Yesterday, ThinkProgress noted that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) plan to abolish earmarks from the federal budget would result in the elimination of U.S. funding assistance to Israel. McCain’s presidential campaign responded to the finding by saying that, as president, McCain would “ensure America remains committed to the security of Israel, including maintaining America’s assistance levels.”
But the campaign’s response is indicative of the wider problem with McCain’s earmark elimination proposal: It’s all bark and no bite. McCain seems to be more interested in the political rhetoric his plan generates rather than understanding what it actually does.
He repeatedly boasts that it will save up to $60-65 billion:
— “We could eliminate $35 billion in the last two years that the president put in earmark projects. You can eliminate the $60 billion that are already in there.” [4/15/08 CNBC]
— “I can show you $35 billion just in the last two years of pork barrel projects that should be eliminated that would certainly help pay for a lot of that. And $65 billion that’s already on the books.” [4/16/08 MSNBC]
While McCain does not identify the $65 billion in earmarks he would cut, his campaign has cited the Congressional Research Service analysis of earmark spending as the basis for his plan because it offers the biggest amount of earmarks — up to $52 billion.
McCain has already made an exception for the $3 billion in foreign aid to Israel that is cited by the CRS. But he apparently is still willing to cut the rest of the earmarks in the CRS report. According to an analysis by Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lilly, that CRS report includes assistance to Egypt, Jordan, and Haiti as an earmark. Moreover, it includes funding for military family housing:
The Congressional Research Service analysis counts not only the [military] family housing units added by Congress as earmarks but also those requested by the Pentagon and the White House.
CRS identified $6.6 billion in spending in the 2005 Military Construction Appropriation bill associated with earmarks. This included 205 units at Fort Huachuca at a cost of $41 million and 250 units at Davis-Monthan Air Base at a cost $48.5 million—both in McCain’s home state of Arizona.
So is McCain willing to cut military housing to pay for his corporate tax cuts?
At best, this question shows the shallow and sloppy work that went into the preparation of McCain’s economic plan. At worst, it illustrates an approach to government in which the facts don’t matter.