McCain’s Balanced-Budget Pledge Met With Hilarious Derision

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Photo: Photo-illustration: Everett Bogue;
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As John McCain continues to address the nation's economic woes, he's bound to have a few stumbles along the way. After all, this is the man who has repeatedly professed his lack of mastery on economic issues (despite his recent denials that he ever said such ridiculous things). And even if he were an expert, this stuff can be damn confusing. So it may not come as a surprise that his pledge earlier this week to eliminate the deficit by 2013 was met with skepticism and even outright derision. Let's have a listen, shall we?

• Robert Gordon and James Kvaal write that McCain's "fantastical pledge" to balance the budget "through massive tax cuts and unidentified budget reductions deserved the bad reviews it received." But it's not an isolated incident: His "incoherent promise" is "representative of his policy agenda these days" as he's been "making diametrically opposed policy promises to different audiences at the same time." [New Republic]

Someone at the Economist (no bylines) says McCain's pledge "sounds all but impossible, especially given his need to appease" both economic wings of his party, the "deficit hawks and the supply-siders." While all "presidential campaigns run economic plans with heroic, if not downright delusional, assumptions at their core," McCain "risks, in making too many promises, tarnishing his reputation as a straight talker." [Economist]

• The Boston Globe editorial board contends that "McCain's strategy for the deficit may be his platform's weakest leg." He's "provided few details for how he proposed to eliminate what the Congressional Budget Office says will be a $443 billion deficit by 2013," and "[g]oing after 'pork-barrel spending' doesn't begin to cover it." [Boston Globe]

• Kevin Sack notes that McCain's plan to assist states' health-insurance plans for high-risk applicants will be further complicated by his budget promise this week, as the "campaign has made only a rough calculation of how many billions would be needed and has not identified a source for the financing beyond savings from existing programs." [NYT]

• Nedra Pickler says that while Barack Obama has admitted he's not going to even try to match McCain's goal, "fiscal experts" generally agree that McCain's plan is "overly ambitious." [AP]

• Josh Marshall claims that "[e]very sentient being who's looked at his spending and tax cut proposals knows he won't come close to balancing the budget in four years." [Talking Points Memo]

• Ed Morrissey believes that Obama's willingness to blithely ignore the deficit and propose "massive expansions of federal spending" will "burden Americans even more than now." After years of complaining that President Bush was running up the deficit, now Democrats are claiming that "the deficit is of no consequence at all." [Hot Air]

• Alexander Burns and Avi Zenilman discover that many of the economists who have signed on to McCain's "Jobs for America" plan "don’t actually support the whole of McCain’s economic agenda" and "many were unfamiliar with — or downright opposed to — key details." One reason for the discrepancy is that the McCain campaign started collecting signatures months ago, and the statement contained "no mention of the gas tax holiday or the deficit." [Politico]

• Matthew Yglesias criticizes McCain's "preposterous" claim that he can help to balance the budget in part through money saved from a victory in Iraq. While "it's true that securing some undefined victory through undefined methods at an unknown future date would be cheaper than continuing precisely as is forever," it's really only a question of "how much additional deficit spending will take place." [Atlantic] —Dan Amira

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.