A new analysis from the non-partisan New America Foundation’s U.S. Budget Watch should be read cautiously because it uncritically accepts many of John McCain campaign’s most egregious budget distortions.
Matthew Yglesias has already called out the $159 billion in “unspecified budget cuts” which the group allows McCain to claim. The Washington Post called these empty promises to slash spending McCain’s “voodoo economics, based more on wishful thinking than on hard data or carefully considered policy proposals.”
But that’s not the end of it.
U.S. Budget Watch also accepts that, in 2013:
—McCain’s tax cuts are as his adviser’s describe them, not how McCain describes them: An earlier study from the Tax Policy Center found a $2.8 trillion gap between McCain’s proposals as he describes them on the stump, and what his advisers tell analysts in private. In 2013, his plan as his stump speech would suggest costs $260 billion more than the plan as detailed by his advisers.
—McCain’s ‘high risk pools’ will only cost $8 billion: McCain’s campaign insist they will put money towards “high risk pools” to cover people with chronic conditions left out of McCain’s health care plan. Douglas Holtz-Eakin says the campaign might even spend $20 billion to fill the hole, but the Tax Policy Center says it would take at least $100 billion to adequately cover everyone who would need coverage.
—McCain will cut $35 billion in earmarks: Even the conservative Heritage Foundation acknowledges that there are only about $9 billion in earmarks that could be eliminated. Even John McCain acknowledges that if the process of earmarking were eliminated, many of the same programs would still be funded, only from other parts of the budget.
—McCain’s alternative tax system will be revenue neutral: U.S. Budget Watch does acknowledges that it’s possible that “because most taxpayers will choose the system in which they pay lower taxes, significant revenue would be lost.” What they don’t mention is that the Tax Policy Center has estimated the annual cost of such a system: $115 billion in 2013. (Note: This $115 billion is included in McCain’s “rhetoric gap” described above.)
These low-ball cost estimates for McCain’s tax-cuts and spending proposals suggest that even the $159 billion in “unspecified budget cuts” that McCain needs to balance the budget is far, far too optimistic. The real cuts needed would be much more devastating.
As the Tax Policy Center says, “the promises Senator McCain makes (or implies) in his speeches could not be sustained without a radical and unprecedented downsizing of government.”