McCain’s Fiscal Policy: Douglas Holtz-Eakin v. Laura Meckler

We featured what I thought was a good discussion by Laura Meckler. Douglas Holtz-Eakin responds in the National Review:

Nowhere in the article does Meckler mention that John McCain has explicitly addressed entitlement spending and the need for action to cut spending today. John McCain has promised to address Social Security by demanding that Congress deal with the problem, or he will send a bill to them for an up or down vote. Also, McCain’s health care reform plan will act to control out-of-control costs which are fueling Medicare and Medicaid spending. By addressing entitlements now, John McCain can reduce federal spending today and prevent Meckler’s doomsday scenario. Meckler’s scenario also fails to address the basic budget situation that the United States finds itself in today. Under the current Director, Peter Orzag, the Congressional Budget Office issued a long-term budget outlook demonstrating that even under current laws for revenues (i.e., the huge Democrats’ huge tax increase planned for 2011) spending in the federal budget explodes well beyond any feasible revenues. The United States cannot tax its way out of this fiscal challenge. We must cut spending and John McCain alone has been honest about our future scenario. The basic facts are that no matter what we must cut spending. The article’s review of “history” fails to note that John McCain’s economic proposals will fuel growth in the economy and that is central to success.

I’m not surprised that he had to resort to asking the National Review to publish what is truly a feeble rebuttal. I’m glad he appealed to the analysis of the CBO as it does provide a nice breakout of projected spending and revenues. Even if health care spending does not explode as a percent of GDP, the General Fund will not be providing enough revenues to pay for non-Social Security spending. Which is why John McCain’s only prays for balancing the budget rest on: (1) some implausible supply-side miracle (“fuel economic growth … central to success); and (2) raiding the Social Security Trust Fund. But let me suggest a little clarity in writing be used by McCain’s economic advisors. If his game plan to eventually balance the Federal budget relies on that backdoor employment tax increase from reducing Social Security benefits by much more than payroll “contributions” are reduced – just have their candidate say so. I’m sure the voters will applaud such straight talk. You think?