Senator John McCain plunged into the debate with a strong attack based on one of his signature issues, the requests by members of Congress for funding for pet projects that would benefit their home districts or states, also known as earmarks.
Mr. McCain charged that Mr. Obama “has asked for $932 million of earmark pork-barrel spending, nearly a million dollars for every day that he’s been in the United States Senate.” Parts of that statement are true, but others are not, and other remarks Mr. McCain made about the subject Friday night were also incorrect.
According to the calculations of fiscal watchdog groups, Mr. Obama has indeed requested that amount of funding since entering the Senate in 2005. But some of the same groups make a distinction between “pork-barrel” projects that they deem inherently wasteful, such as the now-famous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska, and those projects that may have a useful purpose but which are obtained through legislative guile.
In addition, Mr. McCain erred when he said that earmarks have “tripled in the last five years.” Earmarks tripled in size over the decade between 1996 and 2005. But since then, they have actually declined, from nearly 14,000 projects worth $18.9 billion in fiscal 2005 to just over 11,500 projects valued at $16.5 billion for the fiscal year ending next week.
Finally, earmarks are, as Mr. Obama indicated, a tiny part of the federal government’s overall budget and deficit. For fiscal year 2008, President Bush asked Congress to authorize $2.9 trillion in spending, which meant a total deficit of about $240 billion. That means that even if all earmarks were eliminated, it would reduce the federal deficit for the year by less than seven percent.
Fannie and Freddie:
Senator John McCain said tonight that he “warned about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” echoing some of his recent comments in which he portrayed himself as sounding the alarm about the impending financial crisis.
Mr. McCain was referring to his decision in 2006 to sign on as a co-sponsor of a Senate bill that would have overhauled regulations governing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But the legislation was introduced more than 16 months earlier, and the debate over the issue had been going on for some time. He also only added his name to the measure after an oversight agency issued a long report condemning practices at Fannie Mae.
Senator John McCain charged that Senator Obama voted “to increase taxes on people who make as low as $42,000 a year.”
Mr. Obama interjected, “That’s not true, John. That’ s not true.” Mr. McCain’s claim has been called “simply false” by the nonpartisan FactCheck.org.
It is based on Mr. Obama’s vote for Senate Democrats’ nonbinding budget resolution for fiscal 2009 that assumed all of President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts would expire as scheduled in 2010. But Mr. Obama has promised that he would retain all Bush tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year. Mr. Obama has proposed other tax breaks for the middle class as well. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has concluded that 95 percent of families with children would get a tax break under Mr. Obama’s plan, significantly more than under Mr. McCain.
Here's the transcript