John McCain: Voodoo Economics

Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review recently interviewed Senator McCain. After they discussed the Iraq War, they discussed McCain’s support for Social Security privatization. It is unfortunately a rather silly set of babbling exemplified by this:

But I don’t think that they got the message of how broken the system is. You see what I mean?

Given the fact that Senator has helped President Bush with the disinformation campaign claiming the system is broke, we don’t see what he means. But it gets worse:

If I were president, I’d have three agenda items (assuming that immigration reform is somehow addressed). Do away with wasteful spending, take every step necessary to do away with wasteful spending. Second, Social Security reform. Third, help Medicare and Medicaid. Why in that order? Because I think you can succeed in the first two far more easily than the third. Because the third is far more complex an issue. I can explain the Social Security problem to any group of Americans in five minutes.

Cutting waste is fine but if McCain thinks this will solve the massive deficit problem, he is dumber than the National Review nitwits interviewing him. As far as his explanation of the Social Security problem, it goes something like this. Social Security is heading for bankruptcy but the magic fairy dust known as privatization offers the free lunch promise that money grows on trees. Speaking of free lunches, the following is getting all of the attention:

PONNURU: If you could get the Democrats to agree, or at least to come to the table on entitlements or on tax simplification, are those circumstances under which you’d be willing to accept a tax increase?
SEN. MCCAIN: No; no.
PONNURU: No circumstances?
SEN. MCCAIN: No. None. None. Tax cuts, starting with Kennedy, as we all know, increase revenues. So what’s the argument for increasing taxes? If you get the opposite effect out of tax cuts?

Mark Thoma brings us Jonathan Chait:

We all know that? In fact, economists know that this is not true. Conservative economists know this isn’t true. Even conservative economists who work in the Bush administration have admitted this isn’t true. … There’s really no dispute among economists about that.” How does McCain explain his conversion to voodoo economics? He doesn’t. He says things like: “I haven’t changed. My record is the same on all issues, which is that of a conservative Republican.” Which is funny, because a few years ago one of his close advisors – someone who is now furiously insisting that McCain has always been a staunch conservative – told me, “Ideologically, we all changed.”

Mark argues:

Given the vast amount that’s been written concerning tax cuts and government revenue and the broad consensus on the topic, it’s difficult to believe that any major candidate could be ignorant of the work showing that tax cuts do not increase revenue. If they are ignorant of this broad consensus, or if they choose to simply ignore the evidence and adopt the party line that tax cuts pay for themselves, then questions should be raised about their ability to lead the nation in economic policy. Will they understand enough economics to implement effective policy? If they do understand, will ideology or party loyalty get in the way?

While Mark has a very good point, we should remember that McCain was being interviewed by one of the National Review nitwits who remain completely ignorant of the broad consensus that the free lunch brand of “supply side economics” is bogus.