McCain on the Economy

So John McCain came to Denver yesterday to talk about the economy. While I am unable to find many specifics, the basic idea seems to be to slightly restrain increases in government spending, wait for the economy (i.e., the tax base) to recover, and keep his fingers crossed. He can say he’s going to balance the budget by 2013, but somehow I don’t think he’ll get too excited if he gets elected and that turns out not to be easy.

The Denver Post quotes McCain as saying, “Government has grown by 60 percent in the last eight years. That is simply inexcusable.” Well, what would have been excusable? Growth by 59.5 percent? Obviously, McCain did not attach a real figure because then he would have had to talk about what he would have cut.

The Post offers a few generalities:

He also said he’d veto every bill that includes wasteful spending. … Keeping a balanced budget in the long term would mean reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, among other things, according to the campaign’s economic plan. … McCain’s economic proposals… include a summer gas-tax holiday, building 45 nuclear plants, lowering taxes, cutting the estate tax, increasing off-shore drilling, encouraging free trade and doubling the child income-tax deduction from $3,500 to $7,000.

I find it humorous that some media accounts I’ve read sound as though McCain himself will be building nuclear power plants. Somehow, I doubt that. Rather, what McCain is talking about is restraining political force currently preventing the building of such plants, as well as off-short drilling and free trade.

Nevertheless, McCain’s plan to allow nuclear power plants is among his most practical and workable reforms.

What constitutes “wasteful spending” is a matter of opinion. I consider practically every bill to spend wastefully. Somehow I doubt that McCain’s throw-away line means much.

“Encouraging free trade” is merely a euphemism for “reducing the political impediments to free trade.” Unfortunately, free trade for McCain comes at the cost of expanded welfare. He said:

I understand free trade is not a positive for everyone. If a worker loses a job we must retrain them and prepare them for 21st Century jobs. That’s why I have proposed a comprehensive reform of our unemployment insurance and worker retraining programs. We will use our community colleges to help train workers for specific opportunities in their communities. And for workers of a certain age who have lost a job that won’t come back, we’ll help make up the difference in wages between their old job and a temporary, lower paid one until they’ve completed retraining and found secure new employment at a decent wage.

“We must retrain them?” In other words, McCain wants to force some people to transfer more of their wealth to others, both for education and for salary subsidies. So the cost of free trade is an expansion of the welfare state. That’s McCain’s brand of freedom — freedom by force. Exactly how he’s going to expand welfare and balance the budget is unclear to me.

In the same speech about balancing the budget, two words are noticeably absent: Social Security.

Here’s what his web page has to say about it:

He will fight to save the future of Social Security while meeting our obligations to the retirees of today and the future without raising taxes. John McCain supports supplementing the current Social Security system with personal accounts – but not as a substitute for addressing benefit promises that cannot be kept. He will reach across the aisle, but if the Democrats do not act, he will. John McCain will not leave office without fixing the problems that threatens our future prosperity.

As I have pointed out, “personal accounts” do absolutely nothing to resolve the pending Social Security crisis.

So what is the substance of McCain’s plan to “reform” Social Security? Until he explains how he plans to cut somebody’s benefits, his “reform” amounts to nothing. As I’ve suggested, the most sensible reform is to slowly raise the pay-out age over several decades until the program is phased out. This suggestion is also consistent with economic liberty.

But liberty is not something in which McCain is particularly interested. If he’s said a serious word about how people deserve to keep the money they earn, I’ve not heard about it. Meanwhile, just today McCain has reminded us that he drove through his campaign censorship law. And his web page continues to state that McCain’s ultimate goal is “ending abortion.”

John McCain might allow a slightly freer economy in some areas relative to the far-left Obama, yet he powerfully stands for welfare, censorship, and faith-based politics.