As Election Day Nears, Presidential Candidates Continue Out-Promising, Out-Spending Each Other
(Alexandria, Va.) -- As John McCain and Barack Obama jockeyed for position in the race to appear "leader-like" over the economy and in upcoming debates, the latest update of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's (NTUF) candidate cost analysis project shows that despite their different styles, the major party Presidential hopefuls have one thing in common: both their agendas would add billions more to the taxpayer's tab every year.
NTUF's fourth and final round of assigning price tags to the candidates' platforms since January 29 found that Sen. McCain (R-AZ) would increase yearly federal spending by $92.4 billion, compared to Sen. Obama's (D-IL) $293.0 billion. NTUF also released a first-time analysis of Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, who would instead cut annual federal spending by $200.9 billion. The studies include proposals through September 19.
"Both the McCain and Obama campaigns have tried to keep pace with the political issues of the day -- largely by responding with proposals for new programs and regulations that could reach deeper and deeper into taxpayers' pockets," NTUF Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady said. "On the other side of the spectrum, Bob Barr's Libertarian philosophy is strongly reflected in a platform that is built upon cutting programs and slashing spending."
Though it appears that Obama's platform cost has dropped since NTUF's last update on June 3 ($343.6 billion), excluding a previously unavailable savings estimate for reducing troop levels in Iraq ($90.5 billion annually), Obama would actually boost annual federal outlays by $383.4 billion -- a 12 percent jump from June, Brady noted. Obama's annual spending platform has increased by about 34 percent since January 29 (when it was $287.0 billion). Likewise, McCain's spending total has jumped by 37 percent since June 3 ($68.5 billion) and by more than 13 times the amount he was backing in January ($6.9 billion).
"If eight months on the campaign trail can mean an increase of tens of billions of dollars in yearly federal outlays, imagine what four -- or potentially, eight -- years in office could bring," Brady said. "Both candidates have talked about reducing wasteful spending, but neither has been specific enough."
Obama's latest study includes 65 new proposals and updated costs for existing proposals, most notably the Iraq-related savings mentioned above and $25 billion for a second economic "stimulus" package. McCain's analysis reflects 46 new or updated proposals, including a new cost estimate for a health care program known as the Guaranteed Access Plan, which would cost $8.5 billion annually, and a new proposal to freeze non-defense, non-veterans discretionary spending for one year, which would save $15 billion. Barr's biggest cuts come from defense ($92.4 billion in annual savings from withdrawing troops from Iraq) and education ($68.0 billion in annual savings from eliminating the Department of Education).
NTUF's latest analyses include cost calculations based on hard data for hundreds of proposals that would affect the federal budget -- dozens of which have unknown fiscal effects. NTUF assumed the most conservative estimates based on a variety of sources, including the candidates' own projections; summaries from the Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Research Service, and the White House Office of Management and Budget; and results from equivalent legislation from NTUF's BillTally cost-accounting system.
NTUF is the nonpartisan research arm of the National Taxpayers Union, a citizen group founded in 1969. Note: For more on the candidate cost analysis project, visit www.ntu.org.
View the candidate cost analyses in PDF: