Nobody wants to be judged on just 7 percent of their efforts, but that’s what we’ve done to presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
They’re at the height of their popularity and influence for the first 100 days of their term. Those first few months set the tone and priorities of an administration. Battle lines are drawn with Congress. Promises are filled, broken, or forgotten.
They don’t always get what they want. President Obama started his first term by calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, which still hasn’t happened. But he did get through a giant $787 billion stimulus package to fight the Great Recession, and started his push for what would become Obamacare.
Here’s what we think the first 100 days would look like under all the candidates who still have at least a slim chance (sorry, Kasich) to be our next president, based on things they’ve said in public or on their campaign websites…
President Cruz guts Washington
After putting down the Trump riots, President Cruz began methodically undoing many of his predecessor’s executive actions and sought a full repeal of Obamacare.
While the personal mandate was easily thrown out, some parts of the law remained popular even among Republicans — and now that Obama was out of the way, a full rebranding could begin. In the short term, however, there were widespread fears of premium price spikes. There was also a lot of uncertainty about whether people could keep their plans and doctors. Cruz realized it would take a while to break down and replace the law, but remained determined.
Cruz had plenty of other things to take apart in the meantime, however, including Common Core and the IRS. He proposed a 10 percent flat tax to Congress, and asked his few Republican allies to look into a way of entirely abolishing the tax department. He also ordered an audit of the Federal Reserve.
Cruz proposed infrastructure spending friendly to the energy industry, including support for the Keystone Pipeline, and sought to remove every regulatory barrier to fracking and offshore drilling. He similarly restrained the FCC, calling net neutrality “Obamacare for the Internet.” He pledged to shut down the Education, Energy, Commerce, and Housing departments before the end of his term and promised a record budget surplus despite the flat tax rate.
The tangible results of Cruz’s first 100 days seemed small, but there was no mistaking that the wholesale dismantling of the federal government was well underway.
President Clinton bolsters Obamacare
After putting down the Trump riots, President Clinton started the hard work of getting Congress to do its job. As the most pragmatic candidate, and a former member of Obama’s cabinet, she was always most likely to pick up where he left off before turning to her own priorities.
Assuming Democrats took control of the Senate, her biggest gambit was revamping Obamacare to bring it more in line with the original liberal vision — especially after shooting down Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for all” idea. She worked with the senator from Vermont, who turned down a token economic advisory role in her administration, to introduce a public option at the federal level or through state exchanges.
She tried to bump up tax credits and close coverage gaps including Medicaid expansion. To lower out-of-pocket costs, she pushed to allow cheaper prescription drug imports from Canada, give Medicare more power to negotiate prices, and ban drug-makers from using bribes to keep cheaper generics off the market. She also made a show of fighting for women’s access to abortion and free or cheap contraception.
If Democrats couldn’t seize the Senate, she instead focused on smaller but still crucial initiatives alongside the moderate wing of the GOP, starting with education. She signed laws that let people with student loans refinance and made a bachelor’s degree at an in-state public school more affordable, partially through free community college and transfers up. In a concession to conservatives, students are required to work part-time to maintain eligibility.
She also tried to get new student loan interest rates down near or below what it costs for the government to make them — and failed. She leveraged the Education Department to broaden eligibility for income-based payment instead.
Clinton announced long-term plans for mild middle class tax cuts and raising taxes on the wealthiest. She pledged to work on labor initiatives including 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, higher minimum wages and better overtime, and tax incentives for businesses to share profits with employees. She also defended unions and banking regulations, and fought early efforts from Republicans to privatize Medicare and Social Security.
President Trump fights with Congress before turning to executive actions
After President Trump was sworn into office on the smallest available Bible (so his hands looked yuge) he immediately got to work firing people. Virtually nobody from the Obama administration was asked to stay on, not that they would have agreed.
While Trump took many contradictory stances during the campaign, it turns out he was pretty serious about immigration. He really did call for building a wall that Mexico would pay for, tripling the number of immigration enforcement officers, and nominated controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio to be Secretary of Homeland Security. After Congress shot that down — and he called them losers — he stepped up deportation under his existing authority.
He asked Congress to repeal Obamacare and submitted a conflicted plan that would allow Americans to fully deduct the cost of health insurance on their tax returns. In a move that surprised liberals, he asked for more money for Medicaid — but wanted to just distribute it to states to administer as they see fit. Like Clinton, he supported the import of Canadian prescription drugs. Republicans and Democrats both found plenty to hate about Trumpcare, and it went nowhere. Trump called them big, fat losers.
Against the advisement of his inner circle, a frustrated Trump signed a number of controversial executive orders, declaring China a currency manipulator and intellectual property thief and cutting off all trade until they submit to his demands; sending troops to the South China Seas; lowering corporate taxes to 15 percent and abolishing taxes for households making under $50,000; shutting down a number of “redundant” federal programs; allowing veterans to seek VA care at any facility that accepts Medicare; ending birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants; and revoking any and all gun and magazine bans.
By the end of his first 100 days, most of his executive orders were already being challenged in court and some members of Congress had called for Trump’s impeachment. Trump responded with a press conference saying he could quit the presidency at any time and would make a lot more money elsewhere, and he personally insulted the wives of several Congressmen.
President Sanders wrestles with big numbers
After putting down the Trump riots, President Sanders made a beeline for Wall Street. Against the backdrop of the Panama Papers, Sanders called for closing corporate tax loopholes and nixing the Panama Free Trade Agreement, among others. He directed the Department of Justice to begin investigating any U.S. banks and corporations mentioned in the Panama Papers for tax evasion.
Sanders took immediate steps to beef up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Securities and Exchange Commission, promising vigorous enforcement of current laws and regulations until he could get stronger consumer protections through Congress. He proposed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by the end of his term.
His budget proposal dismayed Republicans and Democrats alike. He called for tons of new spending, including $1 trillion over five years toward infrastructure improvements; $5.5 billion for a youth jobs program; free tuition at all public colleges and universities; and single-payer health care. His proposed tax hikes on the rich and an estate tax on people inheriting more than $4 million fall well short of a balanced budget, experts concluded.
For those already in college debt, Sanders cut the interest rate on federal student loans in half. For retirees, he ensured Social Security would remain solvent by lifting the cap on taxable income that funds it, effectively raising taxes even further on everyone making more than $250,000 a year.