Mahoning Valley voices weigh in on Trump agenda

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Staff report


President-elect Donald Trump is promising sweeping changes to the federal government when he takes office in January.

Areas the Republican is focused on include health care, trade, the economy and infrastructure.

But how will a Trump administration change government?

“Donald Trump is an agent of change, and his victory is a repudiation of the big-government policies of [President] Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s determination to double down on those policies,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, the first Ohio member of Congress to back Trump. “During the first 100 days of Mr. Trump’s administration, we’re repealing Obamacare, he’ll roll back executive orders and renegotiate trade deals.”

Trump campaigned for president against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would be the largest trade agreement the United States would have and include 11 other nations.

This should be a largely bipartisan agreement as numerous Democrats in Congress have expressed opposition to the proposal despite Obama’s support for it.

“I think TPP is dead as it’s written,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t have strong enforcement, there’s not enough in there to stop currency manipulation or protecting intellectual property. We’re not going to see it go anywhere.”

Paul Sracic, chairman of Youngstown State University’s politics and international relations department, said, “The big issues will be Obamacare and trade.”

As for trade, several Republicans support trade deals, but with Trump’s win seen as a mandate, “Republicans have to worry that voters will be hostile to them if they don’t back him. They won’t have the excuse that there’s a Democratic president.”

As president, Trump has the authority to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement unilaterally as he’s threatened if significant changes aren’t made, Sracic said.

“It’s going to be hard to go out there and stop Trump on trade,” he said.

David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, said he hopes Trump “doesn’t govern like his rhetoric,” and has hopes “he does a big infrastructure program” as he promised during the campaign “because people need work and we need improvements to our bridges, roads and water lines.”

As for Obamacare, Betras said: “It would be a mistake to repeal it without replacing it. It has problems, but it can’t be totally thrown out. We need to find a way to bring the premiums down.”

Mark Munroe, chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Part, said border security and repealing Obamacare will be important. “There are plenty of plans to replace Obamacare and go to a more traditional plan without prohibiting insurance companies from selling across state lines,” he said.

On trade, Munroe said: “Trump has been sometimes unfairly accused of not being a free-trader. But the existing trade deals haven’t worked out as well as they were supposed to when they were enacted. TPP is a nonstarter, at least in its current form. Trump has taken the position he can do a better job of negotiating trade deals.”


Although Trump had promised an immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act, he’s already backpedaling a bit. He has told the Wall Street Journal that he is considering retaining parts of it — including provisions letting parents keep children up to age 26 on insurance policies and barring insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

A repeal would likely be more complicated.

Given that a repeal would require 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster, some experts say it’s more likely Republicans will begin dismantling the health care law piece by piece through the budget-reconciliation process.

“Everyone is concerned. And they should be. The Affordable Care Act is woven into the health care system, and for Trump to say he’s going to repeal and replace it on Day One – more likely it’s going to be death by a thousand needles,” said Dr. Carolyn McClanahan, a financial planner who specializes in health care issues.

Here are some of the ways Trump has said he will change the health care system, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides information on health-policy issues:

Eliminate the ACA mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance.

Eliminate the subsidies the ACA allows for low-income individuals and families purchasing insurance through a Health Insurance Marketplace. Trump, instead, plans to create a tax deduction for the purchase of individual health insurance.

Allow health insurance providers to sell plans across state lines, thereby promoting competition.

Require greater transparency in medical billing.

Encourage the use of Health Savings Accounts.

The ACA significantly expanded coverage for women’s health services, according to the foundation. An ACA repeal “would eliminate minimum scope of benefits standards such as maternity care in individual plans and coverage of no-cost preventive services such as contraceptives in private plans,” the organization reports.

Trump also has advocated defunding Planned Parenthood if it continues to provide abortions.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a leading provider of sex education, STD testing and treatment, contraception, and more, issued a statement in the wake of Trump’s election:

“We will never back down, and we will never stop fighting to ensure that Planned Parenthood patients have access to the care they need, people who come from communities that need our continued support in this new reality – immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ community, people of faith, and more. Health care should not be political.”

The most important thing people can do right now, McClanahan said, is retain their health insurance.

The day after the election, Obamacare enrollment skyrocketed, according to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell. An estimated 20 million Americans have gained health insurance because of the ACA. The country’s uninsured rate has dropped to 8.6 percent, compared with 15.7 percent before the ACA became law, according to the Obamacare website.

“The Affordable Care Act fixed many issues but at too high a cost. Let’s hope the pendulum swings back to lower costs, yet provides the health care our country needs,” McClanahan wrote.


Ron Iarussi, Mahoning County Educational Service Center superintendent, said because the ESC tries to remain nonpolitical, his job is to help each school district implement whatever policies are issued by the federal or state government.

“There are issues that we’ll be watching closely and, sure, there’s going to be policy changes at federal level, which will trickle down to state level – like federal title funding,” he said. “We just have to be cognizant of changes coming.”

One change both Iarussi and Canfield schools Superintendent Alex Geordan said would be on their minds is whether Trump will disband the U.S. Department of Education.

“How does that get addressed?” Geordan asked. “Is it put back on states? I like the idea to be able to have local control, but who’s in control of that? The Ohio Department of Education is not prepared for that, staffed or manned to be able to take on the full responsibilities of U.S. Department of Education.”

Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca said he hopes Trump’s “mantra on education is what we are asking the state governor to do: Leave decisions up to the locals.”

He is preparing himself to deal with Trump’s presidency as it comes.

“Any time there’s something that goes on politically from our local board of education to the president, the people we put in office we must work with, because that’s our job,” Colaluca said. “We will follow whatever regulations and laws he puts in place, and if there’s something we feel isn’t right we will take the appropriate steps to remedy that.”

Iarussi agreed.

“It’s not about right or wrong. Our job is just to make sure districts are aware and have capacity to implement what may come,” he said.


With Hillary Clinton representing the establishment and Trump representing something different, an impact on the national economy is expected.

Clinton was “working within the framework we have had, so that’s what markets were pricing,” said Mekael Teshome, PNC Bank economist. “With Trump though, the win was unexpected and he is an unknown quantity.”

Stocks dropped Tuesday night as Trump led the race, but on Wednesday they rose.

“My advice is to not put too much weight on what’s happening in the stock market,” Teshome said. “What I expect is probably more volatility. The stock market itself, over time, will get back on track. Eventually, stock prices should reflect how companies are actually doing.”

An increase in infrastructure spending is expected during Trump’s presidency.

“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” Trump said during his first address as president-elect. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”

Teshome said while spending more money on infrastructure will bring more jobs, it also will grow the nation’s deficit, which could mean higher inflation. “If inflation picks up, and wages don’t keep up, that could impact consumer spending,” he said.

Trump’s plan on tax cuts can also increase the deficit, but it, too, would help business.

When it comes to trade, Trump has said he would like to see higher tariffs on imported goods. Teshome sees this as a negative for the economy.

“When tariffs go up, there are some industries it can benefit,” Teshome said. “But in the big picture it means consumers have to pay more for goods.”

Lastly, Teshome is concerned with how the economy will be impacted by Trump’s immigration plans. “One concern I would have is what happens to the labor supply,” he said.

Leaders in the auto industry are also considering the impact of the Trump presidency. Automakers rely on some imported goods to build vehicles here, and some automakers build across the border and ship the vehicles here.

“I think clearly there will be some effect,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for “We know that it is too early to say precisely what that effect will be.”

Contributors: Staff writers Jordyn Grzelewski, Kalea Hall, David Skolnick and Amanda Tonoli

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