As President Trump wraps up his first 100 days as America’s CEO, few analysts are likely to gush, “Great quarter, guys” during his earnings call.
But maybe the country should be thankful the White House failed to push through too much, too soon, or too specifically.
“Any so-called plans announced in the first hundred days would simply be the drafts of Washington lobbyists rather than real solutions to America’s deep and complex ills,” the economist Jeffrey Sachs writes in “Building the New American Economy.”
Instead, Sachs says we need long-term strategic planning to tackle the tasks of improving the U.S. economy, fixing the health-care system, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, reducing economic inequality, boosting social mobility, developing sources of sustainable energy, and creating meaningful jobs that cannot be stolen by robots.
These are moonshot-type endeavors that cannot be achieved merely by barking executive orders, Sachs tells MarketWatch.
“There’s no way Trump can rebuild the infrastructure on just a deal-making basis,” Sachs says. “He needs to turn this over to the National Academy of Engineering for serious planning. The success of the moonshot and the Human Genome Project came through depoliticizing the efforts — we have got to take this out of the hands of politicians because our annual budget cycle is hopelessly wrong for this.”
Long-term planning doesn’t come easy now that most corporate executives and elected officials are nearsightedly focused on the next quarter or next election, rather than the next decade.
We need our universities and think tanks to produce turnkey projects that Washington can then put in motion, Sachs says. “The politicians that are most successful in our complicated modern age are those that say we should do x, and turn it over to those who can get x done.”
Sachs’s book, an optimistic plan for making America fairer, more democratic, and less politicized, was written mostly before Trump’s election victory, and so to some extent it’s a blueprint for what might have been. Though he was an adviser to the Bernie Sanders campaign, Sachs agrees with Trump on at least a few points, including the idea that $1 trillion is the right amount to spend on infrastructure, and that the 100-day milestone is absurd.
No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017
The 100-day mark was made famous by the effective start to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tenure. But one detail many forget, Sachs says, is that back then the president took office in March, so there was considerably more time to plan a course of action between election and inauguration.
That hasn’t stopped the idea from infecting not only politics but the business world, which churns out reams of books on how managers should tackle their all-important first 100 days.
Yes, Trump doesn’t have much to show for his first 100 days other than the tweetstorms, flubbed health-care revamp and a PowerPoint-slide version of tax reform, but clearly we all need to use a longer time horizon.
It took more than a hundred million years of life on Earth to generate the first intelligent thought, and, though the pace of things has accelerated a bit since then, this is Washington we’re talking about.