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As 2018 nears an end, it's time to take another look behind all the distracting tweets and outlandish falsehoods that spew out of the White House seemingly every day and examine what's really happening with all those promises to make America great again.

Last time we looked it wasn't all that pretty. The Environmental Protection Agency administrator was dismantling regulations aimed at keeping our air and water clean and opening the door for mining companies to once again send polluted wastewater into creeks and rivers.

Trump's temporary director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had rescinded regulations on those payday loan outfits that routinely charge the poorest of the poor up to 600 percent in interest. While Congress and Donald Trump were giving huge tax breaks to the largest corporations and individuals in the very top income brackets, the poor could continue being fleeced by payday lenders.

And Trump's secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, decided that all those students who were bilked by for-profit colleges that left them with big bills and no degree shouldn't get forgiveness on the loans they received to take courses at those colleges.

Then came the news that, thanks to those "beautiful" tax cuts Donald Trump brags about, the national debt is increasing at even higher levels than anticipated. That, of course, has led some of Trump's "Make America Great Again" acolytes to call for "reform" of Social Security and Medicare.

The bottom line to them is that folks on pensions and health care for the elderly need to help pay for those tax cuts the president brags about at every opportunity.

But all this has flown beneath the radar as all too much of the American media spends its time covering the latest outrage that comes from Trump's Twitter account.

Why should we care so much about Trump's name-calling, his patting himself on the back, his lies about immigrants and exaggerations about all he's done to make the economy strong?

What we should care about is what he's actually doing to the country — and it sure as heck isn't making it great again. If anything, the people he has running the government are doing more to bring the nation down than helping it thrive and positioning it to tackle future challenges.

Maybe the news out of Detroit last week that General Motors is closing five plants and cutting 14,000 well-paid jobs will serve to give even Trump's most ardent backers a wake-up call.

Part of the "MAGA" promises, you will remember, was Trump's insistence that if he was elected president not one plant would be closed. "You'll have plants coming into this country ... you won't lose one plant. I promise you that," he told energized crowds as he stood in front of shuttered manufacturing plants in Ohio's blue-collar belt.

Now we find out that the make America great again claim was just as bogus as the other claims, everything from building a wall paid for by Mexico to bringing China to its knees over trade.

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GM is worried about the future of America's economy, and having a reckless leader at the helm doesn't offer much reassurance. The ill-advised tariffs, a gambit Trump claimed would have trading partners bowing to us, are costing GM and other auto companies big time, just as they're hurting farmers here in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Midwest.

That euphoric run by the stock market last year has given way to second thoughts among investors this year. Many can see that if things don't change, the future really isn't all that bright.

You can't make a country great by insulting neighbors, belittling longtime allies, lying about every mundane statistic, and refusing to acknowledge that other ideas ought to at least get consideration.

Great countries have great leaders — and problem is, we don't have one.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.