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Trump’s Fiscal Follies

CAMBRIDGE – This year’s presidential election campaign in the United States is certainly unique. Donald Trump has shaken up the way a campaign is run, how a nominee communicates with voters, and the Republican Party’s platform, with many of his positions deviating from GOP tradition. But, on tax policy, Trump has toed the party line – and that’s not a good thing.

Of course, any assessment of Trump’s declared positions risks being rendered meaningless within a few hours. He changes his positions with head-spinning frequency, repeatedly disavowing statements soon after making them. After two days of insisting, absurdly, that President Barack Obama “founded” the Islamic State, he finally tried to play the whole thing off as mere sarcasm.

Even for a more typical candidate, promises made during a campaign rarely match actions taken once in office. During his presidential campaign in 2000, George W. Bush promised to renounce nation-building adventures abroad, to maintain fiscal discipline, and to treat greenhouses gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Once in office, he did precisely the opposite.

Nonetheless, we cannot simply ignore candidates’ policy promises. Otherwise, the national discussion would focus entirely on the current week’s poll results, which is not particularly valuable for helping voters make informed decisions.