TRANSCRIPT

President Trump hits 100 days: A look back and ahead

The 'Journal Editorial Report' panel weighs in

 

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," April 29, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

DAVID ASMAN, GUEST HOST: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm David Asman, in this week for Paul Gigot, as we mark President Trump's first 100 days in office.

Now, by some standards, the administration has accomplished a great deal in that time, putting a justice on the Supreme Court, enacting massive deregulations, restarting the Keystone Pipeline project and a lot of other energy deals. And perhaps, most surprisingly, chalking up some foreign policy win. But it turns out, dealing with foreigners has proved easier than dealing with members of the U.S. Congress, with President Trump's legislative agenda stuck, until now. This week saw movement on new health care plan and a revolutionary simplification of our very complex tax code.

We start with this week's rollout of the tax plan, and not a moment too soon, with the U.S. economy growing just 0.7 percent in the first quarter of the year.

Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; editorial board member, Joe Rago; and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.

Well, Joe, let's talk about the tax plan because even though the press says there's not much to it, there's a lot to it. The details laid on Wednesday, business taxes for small and large companies cut down 15 percent, they are going to level the playing field between the big and the small by getting rid of a lot of the special deductions, a one-time tax to bring back $2 to $3 trillion in capital from overseas, very simplified individual tax rates from seven brackets down to three, lowering of the top marginal rate, getting rid of debt tax and alternative minimum tax, reduction of capital gains. It goes on and on. There's a lot of specific in here.

JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Yeah, this is really an exercising in growth economics in that the reforms you're talking about are immediate permanent and enough to -- deep enough to improve the incentives. This is a plan designed to get us out of the 1 percent to 2 percent growth rut, which we've been in for so long, which is why wages aren't rising and businesses aren't investing and standards of living aren't going up.

ASMAN: Dan, the fact is that we tried this before, and most notably during Reagan years. The tax cuts during Reagan years did not kick until 1983. And if you look at a chart of growth rate from 1981 until the end of Reagan administration, look what happened. 1983, we went from a recession, negative 1.9 to 4.6 percent, and then at '84, we grew 7.3 percent, and from then on no lower than 3.5 percent.

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Yeah, so we have to ask ourselves how did it happen. It isn't just magic. There's perhaps a tax policy that's built on magic. What Reagan did and what the Trump plan is trying to do is what we call a supply side tax reform as against the demand side, which is what basically Barack Obama did with his stimulus, which is you drop a lot of money into the economy, you give it to people, they spend it, the economy grows. We tried that for eight years with zero percent interest rates. It didn't work. This one is trying to liberate capital and put money in the hands of the producers. That lower corporate rate of 15 percent is going to apply as well to small and medium-sized businesses, and once that capital is retained by them, the ideas that they then will go out and invest it and create more jobs. That's the goal of this tax reform.

ASMAN: Of course, James, what the media says in describing this is this is break for the rich. In fact, you look at what happened to the Reagan administration, from '83 to '89, when the tax cuts kicked in until the end of the Reagan administration, yes, the rich increased their income by 12.2, but look at the poorest, the poorest 20 percent also had 12 percent gain.

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSITANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Yeah, growth for everybody. Everybody is going to enjoy the growth. And I think the misconception is that people think that when you cut taxes on business only the owners of the business benefit. And what we have learned is it's not just that a company has more money and it can pay out more wages, but when it can get a better return on investment, it invests more. So when a business expands, puts in new equipment, new machinery, that's what allows people to be more productive and allows them to get higher wages. We have seen it in this country and all over the world. Lower business taxes, more productivity, people get paid more 36789.

ASMAN: Kimberly, what kills me about the Democratic criticism of this is it's going to add to the debt. Where have they been for the past eight years when our debt has grown from $10 trillion to $20 trillion? And that was by raising taxes, by the way. How dare they suggest or throw a stone at somebody else after what they have done?

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: You look at every single model out there, David, and it shows that the quickest way that you can deal with deficits and with debt is with a flourishing growing economy. That is the way that you end up having massive amounts of tax revenue come back to the federal government, when there are more people productively employed and more capital investment.

And so one of the things here that the Republicans are going to face as they deal with this is this criticism of deficit spending. And one thing that's notable and good this time around is you see Republicans pushing back on this and talking about the benefits of growth and the degree to what that growth could help pay for these tax cuts.

