OurWeek in Politics (12/2-12/9/17)

Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:

1. President Donald Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as the Capitol of Israel

President Donald Trump announced this week that he would be ordering the US to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, much to the ire of the Palestinian people.

On December 6, President Donald Trump followed through on a key campaign promise and announced that the US would recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Defying dire warnings, Trump insisted that after repeated failures to form a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine it was past time for a new approach, starting with the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of the Israeli government. He also said the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though he set no timetable. In his announcement of this new policy, Trump stated that “We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past.” Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a powerfully symbolic statement about a city that houses many of the world’s holiest sites. For example, Jerusalem is sacred to both Christians and Muslims, as the city is home to the al-Aqsa Mosque where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven to receive his revelation from God, as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christians believe Jesus was both crucified and buried.

2. Trump Tax Reform Proposal Passes Senate, Likely to Become Law

President Donald Trump scored a major legislative victory this week with the passage of his tax reform bill.

President Donald Trump’s tax reform proposal passed a major hurdle this week as it cleared the Senate by a 51-49 on December 2. In contrast to prior efforts to reform the US tax code, the Trump tax cut does not lower the top marginal tax rate of 39.6% and instead elevates the bracket to income greater than $1 million per year. The bill also eliminated the 33%, 28%, and 15% tax brackets and instead adds a 12% tax bracket. Additionally, the bill reduces the corporate tax rate by 15% and eliminates both the Alternative Minimum Tax and the Estate Tax (over a 6-year period).
President Trump has praised the tax reform bill as a huge step forward for economic growth and as beneficial for the middle class. Despite President Trump’s rhetoric, most observers are pessimistic regarding the overall effects of the bill. For example, Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman notes that the bill will do little to spur economic growth in an already strong economy and that it will have the net effect of shifting the tax burden from the wealthy towards the middle class and poor. Additionally, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget notes that the bill will add an additional $1.5 trillion to the national debt over a ten-year period. These allegations only served to contribute to the overall unpopularity of the bill and add to the perception that it is a giveaway to the wealthy donor class that helped to elect President Donald Trump.
3. Two Members of Congress Resign Amid Charges of Sexual Misconduct

Senator Al Franken was one of two members of Congress to resign this week amid charges of sexual misconduct.

The national debate regarding sexual misconduct reached its peak on December 7 with the resignations of Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), a Tea-Party allied Conservative. Additionally, the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into the allegations that Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX) used taxpayer dollars to pay an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement to a former aide. These events reflect the rapid pace of powerful individuals being held accountable for alleged past sexual misconduct in the weeks after Senate Candidate Roy Moore was accused of molesting three underage girls between the late 1970s and early 1990s.

In an emotional speech from the Senate floor, Franken disputed some of the accusations and suggested he is being held to a different standard than President Trump and Roy Moore. In announcing his resignation, Franks stated that he feared he would not receive a “fair” ethics investigation “before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through a hyperbolized public excoriation.” Both the Republican and Democratic Party have devised different responses to the emergence of such allegations. The Democratic Party leadership appears to be determined to grab the moral high ground in an environment in which they hope sexual harassment becomes a wedge issue in the 2018 midterm elections. On the other hand, Republican Party leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan have attempted to deflect much of the blame and attempted to frame the scandals as more situational as opposed to indicative of a wider problem of sexual misconduct and harassment at the highest levels of government.

4. Former Yemen President Killed in Battle With Houthis

Former Yemen President Saleh was killed in battle with the Houthis this week, signaling a new phase in the War in Yemen

Yemen’s ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed by Houthi rebels near the city of Sanaa on December 4 in a move that is expected to have major implications for the ongoing Yemen Civil War. The death was announced by the Sanaa-based interior ministry, controlled by Saleh’s allies-turned-foes, the Houthis. In a statement read out on a Houthi TV network, the interior ministry announced the “killing” of “Saleh and his supporters.” The statement also mentioned that the killing came about after “he and his men blockaded the roads and killed civilians in a clear collaboration with the enemy countries of the coalition.” The interior ministry also said its forces had “taken over all the positions and strongholds of the treacherous militia in the capital, Sanaa, and the surrounding areas, as well as other provinces in order to impose security.”

The killing of Saleh likely came about in part due to his recent overtures to Saudi Arabia, who is currently leading a sustained military campaign in Yemen meant to destroy the Houthi movement and suppress Yemen’s Shi’a majority. These moves were unacceptable to the Houthi leadership and added to the perception that Saleh was a traitor to their cause of political reform and independence. Additionally, the Death of Saleh represent a fatal blow to the Saudi-led efforts in Yemen and may signal the end of the conflict and the formation of a government led by the Houthis.

the author

Matt is a graduate of Monmouth University. Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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