"I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid," Donald Trump declared in 2015. "Every other Republican's going to cut, and even if they wouldn't, they don't know what to do because they don't know where the money is. I do. I do."
It became a staple of his entire national candidacy: no matter what, Americans could count on him to champion these social-insurance programs.
Four years later, the president is, in fact, proposing deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. As the New York Times reported, Trump's newly proposed budget completes the trifecta by targeting Social Security, too.
The administration also proposes spending $26 billion less on Social Security programs, including a $10 billion cut to the Social Security Disability Insurance program.
As we discussed earlier, the problem with a proposal like this one isn't necessarily practical: with a Democratic-led U.S. House, there's simply no way policymakers will endorse the White House's budget blueprint or enact the cuts Trump supports.
Rather, what this represents is a political problem on a variety of fronts. It's obviously, for example, a profound broken promise: as a Republican candidate, Trump swore up and down for months that he'd never try to cut Social Security, but here he is anyway, doing the opposite of what he said he'd do.
It's also a policy failure: a whole lot of us predicted that the president and his allies would go after popular social-insurance programs -- often referred to as "entitlements" -- as a way to help pay for the Republican tax breaks for the wealthy. With his new budget plan, Trump is helping prove the point.
But of particular interest is a period of time known as "last fall."
As regular readers probably recall, as the 2018 midterm elections drew closer, a variety of Republican leaders, cognizant of broad public support for programs like Medicare and Social Security, said it’s GOP officials who really support the programs – reality be damned.
Trump led the way, going so far as to argue just six months ago, “We’re saving Social Security; the Democrats will destroy Social Security. We’re saving Medicare; the Democrats want to destroy Medicare.” The president has pushed the same message at many of his campaign rallies.
Soon after, voters handed Democrats their biggest wins in U.S. House races since the Watergate era -- which, for some reason, the president interpreted as a justification to betray his own assurances to voters.
When House Republicans are invited to vote up or down on the Trump budget, it'll be an interesting test of just how far they're willing to go to align themselves with an unpopular president's unpopular agenda.