Obama’s Spending Wish List

This just in: Politicians promise lots of things they won’t be able to deliver if they get elected.

Yesterday, we had the hilarity of John McCain’s promise to balance the budget in four years without raising taxes or cutting anything but “wasteful” spending. Today, we’ve got an analysis from the Los Angeles Times showing that Barack Obama is promising things we can’t afford and almost certainly won’t make it through Congress.

The total price tag of Obama’s plans, according to his campaign, is $130 billion a year. On top of that, Obama is proposing a middle-class tax cut of about $80 billion a year.

Leon Panetta, former chief of staff for Bill Clinton, says this is all par for the course.

“I accept that all candidates throw out a lot of proposals when they’re campaigning,” Panetta said in an interview. “You have to assume that’s all part of a campaign strategy to appeal to a lot of different constituencies that are out there. But once he enters the Oval Office, he’s going to have to make some hard decisions.”

Or not. The preferred solution in recent decades has been to simply spend the money and borrow the difference. I’m skeptical, given the incentives, that this will change come January.

Please follow and like us:
FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Beldar says:

    Can we just be candid and re-label the last category “Graft for My Homies”?

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    Just words? No, these are all rock solid promises from a man who has firmly held every conviction until he hasn’t.

    Just words? If you have even the slightest inkling that Obama was lying to you about this, then how can you trust him on anything else?

    Just words? How can you even hint that Obama is just saying what you want to hear?

    Obama declared that “the same old Washington textbook campaigns just won’t do.” Deploring “triangulating and poll-driven positions,” he said that “telling the American people what we think they want to hear instead of telling the American people what they need to hear just won’t do.” The Democratic party had been at its best, he told the crowd, when “we led, not by polls, but by principles; not by calculation, but by conviction.”

    Obama is about Obama. And he will do anything, throw anyone under the bus and say anything to get elected. And anyone who is trusting him on any position (Iraq, healthcare, or whatever) had better be prepared to be disappointed if he gets elected.

  3. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    What am I missing here? Aren’t the offsetting revenues and/or spending cuts listed right there in the table, in the rightmost column?

  4. James Joyner says:

    Can we just be candid and re-label the last category “Graft for My Homies”?

    Well, there is that. I think he’s genuine on the subject — he’s spent a lot of time in that milieu despite it not being a traditional path to national elective office — but I’m sure that the main beneficiaries would be groups that share his agenda.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Aren’t the offsetting revenues and/or spending cuts listed right there in the table, in the rightmost column?

    Substitute “magic pony” and you get equally useful information. It amounts to the same nonsense McCain is selling – “Oh, we’ll gain some efficiencies in restructuring unpopular programs.”

  6. duckspeaker says:

    Substitute “magic pony” and you get equally useful information. It amounts to the same nonsense McCain is selling – “Oh, we’ll gain some efficiencies in restructuring unpopular programs.”

    But isn’t there an actual tangible difference between Obama’s planned significant reduction in the forces/supplies/logistics in Iraq (i.e. $12 billion/month) and the McCain plan of continuing the status-quo?

    I mean, I see the logic in saying “we’re pulling out, which will cost something up front in terms of paying something to move all of our people and equipment, but will soon result in net positive cash flow.” I don’t, however, see how McCain’s “peace dividend on the horizon” makes logical sense to include as part of a balance budget plan.

  7. Beldar says:

    See, I’m nearly finished reading “Dreams from my Father,” and I’m up to the point where the Chosen One has been accepted at Harvard Law and is breaking the news to his posse that he’s going to have to give up the “community organizer” gig for three years before he returns. I’m well past the point of him describing what a shoe-string operation he was part of, how frugal, how noble he was for not using his Columbia undergrad degree to continue working for The Man in Manhattan, and how he was instead working on this $10k/year salary as an “organizer.”

    But there are all these references to “my secretary” in the book — calls she took, appointments she set up. I’m having a hard time figuring out how someone who made only $10k in the mid-1980s was able to employ a secretary. Did she make less than $10k? Or did her salary get paid by someone’s “grant money” to the “community organizers”?

    Did some of that grant money go to “expenses” for the “community organizer” too? He says he lived in a high-rise uptown, not in the South Side where he was working, but this, of course, was before Michelle and her big law firm salary were in the picture. So how did someone earning less than a poverty-level wage afford an uptown (non-public housing) high-rise apartment or condo, exactly? How’d he afford to fly, on a whim, to Washington to visit a brother, or for that matter, to Kenya (via western Europe, where he took a several week vacation), before starting law school?

    It seems to me that Obama either had learned the bread and fishes trick before he ever joined Trinity United Church of Christ, or else that he was himself the beneficiary of some serious “community assistance” — as in, his entire livelihood and lifestyle came from it. Well, it was the beginning of the MTV era: “Money for nuthin’, get yer chicks for free!”

  8. SDM says:

    It amounts to the same nonsense McCain is selling

    Sort of. Obama is saying “I’ll roll back some of those upper-level Bush tax cuts, do a couple of revenue-saving things, and perhaps require a magic pony.” Whereas McCain is saying “My army of magical ponies can breathe fire, cure cancer and balance the budget.”

