Here are the main events in Politics that occurred over the past week:
1. President Donald Trump Puts Forward Tax Reform Proposal
In a speech in Springfield, Missouri on August 30, President Donald Trump unveiled his proposal for tax reform. Declaring that “lower taxes on American business means higher wages for American workers,” President Trump has put forward the most serious effort to reform the US tax code since the 1981 and 1986 tax cuts signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Thus far the details regarding the Trump tax plan have been limited, but the plan consists of three different components. The first part of the plan is to reduce the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 15%. The two other parts of the plan are the reduction of the top income tax rate to 25% (the lowest rate since 1931) and the reduction in the number of tax brackets from seven to three.
The response to the Trump Administrations tax reform plan has been mixed overall. Many Congressional Republicans and Libertarian organizations such as CATO Institute have enthusiastically came out in favor of the plan, arguing that it will boost economic growth and allow the US to retain a competitive advantage in the global economy. On the other hand, critics of the plan argue that the wealthiest 1% will see the lions share of its benefits and that it (along with the Trump Administration’s proposed defense spending increases) will increase the federal budget deficit to record levels. It can be argued that President Trump’s tax reform proposal will likely be passed by Congress on a party-line vote, with Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) being the only Democrats who may support the plan under certain conditions.
2. Trump Ramps up Russia Tension with Consulate Shutdown
On September 1, the Trump administration retaliated against Russia for expelling American diplomats by closing down Russia’s oldest consulate in the United States along with two other diplomatic facilities in the latest sign of tensions between the US and Russia. The closures were launched by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and members of the State Department as done in the spirit of “parity.” Members of the Rusian government such as President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have reacted by accusing the U.S. of escalating tensions, leaving the door open for further retaliation against the US government. Additionally, it is possible that several of Russia’s allies such as Iran, Syria, and China may implement retaliatory sanctions against the US in response to the closure of the Russian consulates.
Trump critics and neoconservative members of Congress such as Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Linsey Graham (R-SC) have hailed the new restrictions on Russian diplomats and argue that the US needs to implement increasingly hardline policies meant to weaken the Russian government and, ultimately, to force Russian President Vladimir Putin from power. On the contrary, critics of these actions argue that the escalating tensions between the US and Russia threaten to entirely derail the relationship between both countries and places both on the path to a devastating war.
3. Tensions Between North Korea and Japan Escalate
Tensions between North Korea and Japan began to escalate this week after several weeks of relative calm. On August 27, North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan in the countries most recent test. The test (which experts said appeared to have been a recently developed intermediate-range missile) came as the US and South Korea conducted annual military drills in the Korean peninsula, amid loud North Korea protests. The missile flew over the northern island of Hokkaido and landed harmlessly in the sea, after a flight of nearly 1,700 miles. Despite the fact that the missile was harmless and that its test had little strategic value, the propaganda value for the North Korean government was immense and serves to increase public support for the government of Kim Jong-Un. TV programs in Japan were interrupted with a rare warning screen announcing the missile’s flight over the country and the government spoke of the missile launch in dire terms.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the launch and asserted that “North Korea’s reckless action is an unprecedented, serious and a grave threat to our nation.” Additionally, Abe told reporters that he had spoken by telephone with President Trump and that the stances both countries have regarding North Korea are “completely matched.” The United States, Japan, and South Korea also asked for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the test sometime within the next few days. The recent test by North Korea and the almost hysterical reaction to it by the US and its regional allies shows that the rhetoric of the Trump Administration and the overall policies of the US in the Pacific Region over the past six decades have worsened an already-unstable situation and makes the effects of any miscalculations on the part of governmental leaders even more widespread and lasting.