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. It now projects a deficit of $1,587 billion, an increase of $401 billion. 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)—assuming no stimulus and assuming that the economy would have done as well as it has done without it. That’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. It might have been more tax- than spending-oriented, but would have increased the deficit nevertheless. If we assume that McCain’s stimulus would have been half the size of Obama’s that leaves us with an estimated deficit of $1,474 billion under McCain—only 7% less than the deficit now estimated.