ASMAN: Hey, Joe, that's a very important point. Gary Cohan is the president's chief economic adviser. A lot of people say he came from Goldman Sachs, he was a Democrat, they didn't know he knew thinking about what Dan described in supply side economics but, in fact, when he was pressed on it on Wednesday, he said this plan will pay for itself. We will have enough growth, new economic activity, and enough elimination of those deductions and special deals, it will pay for itself. He didn't back down from that.

RAGO: No, he didn't. I give him credit for getting to the supply side point. A lot of people were skeptical. I think Gary Cohn is sensitive about the tax-cuts-for-the-rich label. This is not a tax cut for the rich bill, this is a growth bill, and he deserves a lot of credit --

(CROSSTALK)

ASMAN: James, will it pay for itself, this bill?

FREEMAN: It will pay for a lot of the tax cuts. But we want to grow. As we say, if you have a bigger economy, you can pay for more government.

But just to underline, I think when a low or middle-income person, besides the from additional jobs, they are going to like what they see here where the standard deduction is doubled, 10 percent bottom rate, and we won't have as many as these taxes where you're essentially forced to hire a tax preparer. Simplicity means easy, cheap tax report filing. And so I think from that perspective, they are going to like what they say.

ASMAN: Here is what simplicity means, it's all in a postcard.

FREEMAN: Yeah.

ASMAN: They can put it in a postcard. Wouldn't that be nice after we went through with the tax season?

When we come back, the Trump tax plan facing a lot of hurdles on Capitol Hill as Democrats, even some Republicans, are voicing opposition. So can the president get a deal inside the Beltway, when we return?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY COHN, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: This isn't going to be easy. Doing big things never is. We will be attacked from the left and we will be attacked from the right. But one thing is certain, I would never, ever bet against this president. He will get this done for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ASMAN: You're certainly going to be attacked from the left. This is the headline in The New York Times after it came out: "Tax overhaul would aid wealthiest." That, of course, who we just say, was top White House economic adviser, Gary Cohn, vowing this week that President Trump will get it done, and pushing cuts through Congress despite opposition of Democrats and even some Republicans.

Kim, how much does Washington and the nation's elite dislike what they heard this week?

STRASSEL: Well, Democrats hated what they heard this week because every aspect of this, other than perhaps some corporate tax reform, are ideas that are anathema to them, as we were discussing in the first segment. He's going to get no help from Democrats whatsoever. And one thing that was interesting about this proposal, and I think the smart thing about the proposal, was the acknowledgment that he wasn't going to get any cooperation. The president had been under a lot of pressure to not do tax reform, holistic tax reform, just go on the corporate side and try to bring some Democrats over with an infrastructure deal, but there was no guaranty that they would actually go along with that. So this bill was an acknowledgment that he is not going to get Democrat support. It was very much pitched at Republicans and Republican idea makers with the goal to getting this passed with Republican help.

ASMAN: Let me stick with your point, Kim, because some Republicans have also come out sounding like Democrats, saying, oh, he's going to add to the debt, et cetera. How does Trump nail them down?

STRASSEL: Look, I think that they're going to have to continue with this argument about the growth side of this bill, the importance of it from simply from a substantive point of view. We are as far as we are now into the middle of economic recovery. We saw those GDP numbers. If it doesn't get done, Republicans risk owning a recession, which would be terrible.

But he has to make a political point to them as well, especially in the aftermath of the problems with the health care bill. They have got to get a victory. And if there are some holdouts, that are on their own, as they did with health care, it will ruin this and stop Republicans from a win, they could own the loss of their congressional majority.

ASMAN: Dan, it's not only the politicians. It's the swamp creatures, the lobbyists from K Street, that are dead set against this, because they work all their lives to get these special deductions, and now they're at risk. Even somebody who is not going to be hurt by this, because they're going to keep the mortgage deductions, the Realtors Association came out against this bill, even though they continue to get what they've gotten before, mortgage deductions.

HENNNIGER: Yeah, as we sometimes say, it's early days. The plan was just announced this week.

And, David, there is often a disconnect between the paid lobbyist in Washington whose reactions to something like that is knee-jerk, and the people they actually represent out there in the country. And I suggest a lot of the industries that are being represented by these lobbyists are going to call up and say, wait a minute, this looks pretty good to us.

