“Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
Thus begins President Trump’s manifesto, The Art of the Deal, published three decades before he took office as America’s commander in chief.
We’ve learned something else about Trump since then: Never count on him to hold up his end of a deal. Trump’s 2016 election appeared to be the natural conclusion of American voters hearing for decades that government should be run like a business.
The problem, for all that time, has been that government is not a business. Government does things businesses have no obvious motivation to do — feed and shelter the poor, respond to natural disasters, defend the country and its borders.
The larger problem now is this: How can Congress negotiate a deal — any deal — with a partner as unreliable as Trump?
Trump this week introduced a $4.4 trillion budget for 2019 that is not balanced despite past promises that he would never do that. Trump’s budget is out of whack because it calls for more spending on things like the military and border security while cutting social safety-net programs and also sacrificing revenue to the tax cuts the president successfully pushed last year, expanding the deficit.
Trump has spoken about compromise many times since his election. But like the business partners burned by his past deals, the American people can’t take his word on any of it.