Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 22, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

McCAIN'S WORLD....John McCain says he'll reduce federal spending $160 billion if he's elected president. But where's it going to come from?

Asked Sunday where he would find spending cuts, Sen. McCain mentioned ethanol subsidies, sugar-price supports and payments to wealthy farmers. "We're going to scrub every institution of government," he said on ABC's "This Week." "Is there any American that doesn't believe that there's tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars that can be saved?"

I'd guess McCain is right: pretty much every American does think there are veritable tanker cars of money to be saved by eliminating all the programs that only benefit other people. Like, say, ethanol subsidies, sugar-price supports and payments to wealthy farmers — all of which don't benefit me and therefore seem like dandy places to cut the budget.

But all jesting aside, the audacity of McCain's economic plan is really pretty stunning. I'm well used to sums not adding up in presidential campaigns, and for the most part I'm willing to shrug and consider it part of the grand American political tradition, like eating fried pork rinds at the Iowa state fair or promising to get tough on China. But McCain has really upped the ante. His tax plan is such a blatant pander to corporations and the wealthy that it takes even a cynic's breath away, and his insistence that he'll slash spending by gargantuan amounts while simultaneously refusing to say what he'll cut is unparallelled in recent memory. Everyone does this kind of stuff to some extent, but McCain seems to have learned from the Bush presidency that on the economic front you can basically say anything you want and nobody will call you to account for it. So why not shoot for the moon?

Besides, right now everyone is caught up with waffles and 3 am phone calls. Who cares about a bunch of nerdy facts and figures? I'm sure that McCain, straight talker that he is, will fill in the details soon.

Kevin Drum 3:42 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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Comments

"The vast majority of my tax breaks go to those at the bottom of the ladder."
-W

If he can get away with that, McCain can get away with anything.

Posted by: John McCain: More of the Same on April 22, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

What about the enormous subsidies to the rich and corporations? How about scrubbing those?

Oh yeah, since they aren't paying NOW they aren't counted. Silly me

Posted by: anonymous on April 22, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

And so the American empire crumbles as our leaders (and the media) live in absolute denial about everything.

Posted by: Speed on April 22, 2008 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

I am not a corporation, but I am an environmentalist and I do care about our national diet. I do think we've made a royal mess with our farm subsidy system. And I think ethanol is not only a huge waste of money, but an environmental disaster. Add to that the sugar price support that has caused American candy factories to move to Mexico and far too many companies to use high fructose corn syrup (which is not only unhealthy, but is again, a waste of corn) to replace sugar in far too many things. (I purposely avoid things not sweetened with actual sugar.) So I do agree with him on his two examples. But he's a loon and a liar, nonetheless. Perhaps he's choosing things that generally have support amongst both conservatives and lefties in order to suggest he isn't a corporate tool.

Posted by: Christopher / Inaudible Nonsense on April 22, 2008 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone does this kind of stuff to some extent, but McCain seems to have learned from the Bush presidency that on the economic front you can basically say anything you want and nobody will call you to account for it...

... if you're a Republican.

Posted by: cleek on April 22, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose in California you bake your pork rinds.

Posted by: Aaron the Former Iowan on April 22, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Could someone explain how eliminating sugar price supports would reduce federal spending? Maybe I know less about economics than McBush.

Posted by: Bush Lover on April 22, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Christopher,

I agree that those should be cut, the problem is they don't come remotely close to covering what McCain needs to come up with.

Posted by: Eric k on April 22, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

"His tax plan is such a blatant pander to corporations and the wealthy that it takes even a cynic's breath away, and his insistence that he'll slash spending by gargantuan amounts while simultaneously refusing to say what he'll cut is unparallelled in recent memory."

And not even mentioning cutting taxes further while maintaining the Iraq war for another 4 years, let alone 100 years.

Posted by: bubba on April 22, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Aaron the Former Iowan: I suppose in California you bake your pork rinds.

When I lived in Cambridge we used to stir-fry them in ginger sesame oil and serve them with a nice delicate tofu sauce over brown rice and garnish with bean sprouts. Yum.

Posted by: thersites on April 22, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

John McCain, as a compromised candidate, is in no real position to make the claims that he does. Bush, with enthusiastic base support, wasn't able, and it's doesn't take too much imagination to infer that McCain will not be able to do so as well. Look for more posturing, followed by a status quo outcome, in all circumstances (Iraq, taxes, health care, etc).

He has already boxed himself in, and the Democrats have a plum target come this November.

Posted by: Boorring on April 22, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

John McCain would sell his wife on a nightly basis to get elected. With her approval.

Posted by: jen flowers on April 22, 2008 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Let's vote a democrat in so that we can avoid eliminating anything and we can add more to the little guys burden!