I mean, every CEO you talk to and every business owner, if you could drop the corporate tax rate, the taxes I pay on my business, we will invest in the economy. I think that message is going to penetrate even the Beltway over the next several months.

ASMAN: James, if you give people a choice of what they have now - I mean, even the most-simple tax forms are more complicated than a postcard. At least you have a couple of pages. Most of us who pay our taxes actually have to go in and hire someone from H&R block.

FREEMAN: I think the simplicity is going to be very exciting, very compelling. But also, there's a big political winner if the White House can exploit it in this plan. And that is, finally, we are going to stop having people who live in low-tax states subsidize, to the tune of $100 billion a year, people who live in places like this, in New York, New Jersey and California. This may be why "The New York Times" is so upset about this thing.

ASMAN: Bingo.

FREEMAN: The truth is, Mr. Trump --

ASMAN: He's going to have to pay more in taxes.

FREEMAN: -- is going after a big subsidy for essentially rich people in New York and other places. And this could be a real game changer, not in terms of the federal tax code. If you stop rewarding state governments for overtaxing, you might see --

(CROSSTALK)

ASMAN: And, Joe, you stop rewarding rich people are getting their special cutaways. But what about the 45 percent of Americans who don't pay any federal income tax? I mean, that's a constituency that I would think the Democrats would be grabbing onto right now to object to this bill.

RAGO: They do pay some taxes. They pay payroll taxes.

ASMAN: Well, yeah, exactly. And state taxes.

RAGO: Right. They have moved off of the income roles. I don't think that is a particular potent force. It's much more the 90 percent of the state and local tax deductions for those who earn over 100 grand a year, those are the real things, the real considerations.

ASMAN: I want to get Kim in quickly.

Kim, what is the chance that the Trump team can steamroll over all this opposition?

STRASSEL: I think he has a better chance than with health care. This was something that a lot of Republicans wanted to go with first. Tax reform, there is a huge eagerness for it. He's got a better shot, a pretty good shot that he can get it done.

ASMAN: The last word from Washington.

When we come back, movement on another of President Trump's top priorities this week, repealing and replacing Obamacare. How close are GOP leaders to getting their bill across the finish line this time?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm disappointed. I'll tell you, Paul Ryan is trying very, very hard. I think everybody is trying very hard. It is a very tough system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ASMAN: President Trump on Friday, telling Fox's Martha McCallum that he's disappointed that Republicans aren't moving faster on one of his top priorities, repealing and replacing Obamacare. The conservative House Freedom Caucus announced its support for a revised bill this week, but it wasn't enough to put it across the finish line before the 100-day mark. The GOP leaders pushing the vote to next week at the earliest.

The action can't come soon enough for voters, 71 percent of whom say, in a new Fox News poll, that fixing the health care system is a higher priority than reforming the tax system.

So, Joe, what is different about this version?

RAGO: There's a heightened sense of political urgency. Then you have a compromise that was constructed during the Easter recess between the conservative and the centrist factions within the Republican Party. What is would do is kind of set Obamacare's regulatory rules and so forth at the baseline, that states could obtain waivers to opt out of those rules if they chose to do so.

ASMAN: And, Dan, that seems to be enough for a lot of conservatives, right?

HENNINGER: For a lot of conservatives. But now the problem is the moderates, who are complaining that it doesn't do them much to protect people with pre-existing conditions.

David, we're getting to a point where you have to ask, what is the Republican Party for anyway? If they were elected and can't get their act together sufficient to do something like reform Obamacare, I think a lot of Independents out there are going to start saying, why do we support these people, why not go over the Democrats who know what they believe in and won't self-destruct over issues like this. I, for the life of me, do not understand why the Republican moderates can't get up the intellectual energy or inclination to go out and defend a compromise like this.

ASMAN: Kim, that leads me to wonder about Paul Ryan. He failed the first time. If he fails a second time, is he out as a figure, because he's supposed to corral these folks.

STRASSEL: I don't think he's out because, look, I think the bar for failure here is a little bit different. What we've seen is a process and it is proving long and messy. But all along it is achieving something. It is getting closer and closer.

