Dear President-elect Trump,
Congratulations. You won. Now it’s time to get to work.
There’s a lot on your agenda. But first impressions mean a lot. Be smart about what you do right off the bat. People want to see things get done. We know you do, too, so don’t get bogged down in the messy stuff.
The most important thing right now is to appoint a stellar cabinet to advise you. Scout the country for supremely competent people. Remain the outsider. Don’t listen to the whispers of party hacks. Do what you said you’d do — hire the best people and drain the swamp.
Then comes Day One, and the first 100 days.
To be frank, we have serious concerns about your stance on some issues. But there are other important things on which much of the nation agrees. Get them done — not only because they’re good things to do, but also because it’s critical to show progress is possible — and then build on that.
Build first, don’t tear down. Don’t be in a rush to repeal Obamacare without having something real to replace it for the 21 million people now insured through the program. Don’t try to cancel the Paris agreement on climate change; that’s not why people elected you.
Start positive; don’t go negative. And remember, you’ve got a powerful weapon at your disposal: You’re not beholden. Not to your party, not to Wall Street, not to the lobbying class. You owe them nothing. Let that free you to form whatever alliances on whichever side of the aisle to make progress.
You’re a dealmaker. Start talking.
This is the biggest thing you can get going fairly quickly. And it is critically important that we rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. You’ve said it’s time to put people back to work. We couldn’t agree more.
You’ve put out a figure of $1 trillion. We like big numbers. The American Society of Civil Engineers says we’ll need $3.6 trillion by 2020 to fix and maintain the nation’s roads, bridges, tunnels, sewers, water mains and the like. So your plan is a good start.
But don’t stop with existing infrastructure. Fund new things that expand the economy and increase productivity. Like high-speed rail, especially here in the Northeast Corridor. And the Gateway rail tunnel under the Hudson River. And faster access between airports and city centers. You admire what China and Japan have built. Get it done here.
But keep politics out of it. We don’t need bridges to nowhere or new roads in sparsely populated areas. Spend the money where it is needed.
Find a willing partner in Sen. Chuck Schumer, who will lead Senate Democrats. You’ve spoken with him already and know him well from the New York political scene. Infrastructure is a priority for him, too. And we know you talked infrastructure with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and enjoyed hearing about the new LaGuardia Airport and the new Tappan Zee Bridge. We know you like Cuomo’s emphasis on getting projects done early and on time, and you understand building in urban areas. So push forward.
And figure out to pay for it at a time when the increasing budget deficit is a major concern. There are plenty of ideas out there, including yours, ranging from tax credits that leverage private investment to repatriating and taxing companies’ foreign profits. You’re a businessman. This is in your wheelhouse.
The first policy item in your victory speech was fixing our inner cities. And you cited the need to rebuild our schools. You’re right. We spend a lot on education and don’t get commensurate results. Some of that is because many children — especially poorer and, often, minority children — learn in lousy facilities. Schools in wealthier areas have bright classrooms with modern laboratories, wireless technology and computer equipment. Schools in poorer areas often are dark and decrepit, with leaky roofs, broken bathrooms and classrooms in trailers.
This is something you can do without dictating educational policy or expanding the bureaucracy: a federal capital program for school construction. Studies say $50 billion a year would provide what’s needed. Getting something done that’s eluded generations of politicians would be an important achievement for your legacy.
Paid family leave
Your daughter Ivanka advocated for a version of this and it’s long overdue. The plan would guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave to mothers who don’t get that from their employers. We prefer New York’s program, which guarantees paid family leave for up to 12 weeks for women and men, but a national plan that signals the importance of the family is a solid step. You can find enough support to get this done. Expanding the social safety net helps narrow the inequality gap and lift up the very people who voted for you.
Many serious issues await. Like immigration. You want to fix it. We do, too. But unless you see a fast path on a bipartisan compromise, this could bog down your entire first term. Keep the ball moving.
The editorial board