Maverick Budgeting

If you try to sit down and make sense of John McCain’s tax and budget proposals, you’ll find that they don’t make any sense. There are assertions that certain kinds of cuts could save way more money than is in fact there, you’ll find budget figures that count on eliminating all U.S. aid to Israel, inconsistent projections, goofy talk about balancing the budget by achieving “victory” in Iraq, etc. But everyone in the press “knows” that John McCain is responsible, so he doesn’t get asked about this stuff. But Sarah Palin’s not in the club, so Charlie Gibson asks her some basic questions about the budget and it turns out that there’s no there there. But this has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with policies outlined by McCain before Palin joined the ticket:

GIBSON: So let me break some of those down. You talk about spending. How much smaller would a McCain budget be? Where would you cut?

PALIN: We’re going to find efficiencies in every department. We have got to. There are some things that I think should be off the table. Veterans’ programs, off the table. You know, we owe it to our veterans and that’s the greatest manifestation that we can show in terms of support for our military, those who are in public service fighting for America. It’s to make sure that our veterans are taken care of and the promises that we’ve made to them are fulfilled.

GIBSON: So you’d take military off the table, the veterans’ benefits. That’s 20 percent of the budget. &Do; you talk about entitlement reform? Is there money you can save in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?


PALIN: I am sure that there are efficiencies that are going to be found in all of these agencies. I’m confident in that.

GIBSON: The agencies are not involved in entitlements. Basically, discretionary spending is 18 percent of the budget.

PALIN: We have certainly seen excess in agencies, though, and in — when bureaucrats, when bureaucracy just gets kind of comfortable, going with the status-quo and not being challenged to find efficiencies and spend other people’s money wisely, then that’s where we get into the situation that we are into today, and that is a tremendous growth of government, a huge debt, trillions of dollars of debt that we’re passing on to my kids and your kids and your grandkids … It’s unacceptable.

I suppose in practice a McCain administration’s budgets would just look like George W. Bush’s budgets or Ronald Reagan’s budgets — tax cuts and huge deficits. But it is telling that the woman John McCain chose as his running mate doesn’t seem to understand what “entitlements” are. Clearly, just as most citizens don’t know what the Bush Doctrine is, most people probably aren’t all that familiar with the meaning of the entitlement/discretionary distinction in federal budgeting. But it’s a big deal for people who actually pay attention to political and policy issues in the United States. I wonder if McCain chatted with Palin at all about her views on entitlement reform before adding her to the ticket?