Wash. Post claimed McCain "most aggressive" of the three major candidates in "identifying ways to reduce spending," ignoring cost of Iraq policy

››› ››› KIRSTIN ELLISON

A Washington Post article claimed that "[o]f the three candidates, budget analysts said [Sen. John] McCain has been most aggressive at identifying ways to reduce spending." While the article noted that "McCain's proposals come nowhere near generating the sums necessary to meet the costs," it did not note that, in addition to his proposals to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, those "costs" include the war in Iraq, for which, unlike Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, McCain does not support a timetable for withdrawal.

A March 28 Washington Post article, headlined "As Candidates Warm to Bush Tax Cuts, Economists Warn of Long-Term Effects," claimed that "[o]f the three candidates, budget analysts said [Sen. John] McCain has been most aggressive at identifying ways to reduce spending" and quoted McCain's senior economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin as saying, "We have to cut spending everywhere." But though the article, by staff writer Lori Montgomery, reported that "McCain's proposals come nowhere near generating the sums necessary to meet the costs," it did not note that, in addition to his proposals to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent, those "costs" include the war in Iraq. In contrast to Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, McCain does not support a timetable to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. Indeed, on his campaign website, McCain states: "Ultimately, Iraq's future lies in the hands of its people, government, and armed forces, and strengthening them is an essential requirement for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq. Until Iraqi forces are ready, however, a precipitous U.S. withdrawal would condemn Iraq to civil war and intervention by its neighbors and energize al Qaeda and other jihadists across the globe."

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."

Montgomery provided no details on how McCain has "identif[ied] ways to reduce spending" or specific budget cuts he is proposing to offset the costs of his tax and Iraq policies.

From Montgomery's March 28 Washington Post article:

Because the tax cuts were projected to yield giant budget deficits, they were written to expire in 2010. Bush and other Republicans, including McCain, want to make them permanent, arguing that the specter of higher taxes in 2011 is adding uncertainty to and weakening today's economy. That move that would deprive the treasury of $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Democrats, including Clinton and Obama, have said they want to keep the social-relief provisions, as well as income tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 a year, to help strengthen the middle class. By taking tax cuts away from the rich, the candidates suggest that they will generate cash that could be spent elsewhere.

But that is not technically true. The middle-class tax cuts also reduce revenue -- by about $800 billion over the next decade, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.

"They said President Bush was fiscally irresponsible for enacting the tax cuts, but on balance, they would increase the deficit by just as much," said Len Burman, the center's director. "All of the campaigns understand that, but they've collectively decided they can't recognize the reality that we're spending beyond our means."

Of the three candidates, budget analysts said McCain has been most aggressive at identifying ways to reduce spending. "We have to cut spending everywhere," said McCain's top economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin. But McCain's proposals come nowhere near generating the sums necessary to meet the costs, analysts said.

Out of curiosity, [former Bush administration economist Alan] Viard asked a research assistant to put together a list of spending cuts and revenue hikes to cover the cost of making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Her findings? For starters, the government would have to slash benefits for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid recipients.

"Any such package is political death," Viard said. "Not to put too fine a point on it."

Posted In
Economy, Elections, National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Lori Montgomery
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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