Trump’s Keynesianism was mostly defense spending and tax cuts, but it included a huge infrastructure push — soon nicknamed “TrumpWorks” — that doubled as a jobs program for his core constituency, blue-collar men. The assumption that the economy had hit full employment in the later Obama years proved to be an artifact of work-force dropouts and increasing illegal immigration. With TrumpWorks hiring, a wall rising (albeit haphazardly) on the southern border and millennials’ entry into the housing market sparking a sudden construction boom, both wages and the work-force participation rate began to sharply climb.
Trump also turned out to be good at bipartisan maneuvering. Well aware that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell had held their noses to support him, he quickly promised Chuck Schumer major input on a few key domestic issues. Trump’s supply-side tax cuts passed on a party-line vote, but his infrastructure bill passed with a motley bipartisan coalition. So did a bill mixing child-care subsidies and child tax credits, which became more middle-class-friendly after Ivanka and Schumer hammered out the details.
In return for letting those bills reach the floor, Paul Ryan was promised Trump’s backing for an omnibus health care bill replacing Obamacare and reforming Medicare at once. But as health care negotiations dragged on across 2017, it became clear that Trump was quietly encouraging a tacit right-left grass-roots alliance against benefit cuts of any sort.
This came to a head in what was dubbed “the Battle of Janesville,” when Ryan found himself shouted down by a crowd of town hall seniors, some sporting “Make America Great Again” caps, as he tried to defend Medicare premium support.