Steve Chapman

They claim they can pay for most of this by raising taxes on the wealthy and ending the war in Iraq. But the first would bring in no more than $100 billion a year or so. And the money we are spending in Iraq is money we don't have in the first place. It's like saying, I can't afford a Hawaiian vacation, so I'll take the money I'm not spending on that to buy a Mercedes. The clear implication is that either of the Democrats will finance their proposals the same way President Bush has financed his -- by sending the bill to our kids.

For all his stern talk about eradicating earmarks, John McCain would take a similar approach. True, he is much less inclined to launch new initiatives, but he spurns the notion of paying for all the expenses we currently have, much less the ones looming ahead.

He says he would not increase taxes under any circumstances. That would be lovely if McCain were proposing deep cuts in the federal budget to eliminate the growing deficit. In fact, NTUF calculates, his plans would increase federal spending by $7 billion a year.

As the Brookings report put it, "Some people might believe that the federal government should both tax and spend at about 18 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), while others might believe it should tax and spend at about 30 percent of GDP. No reasonable person, however, would argue that the government should tax at 18 percent and spend at 30 percent. … Yet, this is the future we will get if we try to fund the spending required by current law with today's level of taxation."

It's 8 a.m., a fiscal crisis is at hand, and the phone is ringing in the White House. Will the next president take the call or let it go to voicemail?

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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