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Monday, June 02, 2008


Jon Chait says there's no difference between the economic policies of George Bush and those proposed by John McCain:

The Illusionist: Watch John McCain saw the budget in half!, by Jonathan Chait, The New Republic: If you accuse John McCain of agreeing with George W. Bush on economics, he'll come back at you with the one big issue where he and Bush disagree: spending. ... This, McCain says, is a "fundamental" difference between him and Bush.

But you know who else disagrees with George W. Bush on spending? George W. Bush. The president has been lamenting excessive spending for years now. Bush's line is the same as McCain's: The tax cuts are swell, but "[t]hat's just one part of the equation. We've got to cut out wasteful spending."

Actually, McCain is following the pattern of not just Bush but every Republican president since Ronald Reagan. ... One of the tropes ... is railing against the evils of pork-barrel spending. President Bush's position is that earmarks are really bad. ... McCain's position is that earmarks are really, really bad. ...

Another trope is the embrace of the line-item veto as panacea. ... McCain vows, "I will seek a constitutionally valid line-item veto to end the practice [of earmarking] once and for all." ... Doug Holtz-Eakin studied state budgets over ... 28 years...[and] concluded that "...the line-item veto fails to cut spending." Apparently Holtz-Eakin has failed to share these findings with McCain, whom he serves as chief economics adviser.

McCain's crusade against domestic spending is a wild misdiagnosis of the problem. Most conservatives believe their main error has been to deviate from the true small-government faith, and McCain has embraced the narrative. ...

In fact, the growth of government under Bush is mostly due to higher spending on defense and homeland security... Domestic discretionary spending (that is, programs other than entitlements) has fallen as a share of GDP...

McCain is promising to cut taxes by $300 billion per year on top of the Bush tax cuts, which he would make permanent. In addition to this, he promises to balance the budget in his first term. When asked how he could possibly pull this off, McCain has asserted that he could eliminate all earmark spending, saving $100 billion per year. ...

By conventional measures, earmarks only account for $18 billion per year. ... And McCain surely won't eliminate even that. ...

Indeed, The Washington Post recently did a ... story on the bear DNA project that McCain has made the butt of so many jokes. ("Three million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. Unbelievable," scoffs one McCain ad.) The Post found that the project ... has a sound scientific basis. When contacted..., McCain's campaign gave a familiar reply: "Senator McCain does not question the merits of these projects; it's the process that he has a problem with." If McCain won't even commit to zeroing out his single favorite example of government waste, it's not clear that he'll save any money at all.

During the GOP primary, McCain presented his economic program as a more ideologically pure version of Bushism. Now he puts the same thing forward as a new synthesis. "It will not be enough," he says, "to simply dust off the economic policies of four, eight or twenty-eight years ago." Right; those other presidents had huge tax cuts for the rich combined with unspecified spending cuts. McCain's plan has those things and a joke about bear DNA. How heterodox!

    Posted by on Monday, June 2, 2008 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (4)


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