John McCain’s balanced budget plan relies on steep cuts to U.S. spending in Iraq, according to a memorandum written by economic policy advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin and published in the Washington Post today. The plan calls for $150 billion in savings in 2013, which is only possible with the kind of timed mass withdrawal from Iraq he has criticized.
Here is what the plan says:
“Balance the budget requires slowing outlay growth to 2.4 percent. The roughly $470 billion dollars (by 2013) in slower spending growth come from reduced deployments abroad ($150 billion; consistent with success in Iraq/Afghanistan that permits deployments to be cut by half — hopefully more) …”
Whatever McCain says about cutting deployments in half, achieving $150 billion in savings would require a massive withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
First, U.S. spending in Iraq and Afghanistan totaled $171 billion in 2007, according to the Congressional Budget Office – and that includes money for Iraqi security forces, foreign aid, and veterans benefits. If current policies continue – and spending grows with inflation – the war might cost $200 billion in 2013. Cutting the cost by three-quarters, especially when other costs (like veterans benefits and foreign aid) will remain, would require a sharp, perhaps nearly complete withdrawal of troops.
The numbers from CBO look even worse. According to CBO, rapidly reducing the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 30,000 would save only $55 billion in 2013. So CBO is saying that a much bigger troop reduction than McCain wants would save barely a third as much money as McCain claims.
Finally, Obama’s own, more aggressive plan to withdraw forces from Iraq will save only $90 billion a year, according to his campaign.
McCain has previously said that an Iraq withdrawal timetable would mean “disaster” and “chaos, genocide.” But his own budget documents contain a plan not merely for withdrawal, but for mass withdrawal.