Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 8, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

OBAMA'S BUDGET....Peter Nicholas has a front page story in the LA Times today about Barack Obama's budget plans and how they probably don't add up. Fair enough — though the timing is a little odd given the A9 treatment meted out to John McCain's fantastical budget blather from yesterday. I suppose his turn will come eventually.

But despite the story's headline ("Obama's agenda may not add up"), here's what surprised me once I read down to the meat of the story: his agenda actually does come pretty close to adding up. It's really not normal for a candidate's budget numbers to be even in the near ballpark of making sense, but by the Times' own reckoning (chart here) Obama is proposing $130 billion in new spending if every single one of his priorities is signed into law, and probably two-thirds of that is credibly accounted for by rolling back some of the Bush tax cuts, withdrawing from Iraq, auctioning emission credits, and a few other things. So even in the unlikely event that Obama gets every single thing he wants, he'd only be adding a net of $30-40 billion to the federal budget.

So, sure, that means it doesn't add up. But when was the last time we had a presidential candidate who came even that close? Hell, I think McCain's plan, if you put a number to it, would fail to add up by about ten times that amount. Obama's is the most restrained, least pandering budget plan we've seen in a presidential campaign for a very long time.

Kevin Drum 12:28 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Fortunately, we can count on the liberal press to make sure everyone knows that this is a responsible budget offering.

Er, what did I say? That would be: to make sure everybody knows that Obama flip-flopped and McCain can surely balance the budget 'cause he says so.

Posted by: Mark-NC on July 8, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

"I suppose his turn will come eventually."

Why on earth do you suppose that?

Posted by: Buckethead on July 8, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

C'mon Kevin. Obama's plan pays for most of the spending increases by ending the Iraq war, cutting earmarks, and cutting federal procurement costs.

As I recall from your post yesterday on McCain's plan to balance the budget, didn't you use the words "blather about eliminating earmarks (a reform that might be worthwhile but wouldn't actually cut the budget); more blather about "wasteful spending" (the political blowhard's best friend); a bit of nonsense about reducing defense expenditures".

Seems to me that both candidates have chosen the several of the same "target of opportunity" candidates for justifying their proposed spending increases. Why do you give Obama's choice a free pass, while ridiculing the same McCain choice. Bit hypocritical today, aren't we.

Posted by: optical weenie on July 8, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

A9? A Mac attack?

Posted by: keith g on July 8, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

And just so that no one thinks I am a republican concern troll. Both candidates deserved to be equally criticized on their purported pay-go schemes.

Posted by: optical weenie on July 8, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama is proposing $130 billion in new spending"

$130 billion is 4.4% of the 2.9 trillion (2008) budget.

$30-40 billion is 1.2% of the 2008 budget.

Bush's budget raised expenditures 7.3% from 2007 to 2008.

Posted by: flubber on July 8, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

One feature of this year's campaign coverage will be the articles posted by Kevin Drum in which he notes that one or another organ of the corporate-owned mass media is unreasonably trashing Obama's reasonable proposals while refusing to point out McCain's blatant BS.

Kevin will opine that he "supposes" the media will "eventually" get around to criticizing McCain's obvious lies and sneering contempt for the intelligence of the American people, and will "eventually" acknowledge the basic soundness of Obama's proposals and their benefits for the vast majority of American voters, but to Kevin's surprise, the corporate media will just somehow never get around to it.

And Kevin will fail to note that the corporate media is following exactly the script that it followed in 2000, when the bought-and-paid-for "political press corps" spent all their time mocking and deriding Al Gore's "lockbox" while refusing to point out the screaming, glaring, blatant lies that Bush was perpetrating with his bogus budget proposals.

In 2000, it was the deliberate malfeasance of the corporate mass media that got Bush and Cheney close enough to steal the election. And they are working hard to do it again in 2008.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 8, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you forgot to mention that McCain is a straight-talking maverick war hero.

Are you part of the coordinated campaign to question his war record?

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on July 8, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's agenda may not add up

This would be the same headline if the numbers added up to a $30-40 billion surplus instead of a $30-40 billion deficit. What is surprising is that any of these reporters can actually add.

Posted by: AJB on July 8, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Shape of Earth: Views differ.

and what Quaker said.

Posted by: John McCain: More of the Same on July 8, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

What Secular Animist said.

Posted by: shortstop on July 8, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, our press corps isn't even pretending to be professional any more, is it?

And our dear conservatards still chant the catechism of "liberal media."

It's times like these I miss Hunter S. Thompson the most.

Posted by: Gregory on July 8, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me that both candidates have chosen the several of the same "target of opportunity" candidates for justifying their proposed spending increases. Why do you give Obama's choice a free pass, while ridiculing the same McCain choice.

Um, maybe it's not a free pass. Obama identified a revenue stream by saying that he'd raise taxes on the highest earners. McCain, on the other hand, wants to give til it hurts when it comes to the oligarchs. That, combined with the fact that Obama offers numbers while McCain offers nothing, makes McCain's position pretty ridiculous.

Posted by: junebug on July 8, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Four myths about Obama campaign finance exposed.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 8, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Are you questioning John McCain's integrity????

Posted by: tatere on July 8, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't see the social security payroll tax donut plan on your list of revenue increasing measures. That would be a huge tax increase which isn't supposed to count, because Al Gore said something about a lock box. But I mean who are we kidding. I suspect that Obama's numbers actually do add up and then some, even counting the fact that his health care plan will cost more than he claims.

I'm shocked. Actually genuinely alarmed. I mean treating the US people like grownups is all very well and good, but he has an election to win.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on July 8, 2008 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Even if he's only adding a net $30-40 billion, that's on top of the $300 billion deficit that we're already running. We have to figure out how to fix that, which is going to involve some hard (or not so hard) choices. Personally, I favor reducing our military budget.

Posted by: Gheby on July 8, 2008 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

"Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed." --- Michelle Obama.

Posted by: Pat on July 9, 2008 at 6:56 AM | PERMALINK

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being paid for with borrowed dollars. Can someone explain to me how ending or winning the war will make additional money available for budget balancing? Of course wh won't be borrowing billions, but it's not as if that money will magically become available for spending or tax cutting.

Posted by: Deborah on July 9, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

olorolcacna

Posted by: basallacolet on December 6, 2008 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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