Apparently the McCain campaign is feeling the sting of comparisons to George Bush. McCain describes himself as the strongest support of the war in Iraq. His answer to $4.00 gasoline is to cut oil company taxes by $4 billion a year. And McCain has embraced a Bush proposal to radically change our health care system. (These and other similarities are described in a memorandum released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.)
Swimming upstream, McCain policy advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin now argues that it is Senator Obama – not McCain – who wants to continue Bush’s fiscal policies. Obama’s budget “is dedicated to the recent Bush tradition of spending money on everything,” he said.
This is exactly backwards. Consider:
— Like Bush, McCain has proposed massive tax cuts that primarily benefit high-income households. McCain’s $300 billion a year in tax cuts – over and above the cost of extending the Bush tax cuts when they expire in 2010 – would essentially double the size of the Bush tax cuts and make them even more regressive.
— Like Bush, McCain’s massive tax cuts and spending on security leaves little for other priorities. Over the past eight years, other types of discretionary spending have remained essentially unchanged after inflation and population growth. McCain would continue the pattern of putting huge tax cuts and defense spending ahead of other needs, like preschool and renewable energy.
— Like Bush, McCain rails against wasteful spending in the abstract but fails to target any actual programs. His promises to eliminate earmarks and freeze spending could save $30 billion a year or even less. That leaves him short the quite noticeable sum of $270 billion a year. (Holtz-Eakin told Bloomberg that McCain has a secret plan to balance the budget, but he hasn’t shared it with the Concord Coalition — or those of us at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, for that matter.)
— Like Bush, McCain is likely to drive up the national debt by trillions of dollars. Bush took a debt of $3.4 trillion – and headed down – up to $5.4 trillion. McCain’s budget plan would drive the deficit to $12.7 trillion.
Obama also has expensive proposals, such as his health care coverage plan and middle-class tax cuts. But he is clear where the money is coming from: higher taxes on high-income families, ending the war in Iraq, selling the right to emit greenhouse gases, and cutting subsidies to oil and gas companies, health insurers, drug companies, and the student loan industry.
That’s why the Wall Street Journal concluded that Barack Obama’s budget “adds up, probably.” But McCain’s plan, it concluded, “would either cause the federal deficit to explode or would require unprecedented spending cuts.”