As has so often been noted, a lot of this would fall hardest on many who voted for him. It may be unlikely that, for example, big Social Security cuts will get through the Senate. But it’s far from impossible.
The administration’s promise not to cut taxes had thus been reduced to meaninglessness. It was a mere preference, or at least a putative preference. But Trump has deferred all agency to Congress, which is free to pass a bill opposite his stated position, and Trump would sign it. Congress is apparently a gigantic loophole in every Trump campaign stance. Trump has neither an affirmative role nor a negative role in shaping laws passed by Congress. Congress can write a law as it wishes, and Trump may sign it into law even if it violates his “principles.”
By that standard, Mnuchin’s concession on Social Security is significant indeed. He has acknowledged Congress has the “prerogative” to write and pass a bill cutting Social Security. His opposition is essentially technical.
This is not the only populist economic stance Trump has abandoned. In his speech announcing his candidacy, Trump said he would “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.” He has already endorsed plans to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid. (The fact that Trump supports ending the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare means that his promise not to cut Medicaid from levels that existed before Obamacare is also moot, his budget director recently explained.) The administration has proposed deep cuts to SSDI, explaining that the disability-insurance portion of Social Security doesn’t count. His plan for a trillion dollars in federal infrastructure spending became a plan to cut federal spending on infrastructure while spreading around some tax breaks for builders. His promise for generous universal health insurance has gone by the wayside. In almost every respect, Trump has conformed to orthodox right-wing domestic policy.
(New York Magazine)