What is noticeable about this is, yes, you have had a number of moderates come out and say they cannot support this version. That is tragic. And you will see pressure increase on them to get on board. But what is notable is there's some key members of that moderate group that have remained silent. They have not come out and said one thing or another. That suggests they are open, in fact, to coming on board in the end. And what you'll see over the next few days are continued negotiations, maybe a tweak here or there. But I'm hearing they are getting very close.

Again, it's taking longer than you might like, but I think what Paul Ryan's message is, is we are just going to keep negotiating until we get to yes.

ASMAN: James, let's pull back for a second. There is still a fundamental disconnect between the plan, as far as it has gone, and the free market. You are still mandating that insurers do something that's against their own interest, ensure people who are going to cost more in benefits, those with pre-existing conditions, then they receive from premiums, the insurance companies. So there is still something un-market-like about what they're trying to do.

FREEMAN: Yeah. I mean, the government has spent decades making this not a market, so it will take a little bit of time. I think that's one thing that's made it difficult to get this process going. It's several steps. But the first step, cutting taxes by $1 trillion, cutting spending by $1 trillion, starting to reduce regulation. That was a great step last month. A little different version now where we're going to say, OK, some states can choose to have more of a market. Places like New York probably will choose to have less of a market. You can keep more of the regulations. That is kind of how our system ought to work.

ASMAN: Joe, there's another flaw with our system, as it is, which is there is a different between insurance and good health. You can have, as some people do, an insurance plan, what they call the Bronze Plan, and you still have a $12,000 dollar deductible. That means you have to pay out of pocket 12 grand before you get paid anything back, which means a lot of people aren't going to the doctor. They're putting off visits to the doctor. They are putting off tests, which could save their lives.

RAGO: It is one of the big problems with Obamacare. It's creating distortions that you're talking about, giving people incentives not to get the care they need, to basically flee the market because they can't afford it. I think the reform plan that the House Republicans released will go a long way to resolving some of those in some of the states.

ASMAN: Dan, the key for a lot of people is getting rid of the middleman, whether the middleman is the government or an insurance company. Just put as little between the provider of health care and the recipient of health care, the patient, as possible, so, in some cases, you could just pull cash out of pocket and pay the doctor instead of having to go through any insurance program.

HENNINGER: That is exactly the goal. They are getting very close to it. It's inconceivable to me that the Republicans are going to hit President Trump with two setbacks on health care. But if that were to happen, I think the argument will then be made by the Democrats, why get involved in all this complication. Let's go to a universal health care system. And that's something that nobody wants. And that's what's at stake in this vote.

ASMAN: Guys, we've got to leave it at that.

Much more ahead as we assess the first 100 days of the Trump administration. The president already making his mark in the foreign policy arena amid a new provocation from North Korea. So is a Trump doctrine emerging? We're going to be asking General Jack Keane, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASMAN: President Trump's first 100 days was not supposed to be notable for his expertise in foreign policy, and yet, the commander-in-chief has already chalked up military and diplomatic successes that have received praise, even from some Democrat rivals.

I spoke to retired four-star Army General Jack Keane a little earlier. He is the chair at the Institute for the Study of War and a Fox News military analyst.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

General Keane, good to see you. Glad you could come here today.

GEN. JACK KEANE, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: It's great to be here, David.

ASMAN: Have you, in the past 100 days, seen the development of a Trump doctrine in foreign policy and military policy?

KEANE: Not specifically a doctrine. But I think what we're seeing are some good threads here. Number one, he's put America back on the world stage again. He's exercising leadership and promoting stability and security where the by-product is economic prosperity. And the decision making, what I see, is responsible, decisiveness and also has a moral underpinning to it.

And he's got two major anchor points. One is reassuring our allies. He has sent his government officials to the Far East, the Middle East, to Europe to make certain they all understand that the alliances of the past, we are back, we're going to back you up, we're going to be there for you. The second anchor point, and we've seen this, he is willing to confront his adversaries. And in a way that his predecessor was not.

ASMAN: Well, and in a way that shocked a lot of people, the most demonstrative point of that, I think, was the is Syrian attacks where we attacked the Syrian air base there. Were you surprised at that?

