The Best and Worst of 2017 by David Montgomery


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.

Letters to Editor

  1. Elizabeth Freedlander says:

    I applaud The Spy for offering diverse opinions on critical issues that are very contentious. While, my thoughts on 2017 are quite different from Mr. Montgomery’s, it is important for me to not just listen to people who agree with me.

  2. Richard Skinner says:

    The Spy is to be commended for its breadth of opinion, but this one makes me think it might have been more expeditiously demonstrated by broadcasting one of Ms. Huckabee Sanders’ always entertaining paeans to Mr. Trump and his GOP colleagues and their efforts to take us back to “better” days, circa 1894. Failing that, some of the President’s platitudes to . . . well, to himself might have covered the waterfront as well as the article’s author. Whatever his policies or politics (and they are a bit inscrutable at time), Mr. Trump may well have come to represent in full the Republican Party’s contributions to “making America great again,” and in so doing displayed just how venal their intentions are.

    I am too cowed by the sweep of the author’s assessments (I wasn’t aware of Tucker Carlson’s contributions toward saving America but gratefully am now) to attempt a point-by-point riposte. Instead, I will offer the reminder that the last times conditions were roughly the same as today’s were 1929 and 2008 when – buoyed by tax cuts Republicans promised would carry us to new heights of economic growth – and led by Herbert Hoover and George Bush (two truly great presidents), America . . . ., well, you know the rest.

  3. Bill Todd says:

    welcome indeed to hear a different political perspective. Thank you David and Spy.

  4. Orchestrating Change inspired me. Hope you can catch this program suggesting that orchestras are a good example of cooperative behavior. We must appreciate our right to hold diverse opinions, but while you claim to have been challenged to consider both sides, we have little evidence evidence of that.
    Let’s keep working.

Write a Letter to the Editor on this Article

We encourage readers to offer their point of view on this article by submitting the following form. Editing is sometimes necessary and is done at the discretion of the editorial staff.

Help the Spy keep Spying in Talbot County

Please support the educational mission of the non-profit Talbot Spy with a modest contribution per month to help us continue our local coverage of Talbot County’s public affairs, arts and regional culture.

Click Here to Chip In