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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 ...

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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.

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