What would the deficit be if McCain were president?
Bruce Bartlett, who has a new booking coming out, was nice enough to run some budget numbers so I wouldn’t have to:
I was looking through the new CBO projections and saw a point worth emphasizing.
CBO projected a deficit of $1,186 billion in January before Obama took office.Â It now projects a deficit of $1,587 billion, an increase of $401 billion.Â If one goes through the March update (pp. 6-7) and the August update (pp. 52-53) and adds up all the changes to the January estimate, you find that the deficit increase since January consists of $46 billion in lower than expected revenues due to the economy (11.5%), $129 billion in higher spending due to technical re-estimates (32.2%), and $226 billion due to legislative changes to both spending and revenues (56.3%).
This suggests that we would have had a deficit of at least $1,361 billion this year even if McCain had won (January deficit plus lower revenues and technical changes and no legislative changes)â€”assuming no stimulus and assuming that the economy would have done as well as it has done without it.Â Thatâ€™s only 14% less than the deficit currently projected. And keep in mind that some of the legislative changes are due to higher defense spending and other non-stimulus related programs.
But McCain undoubtedly would have supported some sort of fiscal stimulus.Â It might have been more tax- than spending-oriented, but would have increased the deficit nevertheless.Â If we assume that McCainâ€™s stimulus would have been half the size of Obamaâ€™s that leaves us with an estimated deficit of $1,474 billion under McCainâ€”only 7% less than the deficit now estimated.