John McCain’s largest plank in his reform platform is the elimination of earmarks. As any politician does, he says one thing and then does another. I read an article recently that combs through the numbers of McCain’s proposals. The column is from the New Republic and can be read here.
But here is the part you need to know:
“McCain is promising to cut taxes by $300 billion per year on top of the Bush tax cuts, which he would make permanent. In addition to this, he promises to balance the budget in his first term. When asked how he could possibly pull this off, McCain has asserted that he could eliminate all earmark spending, saving $100 billion per year.
I don’t find this explanation persuasive. The first point I’d make is that $100 billion is, in fact, less than $300 billion. The second point I’d make is that McCain won’t even cut $100 billion, or anywhere close. By conventional measures, earmarks only account for $18 billion per year. McCain gets his number by employing an unusually broad definition of what constitutes an earmark. McCain’s definition includes things like aid to Israel and housing for members of the military that are not “pork” as the term is understood. When asked if he would eliminate those programs, he replied, “Of course not.”
So we’re left with a pot of money closer to $18 billion. And McCain surely won’t eliminate even that. He has frequently found himself campaigning at places funded by federal earmarks and beloved by the local citizenry, and he keeps inadvertently showing how impossible it is to fulfill his promises. Last month, McCain visited a hospital in Pennsylvania and met an ovarian cancer patient who’s being treated with a clinical trial program funded by an earmark. Asked if he would eliminate that program, he replied, “It’s the process I object to. … When you earmark in the middle of the night, you have no budgetary constraints.”