Daily Archives: March 9, 2008

In a new column for National Journal I argue that John MCain’s fiscal arithmetic does not add up.

Not long ago John McCain was almost boasting that he knew little about economics. That kind of candor, a distinctive McCain trait, is likable but has its limits. His days of making jokes about his ignorance appear to be over. Worries about the economy began to dominate public opinion even before the current slowdown was properly under way.

Between now and November, those worries will only mount: The faltering economy is likely to get worse before it gets better. McCain is going to need an economic program, and he had better get used to talking about this subject as though it matters.

He obviously understands that — but his recent statements and interviews suggest that he still has a lot of work to do. McCain is running as an orthodox fiscal conservative, with heavy stress on low taxes and tight control of public spending. He is pro-trade. He has modified, but not dropped, his support for personal retirement accounts alongside Social Security. On health care, he has a bunch of proposals for better cost control, but no plan that would deserve to be called comprehensive reform. And he is for stronger action on global warming: He aims to curb greenhouse gases with a cap-and-trade system that would oblige emitters to buy licenses for the privilege.

Stated that baldly, the platform looks all right. I think that the lack of any grander ambition on health care is a pity on the merits and a political mistake as well, but as for the rest, each element has plenty to recommend it. The problem is that the fiscal conservative core of the program, as it stands, is just not credible. McCain is promising to extend the Bush administration’s tax cuts — and cut some more. He is also promising to reduce and then eliminate the budget deficit. To do both of those things, McCain would need to make correspondingly savage cuts in spending, and he has not come close to saying how.

You can read the rest of the article here (link expires at the end of the week).

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

Clive Crook’s blog: A guide

Comment: To comment, please register with FT.com. Register for free here. Please also read the FT's comments policy here.
Time: UK time is shown on Clive's posts.
Follow the blog: Links to the Twitter and RSS feeds are at the top of the blog.
Schedule: Clive's column appears in the FT on Mondays and you can read an excerpt of it on this blog.
FT blogs: See the full range of the FT's blogs here.

Archive

« Feb Apr »March 2008
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31