NBC's Williams heard McCain's attacks on Obama's economic plan, but didn't ask how McCain would pay for his

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN & DIANNA PARKER

NBC's Brian Williams offered no challenge to assertions by Sen. John McCain that Sen. Barack Obama has a proposal to "raise spending by $1.4 trillion over five years, and no way to pay for his programs" and that he -- McCain -- has "a plan to balance the budget." Williams did not ask McCain how he planned to pay for his proposals; nor did he note that economists and nonpartisan analysts reportedly say that McCain's proposal for numerous tax cuts would bloat the deficit or require huge spending cuts.

During an interview on the June 9 edition of NBC's Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams did not challenge assertions by Sen. John McCain that Sen. Barack Obama has a proposal to "raise spending by $1.4 trillion over five years, and no way to pay for his programs. That would put us further in debt. I have a plan to balance the budget." At no point during the portions of the interview aired on Nightly News did Williams ask McCain how he planned to pay for his proposals or note that economists and nonpartisan analysts reportedly say that McCain's proposal for numerous tax cuts would bloat the deficit or require huge spending cuts, as Media Matters for America has noted.

Bloomberg News reported on April 18 that McCain's "plan to cut taxes and balance the budget wins praise from fellow Republicans," but that "[e]conomists and nonpartisan analysts say his numbers don't add up." Bloomberg further reported that "McCain's spending cuts, combined with increased revenue from economic growth, total $1.5 trillion over eight years, leaving a $1.8 trillion net increase to the national debt" and quoted Joel Slemrod, an economist specializing in tax policy at the University of Michigan, as saying, "This is really a massive increase in the deficit." Bloomberg also quoted Concord Coalition executive director Robert Bixby's assertion that "the huge imbalance" in McCain's plan "is that the tax cuts are specific and large and the spending cuts are small and vague," and later reported: "Ultimately, said Stan Collender, a former analyst for the House and Senate budget committees, it would take substantial cuts to Medicare and Social Security to balance the budget with the tax cuts McCain is proposing. Even then, 'there's no way McCain could balance it by the time he leaves, unless he doesn't leave for 25 years,' Collender said."

Similarly, in an April 22 Wall Street Journal article (subscription required), headlined "McCain Tax Cuts Would Bloat Deficit or Take Huge Spending Curbs," staff writer Laura Meckler reported that McCain "says he would cut $160 billion a year from a federal discretionary budget that totals a little more than $1 trillion" and noted that "[t]he $160 billion figure is equal to the total budget in 2007 for the departments of Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice and State." The article went on to report: "The chances of cuts of this magnitude are 'nonexistent,' said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that promotes fiscal discipline. 'There's not a consensus to cut back on the functions of government that much,' he said. 'Those are very, very deep cuts.'" Meckler reported that Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said that the cuts that would be needed to balance the books are "inconceivable" and "wildly draconian," quoting Greenstein as saying: "No president would really propose it and no Congress of either party would really pass it." Meckler also reported that "[t]o really cut federal spending, experts say, Sen. McCain would need to attack Social Security and Medicare, popular programs serving seniors." From the Journal:

An analysis of federal spending since 1976 show that there has never been a cut in domestic spending as large as what Sen. McCain is proposing, said Richard Kogan, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The biggest was in 1982, led by President Reagan, when federal spending was cut by about 17%; most of the cuts were reversed over the next few years, he said.

To really cut federal spending, experts say, Sen. McCain would need to attack Social Security and Medicare, popular programs serving seniors. "If you're going to get serious about spending, you have to turn to the entitlement programs," said the Concord Coalition's Mr. Bixby.

Additionally, according to the Tax Policy Center, McCain "proposes to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent, repeal the AMT [alternative minimum tax], double the dependent exemption, raise the estate tax exemption and lower its rate, make permanent the research credit, and suspend federal gas taxes this summer. He'd also cut the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent and allow companies to deduct machinery and equipment immediately, rather than amortizing them. He also plans to close corporate tax loopholes worth $30 billion per year." The Tax Policy Center -- a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution that describes itself as "made up of nationally recognized experts in tax, budget, and social policy" -- estimates that these proposals would cost "about $5.7 trillion over ten years if they could be enacted immediately," or $5.4 trillion if "they don't take effect until October 2009." According to the Tax Policy Center, "Cuts this size would pare government back to levels not seen since the Eisenhower administration. In FY 2012, tax revenues would be reduced by about $550 billion compared with current law (with the tax cuts expired). That is roughly equal to CBO's baseline projection for all nondefense discretionary spending." The report concluded:

These estimates make one thing clear. Senator McCain plans a radical downsizing of government. Slashing pork, earmarks, and underperforming programs would offset only a fraction of the revenues. Cuts the size of those he proposes will require slashing discretionary spending and entitlements, and probably even reining in defense spending. Small wonder he has backed away from his earlier pledge to balance the budget -- meaning that these tax cuts, like the ones signed by President Bush, will be paid for by our children.

From the June 9 edition of NBC's Nightly News:

WILLIAMS: Earlier this afternoon, I asked John McCain about these high gas prices, and the U.S. economy, and the race against Barack Obama. Senator McCain took a break from campaigning to talk to us from his Arlington, Virginia, national campaign headquarters.

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WILLIAMS: Senator, it won't surprise you that we'll begin today with the economy, and you know the backdrop. Oil, we've got it at over $130 a barrel. You know about the price of gasoline, the national debt. And Barack Obama today said this: "We were promised a fiscal conservative; instead, we got the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history. And now John McCain wants to give us another. Well, we've been there once. We're not going back. It's time to move the country forward." The question is, is it going to be tough to run with an incumbent party for the White House, given this economic backdrop?

McCAIN: I think it's tough. But I think the American people didn't get to know me yesterday. They know me. They know that I fought for restrained spending, which Senator Obama has been a big part of with earmark and pork-barrel projects. They know that I have been a strong fiscal conservative, and they know I understand the challenges that they face. They need a little break from their gasoline taxes, and they -- and they know that we've got to get spending under control and we've got to become independent of foreign oil.

Senator Obama says that I'm running for Bush's third term. It seems to me he's running for Jimmy Carter's second.

WILLIAMS: Why do you say that?

McCAIN: Because spend, spend, tax, spend. He's got a proposal that would raise taxes by $1.4 trillion over five, or over five years -- or raise spending, excuse me, raise spending by $1.4 trillion over five years and no way to pay for his programs. That would put us further in debt. I have a plan to balance the budget. I have a plan to get us energy independence and get America going again. And that's what I can do and my record, and I'll stand on it. I have a reputation -- and a deserved one -- of reaching across the aisle and working with Democrats. Senator Obama has none of that. He has the most liberal voting record in the Senate.

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Brian Williams
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NBC Nightly News
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Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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