This is not what Trump told voters he would do during the 2016 campaign — and even as recently as last year, when the White House claimed (based upon questionable math) his previous budget proposal would have eventually balanced the budget if enacted. At times Trump has even said he would not only get rid of the deficit, but he would somehow wipe out what was then nearly $20 trillion worth of the national debt.
The latter proposal was never serious, but balancing the budget (i.e. getting to a situation in which the government takes in as much money as it spends for a full year) is something that has been Republican orthodoxy for some time. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has even proposed budgets he said would eventually balance the country's ledgers through steep cuts.
So the fact that President Trump is throwing in the towel on balancing the budget is notable. Republicans have the power to balance the budget now, and they are not even trying — despite this having been a rallying cry for their party and the tea party movement for years.
What is most remarkable about this broken promise is Congress in all likelihood will not even try to pass Trump's budget. So he could basically propose anything he wanted. Apparently $1 trillion in tax cuts and $500 billion in new spending in Congress's bipartisan deal last week have made it too difficult to even stretch the numbers in a document that is almost purely hypothetical.
Below are examples of what Trump has said about balancing the budget:
“We will balance the budget without making cuts in Social Security and Medicare.” — his weekly address on May 26, 2017
This is from four months into his presidency, and Trump still seemed to see a balanced budget as the goal.
Trump's previous budget aimed to eliminate 62 federal agencies. Getting rid of them has proved . . . a challenge.
“If we don't take back our money and if we don't, you know, balance up our budget — at least get it damn close and soon — we're not going to have a nation anymore.” — to Infowars on Dec. 2, 2015
Trump's new budget does not seem to get “damn close” to balancing the budget, nor does it happen soon. There is no word on whether this means the United States will cease to exist.
“It can be done. . . . It will take place, and it will go relatively quickly . . . . If you have the right people, like, in the agencies and the various people that do the balancing . . . you can cut the numbers by two pennies and three pennies and balance a budget quickly and have a stronger and better country.” — to Sean Hannity on Feb. 22 and April 4, 2016
Again, Trump seemed to underestimate the deep cuts needed to balance the budget. He routinely suggested it was about “waste, fraud and abuse,” but he apparently has not been able to find enough waste, fraud and abuse.
Trump said he would get rid of the national debt (which was $19 trillion at the time and is now $20.6 trillion), “over a period of eight years.” — Washington Post interview April 2, 2016
Again, this was never an attainable goal. It would have required cutting more than half of the federal budget every single year, saving more than $2 trillion annually, which you cannot practically do without severe entitlement cuts (and probably a popular uprising against the government).
“We can balance the budget very quickly . . . I think over a five-year period. And I don't know, maybe I could even surprise you.” — to Sean Hannity on Jan. 21, 2016
It turns out the surprise is it will never happen on Trump's watch.