Aug 21, 2019

Trump, the promise-maker

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of President Trump's under-appreciated re-election assets is something all politicians promise but few do: He has largely done precisely what he promised his base he would do.

Why it matters: In our travels around the country, when we push people on why they're sticking with Trump, this is the #1 reason they cite.

Love him or hate him, Trump fixates on turning campaign promises into reality— or at least making the case that he tried:

  • Conservative Supreme Court justice? Check and double-check.
  • Tax cuts? Check, although they were heavily weighted toward corporations rather than the middle class.
  • Gut regulations, especially from the Obama era? Check.
  • Crack down on immigration? Even this is a check, despite his failure to build a wall. 
  • Tariffs on China? Check.
  • Declaring China a currency manipulator? Check.
  • Withdrawing from Paris climate agreement? Check.
  • Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal? Check.
  • Withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the giant Pacific Rim trade deal? Check.
  • Renegotiating NAFTA? Check. (Pending congressional approval.)

Then there are the huge promises Trump hasn't kept:

  • He promised in a 2016 interview, with the WashPost's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, to wipe out the national debt in eight years. Instead, he’s increased the deficit and inflated the debt by trillions.
  • He promised to build "a great wall," but inflates the mileage he claims by mixing replacement projects with new construction.
  • He promised Mexico would pay, but of course it hasn't.
  • He promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and give amazing health care to everyone. Failed on both scores.
  • He promised to reverse trade deficits. Instead, the U.S. trade deficit with Europe has grown.
  • Trump, who yesterday called Afghanistan "the Harvard University of terrorism," had pushed to end America's longest war. But he hasn't withdrawn all U.S. troops, and said: "[W]e’ll always have somebody there."
  • Other areas where reality has fallen short: infrastructure ("We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways all across our land") and ending the opioid crisis.
  • Perhaps Trump's most absurd broken promise: to drain the swamp. Instead, he brought us Scott Pruitt and friends.

What's next: Watch for Trump to argue that unfulfilled promises are the fault of others.

Go deeper: Trump's shaky policy legacy

Go deeper

Despite promises, Trump's trade deficits are only growing

Data: U.S. Dept. of Commerce; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

President Trump's trade war has led to even bigger trade deficits with China, even though it was intended to improve the trade balance. But it's not just China — the deficit has increased with most of our other major trade partners, too.

Why it matters: While economists agree that trade deficits aren't a good way to measure a trade relationship, they are the metric Trump fixates on, made campaign promises about and uses to evaluate relationships with other countries.

Federal budget deficit tops $1 trillion: CBO

Photo: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


The federal deficit exceeded $1 trillion in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2019, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in a report published Monday.

The big picture: The deficit is $168 billion more than for the same period in the previous fiscal year. The growing deficit has been driven by mandatory spending in areas including Social Security and Medicare, President Trump's tax cuts, and bipartisan agreements to increase spending in areas such as defense — which contributed toward overall federal government spending increasing 7%.

Go deeperArrowSep 10, 2019

U.S. budget deficit set to hit $1 trillion 2 years earlier than expected

Photo: Rarrarorro/Getty Images

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office shows that the U.S. budget deficit is expected to breach $1 trillion by 2020, two years earlier than previously projected.

The big picture: The growing deficit has been driven by President Trump's tax cuts, increased government spending and rising health care costs. The shortfall is expected to be widened by the recent budget deal reached by Trump and Congress to lift spending caps by $320 billion, as well as the emergency spending package that Congress passed to help manage the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Washington Post reports.

Go deeperArrowAug 21, 2019