If Trump can renegotiate parts of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the benefit of U.S. companies, more power to him. For Utah, TPP would mean more Utah companies creating more jobs by selling more Utah products to more customers in more countries. Additionally, Canada and Mexico, part of the NAFTA trade agreement, are two of Utah’s largest export markets. If there are elements in NAFTA that need updating and benefit Utah companies, then by all means let’s take a fresh look. But we should be concerned if Trump’s “America first” policy puts Utah last.

Derek B. Miller is the president & CEO of the World Trade Center Utah. Previously he was chief of staff to Gov. Gary Herbert (R-Utah) and managing director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.