What will be Trump's challenges and opportunities? Emory experts weigh in

Jan. 13, 2017


Elaine Justice

Megan McRainey


As President-Elect Donald Trump’s inauguration nears, Emory University experts are available to comment on his challenges and opportunities as the 45th President of the United States.

The Economy

Paul H. Rubin, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Economics and Acting Chair, Department of Economics

“While the economy has more or less recovered from the Great Recession, the recovery is only partial. Real incomes have not grown much, and the percentage of working-age people in the labor force is the lowest it has been for about 40 years. It is facts such as these which caused the unhappiness leading to Donald Trump's election. Trump's challenge is to reverse these trends and restart healthy economic growth.

“Much of his agenda will work in this direction. Much of the basis for slow growth has been excessive economic regulation, and reducing this regulation — eliminating or greatly cutting back Obamacare, reducing or eliminating the regulations associated with Dodd-Frank financial regulation, reducing excessive regulation by the Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency — will go a long way towards increasing economic growth. From the people picked for various Cabinet positions, we can see that Trump's policies are working in this direction.  (I saw the rate at which reduction of inefficient regulation can improve an economy from my position in the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration.) Tax cuts will also stimulate greater growth.

“One difficulty will be reconciling these movements with Trump's threat to place tariffs or other impediments on imports, and particularly imports from China and Mexico. A tariff is a tax, and increasing tariffs is a form of tax increase, and will have the usual effect of reducing incomes and growth. To the extent that recent plans by auto manufacturers to cancel plans to build in Mexico and instead build in the U.S. are driven by Trump, then prices of autos for Americans will be higher than otherwise. Reducing immigration of Mexican workers will also retard an expansion, although probably not as quickly as increasing tariffs. So many of Trump's policies will lead to increased economic growth, but some of his most deeply advertised policies will retard recovery. How these sets of forces will play out is an open question at this point.”

Caroline Fohlin, associate professor of economics

“The new administration faces a wide array of challenging and complex economic problems. The administration will need to devise policies that spur economic growth—which can include reducing taxes and streamlining regulations—but it should balance that objective with the need to reduce income and wealth inequality. As we have seen over the extended history of modern economies, economic development fundamentally involves dislocation of workers in the ‘old economy’ and a tendency to benefit those already at the top. Propping up old industries or raising high tariffs on imports is inefficient and ineffective in the long run, so we need solutions that provide education and retraining, along with affordable healthcare, and a higher standard of living for the most disadvantaged and those left behind by development.”   


Polly Price, associate dean of faculty and professor of law, Emory School of Law, and professor of global health

“I do not expect President Trump to make use of executive orders on immigration matters. Congress, then, must pass legislation to have any kind of coherent approach. Congress and the White House must work together on immigration reform. House Republicans have said they will not consider immigration reform until “the borders are secure.” A wall will not accomplish this unless Congress pursues the bipartisan overhaul proposed in 2013.

“Further, there is an immediate need to address the status of former DACA recipients. This, too, will require legislation because both President Trump and congressional Republicans have criticized the use of executive orders for immigration matters. We may see a revival of the Dream Act, which narrowly failed in Congress in 2010 despite having majority support in both houses – the Bill passed in the House of Representatives, but a 56-43 vote in the Senate failed to overcome a filibuster.”

America’s reputation abroad

Mary Dudziak, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law, Emory School of Law

“Among the administration’s great challenges will be the impact of Trump’s election on the U.S. global image and the way that affects support in other countries for human rights and for democracy as a system of government. Shortly before the election, Trump’s rise was seen by the Chinese as an indication of the downside of democratization.

“Last summer, Trump was asked whether he would press President Erdogan of Turkey to uphold the rule of law at a time when he had ordered detention of tens of thousands of Turkish citizens. Trump did not emphasize the delicate nature of criticizing a strategically important ally, saying instead that ‘when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country.’

“This departs from the approach of past Republican and Democratic presidents to project a positive image of American democracy and to be a moral voice (albeit an imperfect one) for human rights and the rule of law.”

National security

Laurie Blank, clinical professor of law, director of the International Humanitarian Law Clinic, Emory School of Law

"As the new administration prepares for transition and to take office in January 2017, several national security challenges are the most pressing.

Russia: In 2015, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff highlighted Russia as the greatest threat to U.S. national security, and Russia’s aggressive posture in the Middle East, the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe poses a significant challenge to the U.S., to our allies, and to how we will work with our allies, within NATO and elsewhere, to define, counter and contain this threat.

Cybersecurity: The world continues to struggle to identify and define the true parameters of the threat cyber activities pose, from espionage to cyber crime to malicious activities to attacks. Cybersecurity demands constant action to protect and defend against such threats and intrusions, and also requires that the government and the private sector figure out how to work together to leverage both their respective strengths and opportunities for cooperation.

ISIS and radical extremism: Along with our allies, we have made great strides in displacing ISIS and freeing significant portions of Iraq and Syria from the clutches of ISIS, but the new administration will inherit the task of destroying and displacing this brutal terrorist group from Iraq, Syria and its other safe havens. In addition, the new administration will need to work with countries around the world to counter radical extremism from the ground up — not only with immediate-term action to counter and contain threats, but through long-term thinking to minimize the spread of radical extremism and promote education, economic development and other responses to dissatisfaction and distrust.

China: China continues to flex its muscles in the South China Sea, posing challenges to freedom of navigation, its neighbors’ sovereignty, and the international law of the sea regime. The next administration must continue a steady focus in this area and maintain U.S. superiority in the region and continue to secure the freedom of the high seas and the international legal regime.

Rule of law: In the aftermath of an extraordinarily divisive campaign and statements demonstrating disregard for fundamental tenets of human rights and the law of armed conflict, the new administration has to come to terms with how to pursue its national security objectives in a lawful and principled manner. Legitimacy today depends on compliance with the law and perception of compliance with the law — the use of any of the tactics advocated during the campaign (torture, targeting the families of terrorists, carpet bombing) will greatly diminish America’s standing in the world and embolden and empower our enemies."