Nearly doubling the standard tax deduction
The 2017 tax bill failed to deliver an investment boom, but it did lighten the tax load of many low-income earners, as well as simplify their life. Before the tax bill, the standard deduction for taxpayers was $6,350 for single people, $9,350 for heads of household, and $12,700 for married couples. (There was also a personal exemption of $4,050.) Beyond that protected amount, low-income taxpayers could deduct additional amountsâ€”if they kept proper records.
The tax law swept away that need for record-keeping by lower-wage workers. And it nearly doubled the standard deduction: For income earned in 2020, single people pay no income tax on their first $12,400, heads of household on their first $18,650, and married couples on their first $24,800.
While most of the benefits of the 2017 bill were collected by the richest, this measure did a real service not only to the working poor, but to many middle-income families, who can deduct more while reporting less.
Restoring due process on campus
In 2011, the Obama administration issued new guidance to universities to guard against sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Many universities interpreted this guidance as a command to do away with due-process protections in sexual-assault cases. Many accused students lost such basic rights as knowing the charges against them. Universities often saved money by appointing the same official to investigate accusations, determine guilt, and apply punishment.
Emily Yoffe reported for The Atlantic in 2017 on the extreme unfairness universities often inflicted after the 2011 guidance. Courts agreed. Students were soon filing and winning lawsuits against universities for denying their due-process rightsâ€”by one scholarâ€™s count, about 100 cases a year by decadeâ€™s end.
The Trump Education Department has rescinded the 2011 guidance and reaffirmed that sexual-misconduct accusations on campus must be dealt with using the same due-process rules that apply everywhere else in American society.
A space force
At the start of the nuclear era, the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force each demanded its own nuclear role.
The resulting triplication not only wasted money, but nearly toppled the world into catastrophe. The Armyâ€™s nuclear ambitions saddled the U.S. with thousands of short-range nuclear weapons that invited war planners to imagine a battlefield role for Hiroshima-style warheads. The Air Force sustained its strategic bomber force for decades after it was rendered obsolete by intercontinental missiles. The balance between land-based and sea-based missiles was driven as much by Navyâ€“Air Force rivalry as by military rationality.
To satisfy the nuclear ambitions of the three services, the U.S. built too many warheadsâ€”risking the health of workers at nuclear facilities and creating a dangerous disposal problem once the Cold War ended.