McCain’s Fiscal Folly: Whatever Became of Douglas Holtz-Eakin?

Ruth Marcus has a must read attack on McCain’s fiscal folly that ends with:

Just a few years ago, Holtz-Eakin was offering, well, straight talk about the feasibility of cutting spending anywhere near enough to cover existing costs — no less new tax cuts such as those his candidate is now proposing. “While everyone is in favor of eliminating waste,” he wrote in The Post in February 2006, “Americans want to protect defense, education, environment, transportation and a myriad of other programs. Congress expended a tremendous effort last week and just barely adopted $39 billion in cuts from projected spending — less than 7/100ths of 1 percent of GDP.” Now, Holtz-Eakin airily tosses off promises to cut $60 billion in discretionary spending “that traces its existence to earmarks” — as if that’s a sensible way to distinguish the necessary from the pork. Just a few years ago, he was acknowledging that new taxes — not hundreds of billions in additional tax cuts — would be needed. The “current level of taxes will fail to cover the type of government Americans have grown used to,” he wrote. “That’s bad news because the government will not be getting any smaller. . . . I’d rather not raise taxes, but unless government remains at its traditional size, I don’t see any way around it.” And he was proposing an intelligent way to think about the proper level of taxes. As he told Terry Gross of the radio show “Fresh Air” in January 2006, “We need to . . . put together a set of programs that we believe are sensible programs for the 21st century and then come up with the money to pay for them. But to talk about taxes without deciding what we’re going to be paying for gets the cart before the horse, and it’s my biggest frustration with the way Washington has done business for the past five years.” Let’s bring back that guy — and the sensible candidate he used to work for.

Hat tip to James Kvaal who adds:

Maybe that is why Holtz-Eakin’s new argument focuses on McCain’s cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. But McCain has already proposed cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits to restore those programs’ solvency. Does he really want even more cuts — hundreds of billions of dollars more — to pay for his tax cuts … It seems more likely that Holtz-Eakin is changing the subject, preferring to discuss the long-run entitlement problem rather than the short-run deficit problem. But adding hundreds of billions, even trillions, to the debt now will only make our long-run problems worse.

It is high time for some straight talk from McCain’s economic advisor.