KEANE: I was not -- I was surprised at the chemical attack, but I was not surprised by the response. I knew that the advisers around him would never let that stand. And he has got instincts himself about America, its role in the world, how you've got to be responsible. There's a moral issue here in using chemical weapons on your own people. It is a weapon of mass destruction. So he stood up for that --

(CROSSTALK)

ASMAN: And I don't think he ever said, I'm going to draw a red line, but he implied there would be a red line over which he wouldn't allow the Syrians to go. And unlike his predecessor, he didn't let them go beyond that. Once they crossed that red line, he reacted.

KEANE: Yeah, I don't think he'll ever use the term "red line," but he's going to hold behavior of our adversaries to that.

And, look, at Iran. As soon as they violated the U.N. resolution on missile testing, he confronted them with sanctions. He put a military option on the table with the belligerence of Kim Jong-Un and his behavior. Obama never put that military option on the table. He said he had it in the beginning, but everybody knew he took it off the table.

ASMAN: You know, another thing that happened about the Syrian attacks with the Tomahawk missiles, it happened just when the Chinese president was here. And while they were having a big, beautiful chocolate cake, apparently, is when President Trump told the Chinese president about the missile attack. Did that help in any way to get the Chinese working harder in dislodging the North Korean threat?

KEANE: Oh, absolutely, David. You put your finger right on it, yes. I think they knew instinctively that they were dealing with a different type of American president, and it began at that dinner because of what took place that night.

ASMAN: Do you think that was just a happy coincidence that --

KEANE: No.

ASAMAN: -- he happened to be there at the moment?

KEANE: No, I think it was coincidental, but it's a gift that fell right into the president's lap, to be frank about it.

And, listen, the goodness out of that, for the first time in 20-plus years, the Chinese are working diplomatically to try to curb North Korea's behavior. And they -- both presidents have spoken a number of times on this. We believe that's major diplomatic breakthrough. I'm not sure it's going to turn into the kind of results we want. We'll see. The Chinese could be gaming us on this. I don't think so, but we'll have to see.

ASMAN: What about the military option, if there is an option, with North Korea? We have seen a show of force there, putting that nuclear sub in South Korea and this carrier task force that eventually made its way to the Korean coast. Is there any potential for military action?

KEANE: Certainly, there are. We have three vectors that we're pursuing. One is the diplomatic option. We've, essentially, given the ball to China to take that. We're also reassuring our allies, South Korea and Japan, that we've got their back.

Economic options, I know the National Security Council is working on a number of sanctions dealing with North Korea. They'll be very tough by comparison in the past, and also possibly China, if China folds its hands and doesn't help.

And then the military options are there. What we would do with a military option is we would only use a military attack if we believe the North Koreans had weaponized a ballistic missile and they were about to fire it. That would provoke us. Otherwise, carrier battle groups can come and go, submarines can come and go, we are not going to take North Korea on in some kind of unprovoked attack. That will not happen.

ASMAN: Right. Let's bring it closer to home with Europe and Russia. Of course, Russia has a big strategist interest in what happened in Syria. That was kind of a shot across their bow as well. Now they have moved some of those Syrian planes to a Russian air base inside Syria. So there may be complications there. How do you see our relations with Russia working out in this new Trump environment?

KEANE: Well, I really applaud the Trump team and the president on how they have handled Russia, because they have called out Russia. Tillerson did it at the press conference in Moscow --

ASMAN: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

KEANE: -- with Lavrov sitting right next to him. He said the behavior and the relationship has never been as low as it is right now, and then he called them out for backing a criminal in Syria, right in front of Lavrov. Second, he said to him, he said the Minsk accord in Ukraine, where we had agreed that they would pull the separatist forces out and their military capability, Tillerson said this in front of Lavrov, he said, until such time that you do what you're supposed to do with the Minsk accord and pull your troops out from there, this relationship will never improve.

ASMAN: Wow.

KEANE: And then he called them out for meddling in our election. So they've got Russia --

(CROSSTALK)

ASMAN: I'm going to mention a very minor point. He never smiled. You saw the big smiles of Hillary Clinton and President Obama in front of these guys. They knew they were taking him to the cleaners. Rex Tillerson has decades of experience dealing with these guys. He knows how to deal with them straight. That's a small point, but it shows how much experience he has in dealing with these guys.

KEANE: Gone is the phony platitudes of John Kerry and the coddling of Lavrov that would always go on in public, even though Lavrov was always lying to us and certainly trying to cover up war crimes and this aggressive, assertive behavior. That's all over.