Posted by: Alan on April 22, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

"We're going to scrub every institution of government."--McCain

Let's start with the Defense[sic] Department. Pentagon contract awards reported yesterday, 21 April (just one day's report):

Northrop Grumman-- $42,504,058
Watts Constructors-- $23,464,255
BAE Systems -- $13,181,799
SFA, Inc.-- $13,068,034
CJW Construction-- $9,305,000
Technical Communications Corp.-- $5,750,452
CDM Constructors, Inc.-- $36,239,200
Dillon Aero, Inc.-- $30,000,000
Rolls Royce-- $7,976,358
Teledyne Scientific-- $7,056,865
Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.-- $9,604,464

All these contracts were fixed-price except the last two were cost-plus.
http://www.defenselink.mil/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=3757

Posted by: Don Bacon on April 22, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

cleek took the words out of my mouth.

Here's a question: can the blogosphere be used to focus media attention on a single issue every so often, say, once a week? F'r example, s'poze half a dozen liberal bloggers set, uh, next Wednesday, as the day to urge readers to hammer media sites and email with questions about a single issue, e.g., this $150B thing. "Why does McCain say this? What does he propose to cut? Why don't you ask him? Why don't we read more about this? How is this possible? How does this square with when he says X and Y?"

One embarrassing question a week, loud and clear. Waddaya think?

Posted by: bleh on April 22, 2008 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

jen,

John McCain would sell his wife on a nightly basis to get elected. With her approval.

Sounds like an old joke. John McCain to young woman he dislikes: "If you were my wife I'd sell you on a nightly basis." Young Woman: "If I was your wife I'd do it so I wouldn't have to sleep with you."

Posted by: Tripp on April 22, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Cutting farm subsidies is far from a "pander to corporations." Quite the opposite actually, it will harm many domestic farming corporations, but will benefit consumers and international farmers.

Posted by: DHobgood on April 22, 2008 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK
Let's vote a democrat in so that we can avoid eliminating anything and we can add more to the little guys burden! Posted by: Alan

You misspelled republican in that statement.

Posted by: gc on April 22, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

All shillary can do is distract from the fact that she is really just trying to extend the criminal cabal behind dur chimpfurher.

She has to go negative and hope people don't realize the insanity of allowing American to be run by bush-clinton-bush-clinton and the same elites that brought us a smirking AWOL alcoholic/cocaine-addict chimp as a war president.

clinton=mclame and both represent an extended stay in the WH for the crooks behind the current administration.

Posted by: on April 22, 2008 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I know of a simple way to cut $160 billion in federal spending. End the occupation of Iraq. It's very simple.

Posted by: Pocket Rocket on April 22, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Did he really say he'd take it out of farm subsidies? I think ethanol subsidies are lousy policy, but there are an awful lot of farmers who think they're not, and how he expects to get elected saying stuff like that is beyond me.

Posted by: David in NY on April 22, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

The press will say that this shows why McCain is such a maverick and you're not. No one else would have the courage to issues plans that are so bad, he deserves our respect and the chance to prove it.

Posted by: AJ on April 22, 2008 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry, Charlie Gibson will call him on this one. What about flag pin subsidies?

Posted by: jrw on April 22, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Asked Sunday where he would find spending cuts, Sen. McCain mentioned ethanol subsidies, sugar-price supports and payments to wealthy farmers.

Is McCain really willing to concede the farm belt to the Democrats? Oh, happy day! There will be a Democrat in White House after all!

Posted by: e. nonee moose on April 22, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any American that doesn't believe that there's tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars that can be saved?"

Absolutely! End the Iraq fiasco and we'll save hundreds of billions.

Posted by: ckelly on April 22, 2008 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

This is so ridiculous. There is a matter of degree and brazenness here. He's like the Gary Hart of economic reform. It's not that Gary was the only guy who ever had an affair, it's just that he was so BRAZEN.

McCain really does think the press will never treat him the way they do everyone else. He is like Gary Hart in this--so popular, so charming that he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and BRAG about it.

Unreal.

Posted by: anonymiss on April 22, 2008 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

I want to change my name to Fraud WasteAnd Abuse - I'll be the most popular campaigner around, everyone will be talking about me!

Posted by: Ed Tracey on April 22, 2008 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

In 1960 Kennedy used a bogus missile gap with the USSR to pummel Nixon on national security. Letting candidates pull numbers out their asses has a long tradition in the US because the media and the electorate accept it.

Posted by: Brojo on April 22, 2008 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

I have an idea, why don't we pass on the tax cuts and cut a lot of unnecessary programs. Then we will have the money to pay for Iraq, healthcare, education, infrastructure and energy independence.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 22, 2008 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Since almost half of our tax dollar goes to the military that would be the place to start, McCain. Don Bacon nailed it upthread - we are being bent over a barrel and cornholed by defense contractors and most Americans seem pleased to say, "Yes sir, give me some more....".

Damn fools. Salute as America spirals down the toilet.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on April 22, 2008 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is just a bunch of theory and ideology blather. When the rubber meets the road, he's as big a fraud as any of his right wing cohorts.

