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Some advice for President Trump as his tenure begins

Jan 30, 2017 | 12:07 PM | Thomas C. Graham

Tags  Donald Trump, president, ethanol, agriculture, veterans, legislation, Thomas Graham

Every president needs small victories as well as large sweeping ones, and Tom Graham has some modest suggestions for President Trump.

The most popular indoor sport of the moment is making lists of matters President Trump should accomplish in his first 100 days. There is no reason we all cannot play. It will be argued that the repeal of Obama Care and some control of immigration should be first and foremost, because that was promised during the campaign. That may be, but every president needs small victories as well as large sweeping ones. Thus my three suggestions follow.

First, it is time to dismantle the agricultural subsidies. When these were established a hundred years ago, it was argued that the “family farm” was sacred and important and the risks in farming were unique and unmanageable. We have all heard about drought, late spring, etc, etc. Every business has external uncontrollable risks, and for those who still find them unbearable, it is time to seek other activity. Farm-state politicians have tried to save the subsidies by preaching about the unique values created by the “family farm.” However, each year more of the subsidy checks seem to have Park Avenue addresses.

Second, it is time to eliminate ethanol as an industry, artificial as it is. Even the most fire-breathing environmentalist has come to acknowledge that a full lifecycle accounting of ethanol yields no environmental benefit. And it has distorted the price of all corn-related products and consumes huge quantities of water. Yes, it was invented with good intentions, but time marches on. This is more government activity that can be productively retired.

Third, we are failing miserably in our humanitarian obligation to provide quality affordable and convenient medical care to our country’s veterans. This is not a new subject, but changes in management at the Veterans Administration have not solved the problem. This is a bureaucracy that operates in behalf of the employees—not the wounded veterans. (And then grants themselves bonuses, annually.) It is time to offer veterans the option of private sector care without further ado.

This specific list of legislative wants will immediately be criticized because, even in the aggregate, the problems are too “small” to be ranked and recognized in the crush for new legislation. These are not huge-dollar problems, but they are things that ought to be done because they are right.

It is utter stupidity to keep agreeing to the merits of proposals like these but then to argue that there isn’t room in the legislative schedule to correct long standing injustice. If you notice, matters like these are routinely deferred to near the end of the session; and then an omnibus bill is rushed thru as a “continuing resolution” at midnight before Congress leaves town, and it includes language that reauthorizes all existing programs. It is important to deal with the big-dollar questions. But it is certainly possible, if the Republicans are determined, to simultaneously change the existing legislation with the other hand.

Thomas C. Graham is a founding member of T.C. Graham Associates. He is a former chairman and chief executive officer of AK Steel Corp., president and chief executive officer of Armco Steel Co. LP, chairman and chief executive officer of Washington Steel Co., president of the U.S. Steel Group of USX Corp. and president and chief executive officer of Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. His column appears monthly. He invites readers’ comments and can be contacted at


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