The $2.8 Trillion Deficit Gap: Holtz-Eakin Responds

A campaign blog.
July 24 2008 5:29 PM

The $2.8 Trillion Deficit Gap: Holtz-Eakin Responds

John McCain’s tax policy has come under fire in the past, particularly for its dependence on huge revenue windfalls to balance the budget. But now a new study from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (a joint venture between Brookings and the Urban Institute) suggests there’s another flaw: a rhetoric gap.

According to the study, the tax plan McCain’s campaign laid out privately is different from the one he’s selling on the stump. If you include the policies he has advocated publicly—such as repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax, increasing the dependent exemption to $7,000 right away, and reducing the corporate tax rate to 25 percent immediately—then the deficit after 10 years would actually be $2.8 trillion greater than if you go by his private plan. There’s also a rhetorical gap for Obama, but in his case the public version generates more revenue than the private one, thanks to a suggested hike in payroll taxes for people who make $250,000 or more. (Read the full study here [PDF].)

Advertisement

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain’s chief economic adviser, says the numbers he provided to the TPC aren’t secret—they’re the same ones he provides to anyone who asks . He also disputes the way the study takes suggestions McCain has made on the stump out of context. "This is parsing words out of campaign appearances to an unreasonable degree," Holtz-Eakin said. "He has certainly I’m sure said things in town halls" that don’t jibe perfectly with his written plan. But that doesn’t mean it’s official. For example, the study compares McCain’s promises on the stump to reduce the corporate tax rate immediately to his plan’s more gradual reduction. Holtz-Eakin objects: "You don’t say, I’d like to reduce it to 28 percent, then 26 percent, then 25 percent, then —no one talks like that on the stump. [You say,] I’d like to get it down to 25 percent ."

In other cases, Holtz-Eakin says, the TPC filled in gaps where the McCain campaign didn’t provide specifics. For example, McCain’s proposed Alternative Simplified Tax , a plan that would let taxpayers opt out of the current system in favor of a simpler two-rate system: "We were honest about the fact that we don’t have a specific proposal," he said. "They didn’t have one, so they made one up."

The Tax Policy Center sent the campaign a copy of the study a day before they released it. "Had I read more carefully, I probably would have raised [objections]," Holtz-Eakin said. "But I didn’t."

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 24 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Partial Solar Eclipse of October 2014
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.