Douglas Holtz-Eakin’s Battle With Fuzzy Math

Our guest blogger is Robert Gordon, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Ezra Klein captures some of the magic of Douglas Holtz-Eakin’s presentation today. One more funny number: Holtz-Eakin said that earmarks, or spending connected with earmarks, cost $60 billion per year. That’s more than three times the figure for earmarks cited by the Wall Street Journal and the anti-earmarkers at Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Holtz-Eakin also showed little patience with an Americans for Tax Reform (Norquist’s outfit) staffer who complained that replacing a tax break with a refundable tax credit by definition amounts to a tax increase. On this narrow point, Holtz-Eakin has it right. This is the kind of accounting game that conservatives have long used to derail rational budget proposals. What matters is how McCain’s health plan changes people’s lives. And without resorting to accounting games, it has problems enough.