- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Considering the major reversal in the nation’s fiscal position in recent years, John Kerry ought to be able to score some points over the budget deficit. President Bush “was handed a [10-year] $5.6 trillion surplus,” Mr. Kerry declared during Friday’s debate. “We now have a [$2.3] trillion deficit,” which represents “the biggest turnaround in the history of the country.”

However, Mr. Kerry’s efforts to exploit the deficit fail when all the facts are considered. That’s because he has spent his entire political career as an unrepentant, big-spending, tax-hiking liberal. Indeed, during the same debate, despite the fact that federal education spending under Mr. Bush has increased more than 80 percent, rising from $35 billion in fiscal 2001 to a projected $64 billion in the current fiscal year, Mr. Kerry lamented that the president has “underfunded” education by at least $28 billion. His solution is to propose education “initiatives” costing an additional $207 billion over 10 years. Last year, Mr. Kerry opposed the Medicare prescription-drug plan, not because this self-styled budget hawk objected to the plan’s estimated $400 billion cost over 10 years. Having voted for a Democratic alternative the year before that would have cost 50 percent more, he wanted to spend more, much more.

In fact, Mr. Kerry’s presidential policy agenda just overflows with big-ticket spending items. Last week, for example, the deficit-fighting Concord Coalition released a report complaining that Mr. Kerry’s signature 10-year, $653 billion health-care proposal had so many “back-loaded costs” that it “grows by 50 percent between 2009 and 2014,” a period that conveniently follows his dubious pledge to cut the deficit in half by 2009. Even accepting at face value Mr. Kerry’s claim that his health-care plan would realize $300 billion in savings (a review by the American Enterprise Institute found that its net cost would actually exceed $1.5 trillion over a decade), the Concord Coalition concluded that the Kerry health plan “would assume significant budgetary risk.”

The Concord Coalition also found that “Senator Kerry’s budget framework would result in a higher level of discretionary spending than the president’s proposals,” producing “a difference of $300 billion” over 10 years.

The coalition also blew the whistle on the nearly $600 billion in false budget savings Mr. Kerry claims he will achieve over 10 years by eliminating the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for those earning $200,000 or more. By canceling these cuts, Mr. Kerry estimates savings of $860 billion, which ever so conveniently happens to match the sum of his education ($207 billion) and health ($653 billion) initiatives. However, “Much of this revenue gain is assumed in the [Congressional Budget Office] baseline because all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire in 2010,” the coalition noted, concluding that “this is a saving of less than $300 billion,” not $860 billion.

Mr. Kerry also asserted during the debate that his budget policy would restore the 1990s’ pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) restrictions. Wrong. “Senator Kerry does not apply PAYGO to extending ‘middle-class’ tax cuts ($500 billion),” the coalition reported (emphasis in the original).

Contrary to repeated assertions by Mr. Kerry, the Concord Coalition’s analysis concluded that Mr. Bush tax cuts “did not create the long-term [fiscal] problem and rolling them back would not provide a solution, especially if the revenues gained are redirected into costly new programs.” Regarding Mr. Kerry’s policies to address the long-term problems, the coalition asserted: “In the Kerry fiscal framework, there is no plan for dealing with the unsustainable long-term outlook. The subject is barely mentioned.”

It is worth recalling that 10 years ago the Concord Coalition issued a report card criticizing Mr. Kerry’s budget votes, which earned him an “F.” Visibly angry (according to the Boston Globe), Mr. Kerry called the coalition’s scorecard “irresponsible” because it failed to reflect “my support for a 50-cent increase in the gas tax.” Mr. Kerry has since disavowed such a policy. But given his spending proposals and the well-earned recognition he has repeatedly received as the Senate’s most liberal member, how can voters reasonably believe that this tax-and-spend liberal will abandon the philosophy he has enthusiastically embraced for more than three decades?

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