Ignoring his costly policies on taxes and Iraq, AP called McCain a "deficit hawk"

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

An Associated Press article described Sen. John McCain as a "deficit hawk" but provided no support for that characterization. While the article mentioned that McCain has called for making permanent President Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, it did not note the absence of budget offsets to pay for them. Further, McCain repeatedly voted in favor of emergency supplemental spending bills for the Iraq war that exacerbated the deficit.

In a February 15 Associated Press article, reporter Liz Sidoti described Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as "[a] deficit hawk." Sidoti provided no support for the label. While she did report that McCain has called for making permanent the tax cuts President Bush called for in 2001 and 2003, she did not note the absence of budget offsets to pay for them. Additionally, Sidoti failed to report that McCain repeatedly voted for or supported emergency supplemental spending bills for the Iraq war, which appropriated funds outside of the normal budgeting process and exacerbated the deficit.

Taxes

McCain asserts on his website that as president, he would "make the Bush income and investment tax cuts permanent" and "permanently repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)." According to a February 1 analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), based on Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office estimates, making permanent the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, as well as repealing the AMT, would have a "direct cost" of $3.6 trillion over 10 years and come to an average of $400 billion in annual cost. CBPP also asserted that "[w]ithout offsets, making the tax cuts permanent would increase the deficit and thereby add to the national debt. The interest payments needed to service this higher level of debt would amount to about $700 billion over the next ten years."

After opposing Bush's tax cuts in 2001, McCain voted against legislation in 2003 to accelerate the tax reductions enacted in the 2001 bill and to cut taxes on dividends and capital gains. In 2006, however, he voted for the bill extending some of the 2003 tax cuts, saying during the April 2, 2006, broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press that he changed his position because: "I do not believe in tax increases. ... The tax cuts are now there and voting to revoke them would have been to -- not to extend them would have meant a tax increase." Now McCain claims on the campaign trail that he initially opposed the Bush tax cuts because they were not accompanied by offsetting spending cuts -- but the absence of offsets did not prevent him from voting for the tax cut extensions in 2006. Further, McCain frequently touts his tax policies without mentioning such offsets.

Iraq

While in 2005 McCain voted for an amendment to express the sense of the Senate that "funds for a fiscal year after fiscal year 2006 for an ongoing military operation overseas, including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, should be included in the annual budget," McCain supported emergency supplemental spending bills for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in fiscal years 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003. In its 2006 report, the Iraq Study Group criticized this budget procedure, asserting that it "erodes budget discipline and accountability":

The public interest is not well served by the government's preparation, presentation, and review of the budget for the war in Iraq.

First, most of the costs of the war show up not in the normal budget request but in requests for emergency supplemental appropriations. This means that funding requests are drawn up outside the normal budget process, are not offset by budgetary reductions elsewhere, and move quickly to the White House with minimal scrutiny. Bypassing the normal review erodes budget discipline and accountability.

In addition, in 2003, McCain voted to table an amendment that would have provided "funds for the security and stabilization of Iraq by suspending a portion of the reductions in the highest income tax rate for individual taxpayers."

According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis detailed by director Peter Orszag during his October 24, 2007, testimony before the House Committee on the Budget, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is projected at $1.055 trillion for 2008-2017. The projections are based on a scenario in which "the number of personnel deployed to Iraq and other locations associated with the war on terrorism would decline ... from an average of about 200,000 in fiscal year 2008 to 75,000 by the start of fiscal year 2013 and then remain at that level through 2017." Orszag also asserted that the wars would cost $570 billion through 2017 if "the number of personnel deployed on the ground for the war on terrorism would be reduced from an average of about 200,000 in fiscal year 2008 to 30,000 by the beginning of fiscal year 2010 and then remain at that level through 2017." The CBO analysis included the cost of "military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other activities associated with the war on terrorism, as well as for related costs incurred by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for medical care, disability compensation, and survivors' benefits."

From the AP article:

A deficit hawk, McCain also berated [Sen. Barack] Obama [D-IL] and [Sen. Hillary Rodham] Clinton [D-NY] for directing federal money toward pet projects in their home states, a practice known as earmarking.

He said Clinton had received some $340 million worth of earmarks for New York, while Obama sent home $90 million to Illinois. McCain also castigated Obama for failing to disclose details about his earmarks.

"Is that transparency in government? I don't think so," McCain said. "Examine my record on earmark and pork-barrel projects and you will see a big fat zero."

[...]

Obama, in turn, has lumped McCain in with Bush by referring to "Bush-McCain Republicans" and arguing that McCain's national security and economic policies are "bound to the failed policies of the past."

At one point, Obama noted that McCain twice opposed Bush's tax cuts but now supports making them permanent and said: "Somewhere along the line he traded those principles for his party's nomination and now he is for those tax cuts."

Posted In
Economy, Budget, Taxes, National Security & Foreign Policy, Defense Funding, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Associated Press
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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