Kerry-Edwards Spending Plan Would Send Deficit Higher

By Shannon Augustus | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - With Democrats heaping criticism on the Bush administration's tax cutting strategy and the increase in the federal budget deficit, conservatives are countering that a Kerry-Edwards administration would drive the deficit even higher.

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation has released a study indicating that 65 out of the 70 planks in John Kerry's fiscal policy platform would increase federal spending, while only five would reduce the budget.

Pete Sepp, vice president of communications for the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), said that if all of Kerry's 70 campaign promises became law, the total amount of federal spending would increase by $226 billion in his first year in office.

Sepp said Kerry would compound one of the Bush administration's major errors. "Certainly the biggest mistake the current administration has made was signing the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit into law without insisting on much stronger reforms to Medicare itself," Sepp said.

The 2002 Farm Bill, which Sepp said reversed much of the efficiency contained in the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act, was also a mistake committed by the Bush administration.

However, the NTU study indicated "that a Kerry administration would only increase the flow of dollars to these areas with very little accountability along the way," Sepp said.

The NTU study also posted taxpayer scores for both Kerry and Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards. According to Sepp, the score was based on the number of times a member of Congress "tries to reduce or control government."

Scores below 25 percent on the 2003 rating generated a grade of "F". Edwards' score was 22 percent. Kerry's was 14 percent.

However, Mark Weisbrot, economist and co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research, said Kerry's proposals to expand health care coverage would be balanced by his tax increases on wealthier individuals.

Kerry "doesn't have a program right now that would reduce the deficit," Weisbrot conceded, "but the Bush administration is a little worse than that on the fiscal policy because their proposals were increasing "

Weisbrot said deficit spending was worsened by the Bush administration's tax cuts. "The tax cuts are responsible for the biggest chunk of the deficit, the record level deficits we have now, and the record-level national debt we are going to have next year."

According to congressional sources, a mid-year White House report expected Friday will peg the current fiscal year's budget deficit at $420 billion, an amount that is about $100 billion less than the forecast five months ago.

Sepp said taxpayers would benefit if this trend continued through September. "If these figures hold out through the end of the fiscal year, that's a very, very small silver lining on a huge dark cloud for taxpayers," he said.

"We can only hope that additional spending restraint can bring the numbers down much further. That is something the administration, whoever is in the White House in 2005, needs to get to work on right away."

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