The No-B.S. Guide to Trump’s Impact on Philadelphia
America’s president-elect floated so many policy proposals — some half-baked, some less specific — that would impact cities like ours. Here are seven to watch closely.
The Proposal: Deny Federal Funding to Sanctuary Cities
In Philadelphia, as in other sanctuary cities, police won’t honor requests by the feds to detain undocumented immigrants who aren’t facing other charges. Trump has said he’ll withhold all federal money from such cities. That could mean the immediate loss of some $400 million a year in federal grants and operating revenue, and more if Trump tries to strip funding for SEPTA, the Housing Authority, and other semi-public agencies.
Is it realistic? Cutting funding to the nation’s biggest cities could have political consequences. The Kenney administration has said that Philly’s policy is a commitment to the Fourth Amendment, suggesting it might take legal action if Trump follows through.
The Proposal: Invest $1 Trillion in Infrastructure Projects
Abstractly, infrastructure investments could be a boon to the Philadelphia region, a major population center and transportation hub.
Is it realistic? Trump’s proposal seems to rely on tax credits, rather than government funds, to spur private spending. But the private sector will only invest in projects with a potential return, leaving out those like untolled roads and bridges. Plus, Republicans want to phase out federal spending on public transit, so the picture could get bleaker.
The Proposal: Simplify the Income Tax Code
Trump plans to cut income taxes across the board, with the greatest benefit going to the wealthiest Americans. He proposes reducing the number of brackets, with a 12 percent tax rate for married couples making $75,000 or less, a 33 percent rate for those making $225,000 or more, and a 25 percent rate for those in the middle. Eliminating certain exemptions could mean small increases for middle-class families, particularly single-parent households, according to some analyses.
Is it realistic? This could be very costly, with huge increases in the federal debt or big cuts in federal spending. Trump hopes the tax cuts will be offset by economic growth — possible, but not at all a sure thing.
The Proposal: Make Jeff Sessions the Attorney General
Philly locks up a larger percentage of its people than any other big city in the nation — a feat in a country that leads the world in jailing residents. Trump campaigned on “law and order,” which suggests he wants to put even more people behind bars.
Is it realistic? Sessions could reverse Eric Holder’s criminal justice policies, such as steering prosecutors away from mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Will he? Sessions has said “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and spoke out against a bill that would have let judges decrease prison time for some drug offenders. Also: A Republican-controlled judiciary committee rejected Sessions for a federal judgeship in the 1980s after he was accused of racism.
The Proposal: Deport 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants
Trump has lots of power to crack down on Philly’s estimated 36,000 undocumented immigrants: He can order work-time raids and change Obama-era policy that focuses on those convicted of violent crimes.
Is it realistic? If Trump wants to significantly increase deportations, he’ll need Congress to sign off on extra spending for more aggressive enforcement. Also, Trump’s deportation force could hit a roadblock here, as some legal experts say Jim Kenney’s directions to local police not to cooperate with federal immigration agents in some cases is a separation of powers protected under the 10th Amendment.
The Proposal: Register or Ban Muslims Entering the U.S.
Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims coming into the country, then a ban on immigrants from “terror-prone regions.” His team is considering reviving a Bush-era program that fingerprinted and surveilled both unauthorized and legal immigrants from countries that were deemed “havens for terrorists,” 96 percent of which were majority-Muslim. In a city where 200,000 people, most of whom are African-American, practice Islam, policies that treat Muslims as inherently dangerous could stoke fear and hate.
Is it realistic? The ACLU promises to take Trump to court if he revives the registry or bans immigrants from majority-Muslim countries. But some constitutional scholars say the civil rights group faces a tough battle. No court struck down the Bush program in the nearly nine years it existed.
The Proposal: Make Betsy Devos Education Secretary
The anti-union, pro-charter billionaire will probably push for Trump’s plan to spend $20 billion in federal funding on vouchers. Students would theoretically use that toward private-, parochial- or charter-school tuition. In Philadelphia, the number of students who attend charters has doubled in the past decade, putting a financial strain on the traditional public-school system. Vouchers would do the same thing, only on steroids.
Is it realistic? The spending would need a thumbs-up from Congress, but legislators could make it happen by deep-sixing funds currently set aside for K-12 public schools.
Published as “The No-B.S. Guide to Trump’s Philadelphia” in the January 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.