Right now he's busy trying to find loopholes in laws he helped pass in order to rake in more money to run for office. If HE can't live with McCain-Feingold, how he hell does expect other people to do it?

Posted by: Joshua Norton on April 22, 2008 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

I think McCain hasn't actually thought about anything in 20 years. He's got attitudes and cant phrases instead of thought. Personnally, I'd like to see if an EKG turns up signs of dementia.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 22, 2008 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

as America spirals down the toilet

As both the German and Japanese societies were being materially destroyed during WW II, their productivity of war goods kept increasing. Despite the wreckage their respective leaders brought upon them, most Germans and Japanese were unable to break the patriotic bonds that enslaved them to war's destruction. Americans are no different.

Posted by: Brojo on April 22, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

One of the worst panderings of McCain's tax plan is to increase the deduction for dependents and raise the cap for being able to get child credits IIRC. I don't want the government subsidizing population growth - not only am I being made to pay for the kids of other people who aren't even in poverty, I am being made to subsidize environmental degradation, the increase of prices of commodities (increased demand) and the suppressing of wages (increased supply of labor.) The last two, and pandering to the primitive fertility religionists, is of course exactly what Republicanism is all about. And yet McCain is said out there to be "not really a conservative, too liberal," etc.

Posted by: Neil B. on April 22, 2008 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Someone should ask McCain if he supports limiting Social Security benefits for the wealthy. In 2007, McCain collected $23,157 in Soc Sec benefits despite being a mega-millionaire.


In this 2006 poll, two thirds of those surveyed said it would be a good idea to limit SS benefits to wealthy retirees.

Posted by: Rosali on April 22, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

I see McCain going down to defeat in much the same way that W's father lost his second term to Clinton in 1992 for the same reasons. People could see he wasn't that sincere about anything he said, especially during the debates, and he pandered to his base and never delivered. Most of the religious Bush supporters don't really like McCain anyway.

Posted by: leslie on April 22, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Rosali, even more important is to eliminate the cap on the income subject to FICA in the first place.
BTW - Yes McCain is pandering about the amounts, but I've got to give him some props for taking on the farm lobbies.

Posted by: Neil B. on April 22, 2008 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure that McCain, straight talker that he is, will fill in the details soon.

Yeah, right - I am sure he will scream obscenities at someone and call some woman the c-word.

Straight talker alright...

Posted by: on April 22, 2008 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle. So McCain's going to cut farmers off the dole right? And when his advisers tell him he can pretty much kiss Iowa and any chances he'd had Minnesota and Wisconsin good-bye and puts taking Missouri in jepoardy and would depress GOP turnout in the South and Plains to dangerous levels, then what will he say? Farmers should be exempt from such draconian cuts because they're the salt of the earth, or because they vote heavily GOP?

Only a principled conservative like Ron Paul an make a promise like this because he owes nothing to the agribusinesses that contribute heavily to the GOP. So-called "Maverick McCain" sees the reality of the modern GOP and backs down every time.

Or else he really is planning on taking campaign finance money.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on April 22, 2008 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Update on SocSec and wealthy retirees - one thing to do, rather than cut payout (which seems to just increase resentment about "I paid into this and I won't even get it back because I was successful?" etc.) is to at least make the SS payments fully taxable after a certain income deduction (say, larger than the standard deduction.)

Posted by: Neil B. on April 22, 2008 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Ethanol is now being described as "a crime against humanity" in some countries where there are now food shortages partially due to grain diversion to ethanol production.

" http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_26401.shtml
FOOD WAR: Grain Prices Soar Globally Leading To Food Riots

Rice shortages are appearing across Asia. In Egypt, the Army is now baking bread to curb food riots.
Bangkok, Thailand - - Rice farmers here are staying awake in shifts at night to guard their fields from thieves. In Peru, shortages of wheat flour are prompting the military to make bread with potato flour, a native crop. In Egypt, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso food riots have broken out in the past week.
Around the world, governments and aid groups are grappling with the escalating cost of basic grains. In December, 37 countries faced a food crisis, reports the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and 20 nations had imposed some form of food-price controls.
In Asia, where rice is on every plate, prices are shooting up almost daily. Premium Thai fragrant rice now costs $900 per ton, a nearly 30 percent rise from a month ago."

Posted by: Luther on April 22, 2008 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

WTF? If you eliminated every branch of government but the DOD/security agencies, and keep in payments to Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and paying off the Debt you wouldn't have a quarter of the entire budget.

Tell me why Republicans think they are such good business people?

Posted by: ET on April 23, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

If I recall sugar price supports correctly, they simply set the price of sugar to an artificially high level and sugar growers do not get one cent in federal monies from them.

Thus eliminating them would only force a lower price on sugar and not add a single penny to the federal coffers.

(Sugar growers are expected to get additional profits from the higher price, but in actuality allow corn syrup to undercut them and become the sweetner of choice for most processed foods.)

Posted by: SPKelly on April 23, 2008 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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