McCain Accountability Sighting!

by dday

The New York Times went ahead and, in contravention of all journalistic conventions, particularly with respect to Republicans, actually tried to analyze John McCain's budget proposal - and ended up taking a side!

The package of spending and tax cuts proposed by Senator John McCain is unlikely to achieve his goal of balancing the federal budget by 2013, economists and fiscal experts said Monday.

“It would be very difficult to achieve in the best of circumstances, and even more difficult under the policies that Senator McCain has proposed,” said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group [...]

Mr. McCain proposed a one-year freeze in most domestic spending subject to annual appropriations, “to allow for a comprehensive review.” This proposal would affect education, scientific research, law enforcement and scores of other programs.

Mr. Bush’s battles with Congress suggest it would be extremely difficult for Mr. McCain to win approval for such a freeze.

Mr. McCain said he was counting on “rapid economic growth” to help reduce the deficit. While a growing economy generates additional revenue, several of Mr. McCain’s tax proposals would be costly, experts said [...]

He would “phase out and eliminate” a provision of the tax code known as the alternative minimum tax, which has ensnared a growing number of middle-class Americans in recent years.

By his own account, repealing this tax “will save middle-class families nearly $60 billion in a single year.” That is $60 billion that would presumably not be available to the Treasury.

Mr. McCain also wants to extend many of the Bush tax cuts, scheduled to expire by Jan. 1, 2011. That could reduce tax collections below the levels assumed under current law, and it could widen the deficit, many economists said.

In January, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that extending the Bush tax cuts would cost more than $700 billion in the next five years.

Now that's some straight talk right there. So much, in fact, that McCain's economic advisers had to back off the promise to balance the budget by the end of the first term - now pushing it back to the end of the second term. It's yet another in the string of eleventy billion flip-flops he's produced over the course of this campaign. Here's some of them on economic policy alone:

Economic Policy

31. McCain was against Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy before he was for them.

32. John McCain initially argued that economics is not an area of expertise for him, saying, “I’m going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues; I still need to be educated,” and “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.” He now falsely denies ever having made these remarks and insists that he has a “very strong” understanding of economics.

33. McCain vowed, if elected, to balance the federal budget by the end of his first term. Soon after, he decided he would no longer even try to reach that goal. And soon after that, McCain abandoned his second position and went back to his first.

34. McCain said in 2005 that he opposed the tax cuts because they were “too tilted to the wealthy.” By 2007, he denied ever having said this, and falsely argued that he opposed the cuts because of increased government spending.

35. McCain thought the estate tax was perfectly fair. Now he believes the opposite.

36. McCain pledged in February 2008 that he would not, under any circumstances, raise taxes. Specifically, McCain was asked if he is a “‘read my lips’ candidate, no new taxes, no matter what?” referring to George H.W. Bush’s 1988 pledge. “No new taxes,” McCain responded. Two weeks later, McCain said, “I’m not making a ‘read my lips’ statement, in that I will not raise taxes.”

37. McCain has changed his entire economic worldview on multiple occasions.

38. McCain believes Americans are both better and worse off economically than they were before Bush took office.

(By the way, Steve Benen's McCain flip-flop history is something of a seminal document that will help researchers and journalists far into the future if they'd take a look)

Today McCain said that he imagined the US was in a recession while proposing the same set of failed conservative policies that got us there in the first place. He also chided Congress for taking a Fourth of July holiday without moving on a housing bill despite the fact that he hasn't voted since April. The man is not only incoherent on the economy, but pretty much his entire campaign.

And it's good that one corner of the media managed to notice. Now, there is a political law of conservation of mass and energy, and for every critical McCain article on the economy there must be something similar about Obama as well - or probably times ten, as every Democrat is always grilled on how he or she will pay for their policies. Of course, as Kevin Drum notes, Obama's plan actually does approach adding up fully, certainly more than any other over-promising politician, but in the media's mind Obama being of by a dollar will equal McCain being off by ten trillion, and the pundits will excoriate both - while always reminding everyone that McCain is a hero who served his country honorably and a fiscal conservative besides.