  9. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    Well James, some of these are pretty damn specific, including the pollution credits. Economists believe that CO2 emissions credits for the continental USA are a trillion-dollar asset. You can offset $150bn in spending several times over using that asset.

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    But isn’t there an actual tangible difference between Obama’s planned significant reduction in the forces/supplies/logistics in Iraq (i.e. $12 billion/month) and the McCain plan of continuing the status-quo?

    I think you’ll find the figure you’re quoting is for both Iraq and Afghanistan. The supplemental funds both of them and it’s pretty difficult to separate two in the appropriations bills.

    It’s still a lot of money. I think we need to be cautious about counting our savings before they’re realized. If some troops are re-deployed from Iraq to Afghanistan (where it costs about three times what it does to support each soldier what it does in Iraq) and others are re-deployed to a nearby country (as Sen. Obama has suggested from time to time) there may be no savings. There may be additional costs.

    Indeed, I think it would be prudent to add the costs of the additional troops he’s talked about sending to Afghanistan as part of his “to-do” list.

  11. Michael says:

    Economists believe that CO2 emissions credits for the continental USA are a trillion-dollar asset. You can offset $150bn in spending several times over using that asset.

    I don’t get this, CO2 emissions credits aren’t a thing, how can they be an asset? It’s more like buying and selling regulatory penalty debt, isn’t it?

    Also, if this system actually created a trillion dollar market, that by definition means there will be no reduction in CO2 emissions.

  12. duckspeaker says:

    where it costs about three times what it does to support each soldier [in Afghanistan]what it does in Iraq

    Do you have more info on this? What are the major reasons for this increased cost? Off the top of my head I can imagine the terrain itself poses significant cost-related challenges.

    Not challenging you here, just seeking to gain a little perspective.

  13. Michael says:

    Do you have more info on this? What are the major reasons for this increased cost? Off the top of my head I can imagine the terrain itself poses significant cost-related challenges.

    There’s probably also economies of scale involved. It costs less, per soldier, to feed 1000 than to feed 10.

  14. c. wagener says:

    I’m having a hard time figuring out how someone who made only $10k in the mid-1980s was able to employ a secretary.

    Obama has used the figure $12k in a May speech at Wesleyan. At any rate, the “training salary” lasted 2 months at which point it went to $20k. When he left for law school he was probably getting about $35k, according to people who worked with him at the time, as reported by Byron York.

  15. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    Michael: the trillion dollar figure is the approximate value of the annual negative externality of CO2 emissions. By internalizing it, you shift the cost so that it appears on the government’s account of revenues. This is a good thing because without internalizing the cost you can never bring market forces to bear on the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

  16. Dave Schuler says:

    Do you have more info on this? What are the major reasons for this increased cost?

    The information is in Congressional Research Service publication RL33110. The last time I looked it wasn’t online.

    This is a subject on which I’ve posted multiple times. Basically, the challenge is that Afghanistan is a much, much poorer country than Iraq and you’ve got to bring literally everything into the country. It’s also landlocked and we don’t have easy access from a cooperative neighboring country. Not only are we bringing everything in but we’re bringing everything in by air.

    The logistical problems of supporting a larger force have been a reason I’m skeptical about the practicality of all sorts of people’s (including both presidential candidates’) support for increased troops in Afghanistan. I think that the rhetoric will prove empty when the actual costs start sinking in.

  17. Floyd says:

    Even if these agenda items were credible proposals,which of them provides more grassroots democracy and local control?
    Which of them provides more freedom and less dependency on federal bureaucracy?
    Does 560,000 to 1 strike you as adequate representation to relinquish all control?

  18. another matt says:

    Does anybody know where I can get one of those magic ponies? I’m tired of trying to live within my means, and could really use a new 56 inch LCD HDTV to watch the upcoming election footage.

  19. anjin-san says:

    posse

    “Graft for My Homies”?

    Tell ya what Beldar, let’s hook up and I will take you over to East Oak (Oakland) so that you can try your Ebonics out on some of the cats there.

    But that would never happen, would it? Guys like you talk a lot of smack hiding behind a computer, then wet themselves when they see a couple of black kids on the street.

  20. Beldar says:

    anjin-san: You don’t know me, and you’re wrong.

    But the fact that your only response is a not very crative and wholly fictitious ad hominem attack says something about you and the absence of a coherent response/defense.

  21. Beldar says:

    c. wagener: Re Obama’s income as a “community organizer,” thanks for the additional information. His book says he started at $10k/year with a $2k car allowance, which would fit the $12k figure. But his book emphatically does not mention that that salary was only for two months.

    There’s a lot that his first book emphatically doesn’t mention, in fact. It’s a very peculiar book, telling a very unusual story in ways that make one wonder what’s been left out about its very peculiar subject. I’ve just finished it this afternoon, so now it’s on to “Audacity.”

  22. anjin-san says:

    You don’t know me

    No? Are you a decent guy who just talks like a punk?

    the absence of a coherent response/defense.

    You have not made an argument that rates a response