Trump can’t keep up with all his promises — and neither can the US budget

President Donald Trump’s new administration culminates a role reversal. Just as changing attitudes have altered sex roles in society, so have the parties scrambled the roles of budgetary indulgence and discipline. Democratic leaders since the Clinton era have worked to match ends with means. Republicans — and most conspicuously Trump — have practiced profligacy in word and deed. With modern conservatism ruling out tax increases, making expensive promises add up has slipped lower on their priority list. Each of the last three Republican presidents left office with higher deficits than he started with. President Bill Clinton saw a deficit turn into surplus, while President Barack Obama saw it fall by two-thirds as a share of the economy. The Republican nominee called for an infrastructure plan nearly four times as large as Clinton’s, as well as higher military spending. He promised a massive tax cut, while insisting he would not touch the giant entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. On health care, he promised universal coverage with lower premiums and smaller deductibles. Trump’s promise-everything approach left him resembling Lucy in that episode — grabbing chocolates from a speeding assembly line and stuffing them in her mouth and blouse. “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” But Trump couldn’t keep up with all those promises any better than Lucy could pocket all those chocolates. Which promises Trump eventually keeps will determine whether the rest of his agenda makes deficits go up. Wall Street bets it will, assuming new tax cuts and spending will stimulate growth. The leader of the House Freedom Caucus, which touts its opposition to deficits, says some more red ink for tax cuts might be OK. That would fit the behavior of real-life mommies and daddies. Research by Experian has found that men, on average, have higher debt, more late payments and lower credit scores than women. Society has noticed. In 2014, researchers at William Paterson University found one gender stereotype had significantly eased since a corresponding 1983 study — the one that singled out men as handling finances.