Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) frequently faults “wasteful spending” and “earmarks” as contributing to the current economic crisis, and has campaigned on a promise to take a “hatchet” to the federal budget and to impose a spending freeze on all non-essential government spending. However, the Wall Street Journal reports that, in an effort to court Florida voters, McCain has now pledged to increase funding for NASA, a major employer in the state:
During a visit to Florida last week, Sen. McCain said he, too, favors an additional $2 billion in spending. Asked by a local TV station, News 13, about his broader pledge to freeze spending and whether that would affect NASA’s budget, he said: “Of course not, of course not. It means we’re going to move money around….Space is vital.”
A McCain spokesman, Tucker Bounds, said on Wednesday that Sen. McCain’s NASA initiative would be exempt from the promised budget freeze.
NASA is the latest program to be added to the McCain campaign’s growing list of exemptions to his supposedly frozen budget:
— “Defense, Veterans Care, Social Security and Health Care”: “I will freeze government spending on all but the most important programs like defense, veterans care, Social Security and health care.” [McCain speech, 10/13/08]
— “Science”: The McCain budget plan includes “a specific carve-out for spending on science.” “You’ll definitely see, under John McCain, more spending on research.” [Senior Policy Adviser Ike Brannon, 10/14/08]
— “Worker Retraining”: “We have to impose a spending freeze to cover all but the most vital functions of government, like worker retraining.” [Palin, 10/13/08]
— “Several Other Issues”: “I think we ought to seriously consider [a spending freeze] with the exceptions the caring of veterans, national defense, and several other vital issues.” [McCain, 9/26/08]
A spending freeze that exempts health care, military and veterans programs, and entitlement spending has very little left to freeze, as illustrated by this chart showing the breakdown of the federal budget from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:
Backing off from a reckless and ill conceived promise is not new to McCain. When it was pointed out that his war against earmarks could eliminate funding for Israel and military housing, he immediately back-peddled, saying he just objected to the “process,” not the actual earmarks. When pressed, he couldn’t even identify a single earmark he would actually cut.