ASMAN: We've got to leave it but, General, do you feel safer now with Trump in office than you did with the previous administration?

KEANE: Absolutely. Because all of our adversaries are reevaluating and assessing. And in a sense, he's got them a little bit back on their heels, and that's a good place to be.

ASMAN: General Jack Keane.

Good to see you, General.

KEANE: Good to see you, David.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ASMAN: And still ahead, from a Supreme Court victory to a travel ban defeat, our panel weighing in on the highs and lows of the Trump administration's first 100 days.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're moving awfully well. We're getting a lot of things done. We are -- I don't think there's ever been anything like this. It's a false standard, 100 days, but I have to tell you, I don't think anybody has done what we've been able to do in 100 days, so we're very happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ASMAN: Well, he thinks it's great. President Trump on Friday touting the accomplishments of his first 100 days, but he's getting mixed reviews from the American public with just 45 percent of voters in a new FOX News poll approving of the job he's doing. But on some of the biggest issues facing the country, the president is scoring somewhat higher marks, including his handling of ISIS, terrorism and the economy.

We're back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, Joe Rago and James Freeman.

It's kind of, Dan, like the issues, he's doing well, but he doesn't get the credit for it, right? That's what the polls seem to show.

HENNINGER: They seem to show that, David. But let's stand back a little bit and try to figure out what we have learned about Donald Trump in the first hundred days. Came into the presidency without much political experience. He's been criticized for inconsistencies in his judgment, and certainly there's been a lot of lack of execution out of the White House. But to my mind, what we see here is a president who is actually being shaped by the forces inside American politics. And in the process, he is making judgments. And as I watch him, most of his judgments are on behalf of the private sector. And I think that's very important, because most of these executive orders are intended to help the job creators in the country, to get the private sector going. And to me, that's an enormous antidote to what we've had the last eight years, is that somebody actually understands how the economy works and is trying to move towards a system that allows that economy to function again.

ASMAN: But, Kim, in some cases, he is changing the status quo, not necessarily being influenced by it, but really changing it. I'm thinking of foreign policy. As General Keane was just saying, the whole leading from behind thing has changed completely. He's totally reversed that, hasn't he?

STRASSEL: Yeah, that is over. And also, he's done some things that, I think, have surprised people in positive ways, especially in foreign policy. Remember, there were great fears when this president was coming to office that this was an Isolationist after some of the talk about America First. In fact, you're seeing him out there not just leading on questions of foreign policy, but expanding his relationship with allies, asking new people to come into NATO, asking for help in some of these different adventures that he is tackling overseas. So I think he's surprised some people with regard to that. I think he's also just, look, domestically, surprised people in that he is doing exactly what he said he was going to do in terms of deregulation, tax cuts and a Supreme Court justice.

ASMAN: And, James, his appointments, and the Supreme Court justice, of course, was one of them. You look at Rex Tillerson, extraordinary guy. The defense secretary, the head of Homeland Security. He hired the general -- he's hired the perfect people for those positions, it seems to me. EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: He's had some inspired choices. I would add Betsy DeVos at Education, Tom Price, Ben Carson. These are change agents in the government. And I think that's what we need. But until he gets his big tax cut signed, I think you got to mark him incomplete. On the plus side, as you mentioned, I think the big achievement of the first 100 days is Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. For people who want limited government, the rule of law, this really induced a state of euphoria, which I think may last for a while --

(CROSSTAKL)

ASMAN: Of course, a lot of people voted on the basis of thinking about the Supreme Court. That's why a lot of people didn't vote for Hillary Clinton.

But, Joe, the question of legislative victory, he's had a lot of personal victories. He's appointed good people, the executive orders, some of them have been terrific in terms of getting the economy going. The market certainly believes so, having grown about 2,000 points on the Dow since he was elected. But he still hasn't had a legislative win, other than Gorsuch which, actually, was a legislative win, even though it was a simple majority.

RAGO: Yeah. I think you have to put health care in the failure column for the first 100 days, although maybe there's reason for optimism next week. I guess the other weakness I would cite is just the way the president has used his credibility. It's a president's most valuable resource, and sort of picking dumb, pointless fights over inauguration --

ASMAN: I hope you're not talking about his Arnold Schwarzenegger criticism.

