Passport

McCain’s bizarre earmark obsession

I remain completely baffled by John McCain’s windmill-tilting at federal earmarks. In last night’s presidential debate, the Arizona senator first began by talking about how the United States is in a “fiscal crisis” rather than a financial or credit crisis. Yet U.S. deficit spending as a percentage of GDP is not particularly high in historical ...

592326_080927_earmarks5.gif

I remain completely baffled by John McCain's windmill-tilting at federal earmarks.

In last night's presidential debate, the Arizona senator first began by talking about how the United States is in a "fiscal crisis" rather than a financial or credit crisis. Yet U.S. deficit spending as a percentage of GDP is not particularly high in historical terms, and now that there is a flight to safety in the markets, the U.S. government is able to borrow money at a near-zero interest rate. Yes, there is a looming fiscal calamity ahead, but the main problem today has to do with a freezing up of the credit markets, not the federal government's deficit spending.

What's more, McCain seems not to understand that earmarks are just a tiny piece of the fiscal picture. As Barack Obama pointed out during the debate, earmarks represent just $18 billion out of a much larger pie. Compare that to the projected 2009 deficit (not counting the bailout) of roughly $500 billion. Or compare it to the total federal budget of about $3 trillion.

I remain completely baffled by John McCain’s windmill-tilting at federal earmarks.

In last night’s presidential debate, the Arizona senator first began by talking about how the United States is in a “fiscal crisis” rather than a financial or credit crisis. Yet U.S. deficit spending as a percentage of GDP is not particularly high in historical terms, and now that there is a flight to safety in the markets, the U.S. government is able to borrow money at a near-zero interest rate. Yes, there is a looming fiscal calamity ahead, but the main problem today has to do with a freezing up of the credit markets, not the federal government’s deficit spending.

What’s more, McCain seems not to understand that earmarks are just a tiny piece of the fiscal picture. As Barack Obama pointed out during the debate, earmarks represent just $18 billion out of a much larger pie. Compare that to the projected 2009 deficit (not counting the bailout) of roughly $500 billion. Or compare it to the total federal budget of about $3 trillion.

Here’s a pie chart, via economist Mark Thoma:

This is a fake issue, folks.

More from Foreign Policy

The Taliban delegation leaves the hotel after meeting with representatives of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Qatar in Moscow on March 19.

China and the Taliban Begin Their Romance

Beijing has its eyes set on using Afghanistan as a strategic corridor once U.S. troops are out of the way.

An Afghan security member pours gasoline over a pile of seized drugs and alcoholic drinks

The Taliban Are Breaking Bad

Meth is even more profitable than heroin—and is turbocharging the insurgency.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses the U.N. Security Council from her office in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sept. 4, 2020.

Belarus’s Unlikely New Leader

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya didn’t set out to challenge a brutal dictatorship.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid

What the Taliban Takeover Means for India

Kabul’s swift collapse leaves New Delhi with significant security concerns.