The voices of Tax Policy Center's researchers and staff
Congratulations to John McCain, whose strong Super Tuesday showing made him the clear frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. But who is the Real McCain? Is he the sometimes ornery contrarian who bucked his party on issues such as campaign finance reform, or the establishment Republican who, since 2004, has been a faithful supporter of President Bush?
To help figure it out, here are seven fiscal policy questions I'd like McCain to answer:
- What do you really think about the Bush tax cuts? You were one of only two GOP senators who opposed them in 2001. Now you say you'd extend them.
- You promise to repeal the alternative minimum tax. That alone would add more than $1 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. You also want to cut corporate taxes. How would you pay for it all?
- You say you support broad-based tax reform. What kind?
- You want to cut the size of government, but how? Eliminating earmarks is nice, but trashing every one would save only about $18 billion a year. The latest Bush budget would add more than $1 trillion to the national debt over five years, even before we fully pay for the Iraq war and an AMT fix. Exactly what other programs would you eliminate?
- What would you do about entitlement spending? You say you support bipartisan reform of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but what would it look like?
- You vow to reduce health care spending through better use of disease management and information technology and by giving consumers more control over their care. But let's talk straight: Do we need to ration care to truly manage costs? If so, who will do it?
- You say we could be in Iraq for 100 years and you support a major missile defense system, as well as an expanded military. How would you finance these priorities, which are likely to cost hundreds of billions of dollars?
Before he can wrap up the nomination, McCain must still find a way to patch things up with the GOP's activist right. Then, he'll likely turn back to the center. He'll run in the general election as the straight-talking independent moderates loved before Bush crushed him in 2000. That's all politics, but if he's willing to answer these seven questions, we'll have some idea how President McCain would actually govern.
In coming days, we'll have similar questions for Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. In the meantime, what questions would you ask John McCain? Post your own comments and let us know.
Posts and comments are solely the opinion of the author and not that of the Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute, or Brookings Institution.