(LAUGHTER)

I thought he was right -- no, I'm kidding.

RAGO: I actually thought that was hilarious.

A president needs credibility to make appeals to the public and to get things through Congress, and he's having so much trouble with Congress. in part. because he's been inconsistent.

ASMAN: Dan, what would be the brass ring, the motherlode over the next -- let's not do 100 days, but over the first term? If, for example, he gets a revolutionary new tax plan, like the one that was outlined this week, or if, in fact, it's clear that we can say ISIS has been defeated, something like that, what would be the motherlode issue for you?

HENNINGER: Well, undoubtedly, it would be the tax reform bill. We haven't had tax reform on that scale for 30 years. And you're talking about giving the economy an opening for, say, the next 15 or 20 years to simply go about the business of reviving itself. Later in the term, they might get around to reforming Dodd/Frank, getting all the sludge that was created inside the financial and the banking system. That's a big part of it. And as General Keane was suggesting, reassuring our allies the United States is going to be a global leader again rather than being back on its heels. That would be a big --

(CROSSTALK)

ASMAN: Kim, let me change the question just a little bit for inside-the- Beltway talk. What does he need to do over this first term in order for the GOP to win the midterm elections? Let's just say two years down the line, that's an important midterm election. What does he have to do between now and then?

STRASSEL: It's incredibly simple. He has to show that Republicans can lead and actually accomplish something. I mean, that's the important point about that health care failure and these questions of whether or not he gets tax reform, is that this is beyond the policy question. The voters this time said, look, we're unhappy with Democratic leadership in the White House and in the Senate and in the House when that was there, and we are going to give Republicans an unparalleled opportunity to run both of those branches of government and see what they can do. If they cannot perform, then that, you know, tryout is over, and they lose that interview, and things go back to the Democratic Party.

ASMAN: All right. Thank you, gang.

When we come back, two new reports that parents of college students can't afford to miss. Is that steep tuition you're now paying for your sons and daughters really worth it? Answers coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASMAN: Parents of college students getting a double dose of bad news this week with the Government Accountability Office reporting hundreds of thousands of people borrowed money under the Parent Plus Loan program have tumbled into default, exceeding the default rate of U.S. mortgages at the peak of the housing crisis. This, as another new study finding that college grads -- the ones parents are going into debt for -- are ill- prepared for the post-college job hunt and many of the most desirable entry-level positions.

James, it's hard to know which is worse, that college costs so much these days, and you're going in debt for it, or that it pays off so little.

FREEMAN: The answer is yes.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN: Yes. You're screwed either way.

I'll give people the short answer that if your kid studies engineering, probably going to have an easier time getting a job than if they --

(CROSSTALK)

ASMAN: By the way, you have four kids that are about to go to college. You're going to be paying for college for the next 13 years.

FREEMAN: Yes.

ASMAN: This is real for you.

Yeah. I've got to laugh so I won't cry.

And you mentioned that comparison to the housing crisis., it's kind of amazing that we haven't had the same blame, recriminations about the people in the Washington who created this crisis. Thank god, the student loan market isn't as big as housing market. But in terms of recklessness, in terms of percentages defaulting, number of subprime borrowers, it's worse.

ASMAN: Right.

FREEMAN: And so I think, on the taxpayer end, it's probably even more painful for parents.

ASMAN: And, Dan, on the employment side, you look at a list of what employers want from college grads, and the college graduates have degrees in things that are not at all of interest to the employers. The employers want business and accounting, engineering, computer sciences, economics, etc. It's all Poli-Sci and anthropology, which is what they're graduating with degrees in.

HENNINGER: Yeah. Isn't it an irony, David, that for decades now these institutions, colleges and universities, going more and more liberal all the time, students pay them $40,000, $50,000, $65,000, the students sit in the classroom getting this politically correct trap pushed at them, and finally, they go, but I can't get a job with this stuff. In a way, it's kind of positive. The real world is impressing itself even on colleges and universities. You have to teach these people something useful, or they're not going to be employed in the real world.

(CROSSTALK)

ASMAN: Well, guess what? They're not getting useful stuff, Joe. Protesting Donald Trump is not a gainful means of employment.

(LAUGHTER)

RAGO: No, you know, degrees in puppetry and --

ASMAN: Yeah.

