Monday, July 7, 2008

McCain steering clear of entitlements?

The Politico
reports that McCain campaign's economic focus has so far stayed far away from entitlement reform, but advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin hinted that a President McCain would reach out to Democrats:

McCain adviser steers clear of entitlements

Asked on a conference call with reporters just how John McCain would balance the budget by 2013, his top economic adviser offered the usual recipe. "Broad-based efforts at controlling discretionary spending, keeping growth rapid and reviewing programs for their effectiveness." Of course, with McCain's proposed tax cuts, that still may not get the country to a balanced budget.

Which is where Holtz-Eakin's next statements come in. McCain, noted his adviser, "has a long history of being someone who can reach across the aisle" to address policy issues. He'll "solve big problems and provide leadership," Holtz-Eakin said, staying vague. 

Don't get what he's talking about? It's the issue that dare not speak its name during a campaign -- what to do about those entitlements that take up a much larger slice of the federal budget than any earmarks McCain wants to cut.

What Holtz-Eakin was suggesting, of course, is that McCain would work with Democratic leaders in Congress to address the increasingly heavy fiscal load that will come when baby boomers retire and start drawing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  The political challenge is saying during the course of a campaign just how you'd balance the budget by addressing this looming challenge.   McCain dares not propose increasing taxes on Social Security for fear of offending his tax-averse GOP base.  But he also, wisely, fears the wrath of seniors in such key elderly-heavy states such as Florida and Pennsylvania that would come were he to propose cutting benefits.

So instead it's mostly a wink and a nod -- the suggestion, if not outright proposal, that McCain will work and compromise with Democrats on the Hill to offer the needed harsh medicine that can't be unsealed until after Election Day. 

At the same time, however, a McCain document obtained by the very same newspaper had this to say on Social Security:

Reform Social Security: John McCain will fight to save the future of Social Security, and he believes that we may meet our obligations to the retirees of today and the future without raising taxes. John McCain supports supplementing the current Social Security system with personal accounts – but not as a substitute for addressing benefit promises that cannot be kept. John McCain will reach across the aisle to address these challenges, but if the Democrats do not act, he will. No problem is in more need of honesty than the looming financial challenges of entitlement programs. Americans have the right to know the truth and John McCain will not leave office without fixing the problems that threatens our future prosperity and power.

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