The Los Angeles Times reported that "[Sen. John] McCain has not budged from his insistence that he can balance the budget within four years." But in the article, the Times did not note that McCain's chief economic policy adviser backed off the commitment to balance the budget in four years and that McCain has repeatedly shifted on his time frame for balancing the budget.
In an October 23 article, Los Angeles Times staff writer Stephen Braun reported that Sen. John McCain "has not budged from his insistence that he can balance the budget within four years." However, Braun did not point out that just days earlier McCain's chief economic policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin did "budge," saying, "[t]he events of the past couple months have completely thrown a wrench" into McCain's plan "to balance the budget by the end of his first term," and that "[i]t's going to be harder and take longer." Additionally, the Times again failed to mention that -- as the Times itself has previously reported -- McCain has repeatedly shifted on his time frame for balancing the budget, originally claiming he would balance the budget in four years, then pledging to do so in eight years, before reversing himself again to return to the four-year pledge.
During an October 20 presidential economic advisers forum, Holtz-Eakin said that McCain "has put together a plan which I developed to balance the budget by the end of his first term. The events of the past couple months have completely thrown a wrench into that; there's no way around it. He would still like to balance it. It's going to be harder and take longer."
The next day, during a Council on Foreign Relations roundtable discussion, Holtz-Eakin said the McCain campaign "had hoped to balance it [the budget] by the end of the first term," but that "[i]t's gotten an awful lot harder."
From the video of the October 20 presidential economic advisers forum:
RICHARD CLARIDA (Columbia faculty panelist): Doug, you are an acknowledged expert on the budget -- of course, spent some time with the Congressional Budget Office. I would say that one thing that struck me as unusual about this campaign -- and there are many things that are unusual about the campaign -- is almost the complete lack of discussion about the budget deficit. Does Senator McCain -- would a President McCain -- believe that budget deficits matter? Do they push up interest rates? Do they create issues in international trade, or has the deficit gone away as an issue that the country and the financial markets should be concerned about?
HOLTZ-EAKIN: Senator McCain is a strong believer that we should balance the budget. He's the only candidate in this race that believes that. He has put together a plan which I developed to balance the budget by the end of his first term. The events of the past couple months have completely thrown a wrench into that; there's no way around it. He would still like to balance it. It's going to be harder and take longer. How do you balance the budget? Well, number one, you have to have the economy grow. We've never had sustained efforts at deficit reduction that were successful in the United States without economic growth, so all things that push towards stronger job creation -- not taxing small businesses, not driving jobs out of this country, not an excessive -- you know, things that Austan left out of his health care plan: a mandate that you have to have $12,000 worth of insurance if you're an employer or pay a fine, which they won't specify. They're on record saying you don't need to know that till after the election. You don't go that route. You create jobs in the economy, provide some foundation for this, then you control spending.
And we saw in the late 1990s tremendous efforts at budgetary controls that slowed the growth rate of spending. He thinks we should just go back to that kind of toughness.
From the video of the October 21 roundtable discussion:
FLOYD NORRIS (New York Times columnist): Mr. Holtz-Eakin, earlier in this campaign, when my colleague David Leonhardt was pushing to understand exactly how you proposed to balance the budget, you said that in time the details would become clear and, quote, "It's just June." Well, it's late October now. Are the details clear?
HOLTZ-EAKIN: I'd say the answer to that is no, because we've seen events in the past month that have blown the budget wide open. I mean, the current, you know, 2007-2008 trajectory is very bad, going from a modest deficit to a very large one, and we've got the bailout on the horizon. So, the reality is, John McCain had -- has a commitment to balancing the budget. We had hoped to balance it by the end of the first term. It's gotten an awful lot harder.
From the October 23 Los Angeles Times article:
Obama's chief economic advisor, Jason Furman, was more explicit during a conference call this week. "The top priority would be to avoid a deep recession," he said -- suggesting a strategy that could require costly efforts to jump-start the economy.
McCain has not budged from his insistence that he can balance the budget within four years. The Republican Arizona senator has said his plans for new corporate tax cuts would be offset by an across-the-board spending freeze.
But a growing number of economists, including some free-market-oriented experts, say the nation faces massive deficits over the next several years no matter who is elected president.