RAGO: -- cultural studies, pottery, whatever it might be, they're just not very valuable.

But it's interesting, if you look at the plot of where the most politically controversial colleges, they are all the most well off. They're the most affluent. When you go down the scale, there's no political problems there. And that's where they're learning actual technical skills, things employers want.

ASMAN: And, Kim, it's the folks behind you in the capitol that are partly responsible for this, and the White House, because they've been saying for years all you need is a college education, doesn't matter what you study, just get a college education, we'll give you the money, no matter how much in debt you end up being because of that. It's all been a lie. It's been a false promise.

STRASSEL: Well, they're responsible in so many ways, David, that we probably couldn't get through them all. But to go back to how you started this segment, the student loan program that is just shoveling money, taxpayer money out the door to all of these parents and students, which is what also allows the universities to then inflate their costs, and it ends up in this vicious cycle of ever higher costs and ever lower returns and ever more student debt. That's one of the things Washington has done.

Yes, this interminable message that you not have to the go to college, but to a four-year degree college, which is taking the focus off of vocational training, which is to important and high paying in many parts of this country. And, you know, the war that the Obama administration also waged on for-profit colleges, which are ones that, indeed, actually do turn out a lot of people that have very specialized skills in very important areas.

ASMAN: Yeah. And there's something wrong with that, according to a lot of people in Washington.

But, James, she brings up a great point, which is the fact that a lot of people have really placed their hopes on colleges who have been making out like bandits during all of this. I mean, it wasn't coincidental that Liz Warren was getting paid about $300,000 for teaching one course. So they're not doing badly at all. They've been sucking in, they've been the middleman, sucking in a lot of this government money, right?

FREEMAN: Yeah. If there's one sector that could really use market discipline, it's higher education. And you see it when you visit campuses. I've visit a lot of them in the last year. The money has gone everywhere. And --

(CROSSTALK)

ASMAN: My heart goes out to you, brother.

All right, thank you.

We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits & Misses" of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASMAN: And it's time now for our "Hits & Misses" of the week.

Kim, first to you. Go ahead

STRASSEL: David, this is a miss to Bill Nye, the TV personality who calls himself a Science Guy. He's got a new show out on Netflix. Mr. Nye is a climate alarmist. And in a show this week, he made the extraordinary suggestion that perhaps government should penalize parents who have extra children. It's not only an appalling statement, but it's an amazing insight into the increasingly extremist views a lot of these green groups, the degree to which they'll use climate as an excuse to regulate every aspect of American life.

ASMAN: And that worked out great in China, didn't it?

James, what do you have?

FREEMAN: David, we just spent a few minutes talking about the outrages on college campuses, but there's another thing that I wanted to bring up. This is a miss to my alma mater, Yale University, saying that it doesn't want alumni running to serve on its board of trustees to talk about issues like free speech on campus.

(LAUGHTER)

Really appalling. We need more discussion, especially from the people overseeing these institutions.

ASMAN: All right. Campuses not getting a break in this show.

What do you have for us, Joe?

RAGO: David, a miss this week to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who proposed an $85 billion budget for the coming year. That's up 21 percent since the time he took office.

ASMAN: That's three years. 21 percent rise in three years.

RAGO: When Republicans talk about slowing the growth rate of spending by nowhere near 21 percent, for liberals, it's a huge crisis. Meals on Wheels, grandma's going to die on an ice flow. It would be much better to have some intellectual consistency.

ASMAN: And, of course, The New York Times said that Trump is terrible for this tax plan, but they didn't mention a word about Bill de Blasio.

HENNINGER: Well, David, I'm giving a big hit to Donald Trump who, this week, said he wanted to revisit the designation of national monuments. We're not talking about thing like Old Faithful, not monuments like that. What he's talking about is the fact that both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama set aside millions and millions of acres out west as national monuments, mainly to choke off natural resource development. Mr. Trump's goal is to give a lot of the authority back to the states, which is where it belongs.

ASMAN: Terrific stuff, gang. Thank you very much.

That's it for this week's show. Thanks to my panel and to all of you for watching. I'm David Asman. Catch me weekdays on "After the Bell" on the Fox Business Network at 4:00 p.m. eastern time. Paul is back next week. We hope to see you back here then.

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