September 29th, 2008
02:15 PM ET
15 years ago

Fact Check: Is Obama proposing $860 billion+ in new spending?

The statement:At a campaign stop Monday in Columbus, Ohio, Sen. John McCain said Sen. Barack Obama "has proposed more than $860 billion in new spending."

Get the facts!

The Facts:
The McCain campaign is basing this figure on its own tally of how much money all of the new programs Obama has vowed to fund would ultimately cost. The total does not look at how much money Obama would save through cutbacks in other parts of his spending plan. It's important to note that McCain did not say "additional" spending.

Brian Rogers of the McCain campaign sent CNN the campaign's tally of "new spending" by Obama. It lists more than 40 plans or programs that Obama has discussed creating or funding at a higher level, along with figures for how much each would cost. Some of those figures come from what Obama or his campaign has said; others come from estimates by the Congressional Budget Office or other agencies. The list says if Obama could enact all his proposals, "taxpayers would be faced with financing $898.472 billion in new spending over one White House term."

Jason Furman, the Obama campaign's economic adviser, called McCain's assertion "totally ludicrous." He said the McCain campaign is "exaggerating our spending increases" while ignoring spending cuts. The Obama campaign does not have its own figure for how much "new spending" Obama is proposing, Furman said, because it "doesn't conceptually make sense." If someone is spending $10 a week on apples, then switches to spending $10 a week on oranges, "it wouldn't make sense to say how much extra you are spending on oranges - you're just changing what you're spending on," he said.

The most detailed analysis of McCain's and Obama's budget plans comes from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The group's president, Maya MacGuineas (pronounced "McGuiness"), called McCain's statement "a misleading figure taken out of context."

The committee has looked at how much spending Obama and McCain are proposing and how much they say they'll save. The candidates have been more specific about spending than saving, but the committee gave them leeway, assuming that the savings they promise could actually happen, MacGuineas said. The committee's figures include the candidates' tax plans as well, because both include spending changes as part of their tax plans, she said.

The committee found that both candidates' fiscal policies call for spending a lot more than they bring in. By 2013, Obama's policies would add $286 billion to that year's deficit, while McCain's policies would add $211 billion, MacGuineas said.

The committee has not totaled only "new spending" for either Obama or McCain.

Verdict: Misleading. The figure McCain gave is based on his campaign's tally of the costs of numerous programs Obama has discussed, but ignores the savings from other policy changes Obama is calling for.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • John McCain • Taxes
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