Candidate Spending Plans Still Do Not Add Up

While the specifics may vary from election to election and party to party, there is one thing which remains constant–the spending plans of the candidates do not add up. Politicians will promise more than expected tax revenues will pay for and predictions of balancing the budget are inevitably overly optimistic. Republican promises of tax cuts are often even more unrealistic than Democratic promises of new programs. There’s a pair of articles showing this today, with a conservative paper questioning Obama’s proposals and a liberal newspaper questioning McCain’s.

The Los Angles Times writes, “Some budget analysts say the Democrat’s proposals for funding tens of billions of dollars in programs may not be enough.” The New York Times writes, “The package of spending and tax cuts proposed by Senator John McCain is unlikely to achieve his goal of balancing the federal budget by 2013, economists and fiscal experts said Monday.”

This is hardly news. While none of the candidate’s campaign promises have added up, McCain’s would do the most to increase the deficit. I noted back in April that The New York Times also found that “Mr. McCain’s plan would appear to result in the biggest jump in the deficit.” Similarly I noted that The Washington Post found “While both Democratic candidates would spend far more on new programs than Mr. McCain would, the Republican’s proposals for new tax cuts dwarf the Democrats’ plans.”

Fiscal irresponsibility is a problem for all political candidates as a political campaign leads them to promise more than they can deliver. At least the numbers are less unrealistic for Obama than McCain.

The Growth of Left-Leaning Libertarianism

There have been a number of recent posts on conservatives and libertarians supporting Obama due to the authoritarian shift of the American conservative movement and their abandonment of their previous small-government philosophy. Marcus Westbury, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald writes about the libertarian shift of progressives in the United States and Australia:

When did left-leaning libertarianism become the significant and perhaps even dominant ideology among progressives?

A generation or two ago the dominant left-wing ideology was decidedly authoritarian socialism. But only right-wing commentators and museum-piece communists seriously think anyone really believes in socialist-style central planning any more. So who, exactly, are these libertarian lefties? The best I can offer is anecdotal observations mixed with tenuous extrapolations about how they may differ from the socialist left and the libertarian right.

They value diversity. They recognise it both as an innate right and a precondition to innovation. They are committed to social justice but less inclined than their socialist forebears to achieve it by trying to make all things constrictively equal.

They’re sceptical of highly centralised, bureaucratic and inefficient structures. However, most of them see that up close in the corporate sector rather than as the exclusive problem of government.

They believe in freedom but do not see free markets and freedom as entirely the same. They tend to think governments must play an active role in ensuring freedom is protected from unscrupulous employers or predatory companies, reflected in the choices and opportunities we have in our personal lives, or reflected in the diversity of media available.

They tend to regard choice and competition as generally good and cannot imagine price controls or state-run industries. But they know that the market often fails, and they don’t trust it alone to tackle issues like climate change or health care. They see market power as just as likely an impediment to freedom as governments.

They are sceptical of over-regulation, believing regulation should be proportional to power and influence, and not the other way around. They question why the deregulation of economics has concentrated on the powerful, while nanny-state regulation, politicised micro-management and national security has made life more complex for the poor and the powerless.

Most of all they tend to be both idealistic and pragmatic and unable to accept that we should not try to achieve more.

In the United States this shift has primarily occurred as differences between left and right became primarily based upon social issues and views of the Iraq war (and associated restrictions on civil liberties). Economic views have become less meaningful to distinguish left from right as many on the left do not share the economic views of the old left, while many on the right now support both big government and the corporate welfare programs of the Republican Party. It is interesting to see that Australia is experiencing a similar change in meaning of left and right.