The National Taxpayers Union Foundation has crunched the numbers to put a price tag on all those lovely campaign promises the leading presidential candidates are making. The upshot: Hold on to your wallets.
Not suprisingly, the only remaining candidate who would actually cut spending is Ron Paul: his campaign promises would lower annual outlays by more than $150 billion. Recently departed Rudy Giuliani was also a net spending cutter, to the tune of $1.4 billion. Frontrunner John McCain, on the other hand, would increase spending by $6.9 billion. And the main “conservative” alternatives are even worse: Mitt Romney boosts spending by $19.5 billion annually and Mike Huckabee would do so by $54.2 billion.
Unfortunately, there’s more than a dime’s worth of difference between the two big spending parties. Hillary Clinton would increase annual outlays by over $218 billion; Barack Obama by an eye-popping $287 billion. And while the Republicans mostly want to increase spending on the military, which is at least a legitimate function of the federal government, the Democrats want to lavish money on health care and transportation boondoggles (though some of the infrastructure spending is constitutionally kosher).
Even though many of these campaign promises will never see the light of day, the price tags tend to rise over time. I remember seeing estimates in 2000 that George W. Bush was “only” proposing a net spending increase of $80 billion. If only.