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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Latest news items expose how little is resolved at the White House level

Some Trump administration trends, laws and policies also

Some Trump administration trends, laws and policies also fit broadly with what went on before his presidency. Credit: Getty Images/Alex Wong

Forget any extravagant claims, from fans or foes, that President Donald Trump has entirely changed the nation's direction. Long-standing trends and problems are proving durable.

This was evident in a small way last week when Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue acknowledged that the administration's trade war with China is hurting American farmers.

"I think they are one of the casualties with trade disruption, yes," Perdue told CNN. "We knew going in that when you flew the penalty flag on China, the retaliation, if it came, would be against the farmer."

But harm from tariffs seems to only exacerbate rural woes. It didn't create them. Many U.S. farmers have been squeezed for a long time.

Robert Johansson, Perdue's chief economist, said in February: "Over the past couple of years the dramatic fall in net farm income in 2015 and 2016 seems to be leveling out at a lower level." 

Other conditions go unabated.

The Affordable Care Act has been replaced by, well, nothing.

 "Obamacare doesn't work — but it works at least adequately now," Trump said last week in a non sequitur worthy of Yogi Berra while signing an executive order requiring price disclosures by hospitals.

Nothing has replaced NAFTA either.

Negotiators reached trade agreements with Mexico and Canada that would modify the pact. But Trump and his trade team have failed to sell the changes to Congress, a requirement that was known all along.

"The labor section in the [proposed] agreement is actually better," AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka told National Public Radio. "But here's the problem. You can't enforce it. There's no way to enforce the agreement.

"And therefore, it becomes useless."

After all the bombast, it is also hard to detect any palpable change in potential nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said last Tuesday that the latest U.S. sanction measures would prove "useless."

If so much of the foreign policy rhetoric sounds perennial, remember that the long-lived theocratic regime in Tehran remains in power as does Kim Jong Un's dictatorship in North Korea and Nicolas Maduro's misrule in Venezuela.

Russian President Vladimir Putin exercises power as before.

Andrew S. Weiss, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, noted in a Politico Magazine piece before the G-20 summit: "The administration’s actual day to day policy on Russia is mostly reactive, bordering on incoherent."

Friday, while in Japan for the summit, Trump displayed coziness with Putin, which clarified nothing substantial.

Like America's clashing interests with Russia, its budget deficits persist and expand.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the gap between federal spending and revenues will grow "substantially" in the coming decades as the cost of entitlements, the military and interest on debt pile up.

U.S. troops remain in Syria and Afghanistan. Yemen is a killing ground where Iran vies with Saudi Arabia for regional dominance. The Israel-Palestinian status quo also prevails.

Despite Trump's promise of a comeback for coal, to be aided by his rollback of air-pollution regulations, the cost of solar and wind power is falling, putting further pressure on coal miners and their employers.

The industry's long decline continues, as does long-term environmental damage on various fronts.

In Washington, drift, gridlock and stasis live on.

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