The McCain campaign just put out a policy plan that says "John McCain will balance the budget by the end of his first term." This declaration leads to the obvious question -- How? The CBO projects a $443 billion deficit in 2013 if Bush's tax cuts are extended as McCain calls for -- and on top of this McCain calls for additional tax cuts.
McCain says he will pay for this by cutting Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, and he would bring troops back from Iraq and Afghanistan... Yes you read that right. McCain's plan to decrease the deficit is to bring the troops home. McCain's economic policy paper explains that:
The McCain administration would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit. Since all their costs were financed with deficit spending, all their savings must go to deficit reduction.
This is a pretty bold statement from a campaign that in the last five days has called Barack Obama a flip flopper for saying he might "revise" his Iraq tactics. Now McCain is implying that he will bring a large portion of our troops home quickly enough to pay down the deficit?
Let's get this straight.
A major plank of John McCain's economic plan to reduce the deficit is based on substantially decreasing America's financial commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan, which can only occur by significantly reducing the U.S. force presence in Iraq. Additionally, in order to meet the target of eliminating the deficit by 2013, troop levels would have to be substantially lowered in Iraq fairly early on in the McCain administration in order to have any impact on the deficit prior to 2013.
McCain's economic plan actually sheds some real light on John McCain's undefined Iraq position. (Note to the press: John McCain has never laid out a specific plan or strategy for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, nor has he ever defined what he means by "victory.") But now that we know that the McCain campaign's economic forecasting and planning are based on having substantially fewer troops in Iraq, it is clear that John McCain's Iraq plan is actually -- according to the implications of his economic policy proposal -- a copy of Barack Obama's Iraq plan, which calls for a responsible deliberate withdrawal. Since adopting Obama's plan would be the only way to achieve significant savings to pay down the deficit by 2013.
If this is not McCain's Iraq plan -- then his campaign essentially put out an economic policy plan that has no basis in reality and his pledge to eliminate the deficit is purely a cynical pledge to get elected. Either way he should be called out on this.
Thus far the press have treated McCain as the candidate with policy expertise and have ignored the fact that he has almost no policy specifics. Many of his policy proposals, especially on foreign policy, are incomplete, incoherent, and contradictory. He needs to clarify not just how his numbers add up, but how many troops he plans on withdrawing, as well as his definition of victory is in Iraq. It is past time for some reporters to start asking these questions. I mean this guy is running for president.