Kerry Lags in Polls; Spending Proposals Questioned

Published September 1, 2004

After the Democratic National Convention in Boston, candidate John Kerry still trailed President George W. Bush, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup presidential poll taken July 30 and 31. In an article published in USA Today on August 1, reporter Susan Page wrote, “Last week’s Democratic convention boosted voters’ impressions of John Kerry but failed to give him the expected bump in the head-to-head race against President Bush …”

Page noted, “In the survey, taken Friday and Saturday, Bush led Kerry 50 percent to 46 percent among likely voters. Independent candidate Ralph Nader was at 2 percent. The survey showed Kerry losing 1 percentage point and Bush gaining 4 percentage points from a poll taken the week before the Boston convention.”

Tax Plan a Possible Drawback

Suggesting Kerry’s tax plan would hold back his electoral appeal, the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) released a detailed analysis of Kerry’s fiscal agenda on July 12. The report, “One Hand In Your Pocket: How Kerry’s Campaign Pledges Stand to Cost Taxpayers Billions,” concludes Kerry’s current plan will not improve the budget picture for taxpayers.

“For overtaxed and deficit-weary Americans, future prospects for lower federal spending are bleak indeed,” said Peter J. Sepp, vice president for communications at NTUF. “Despite adding spending caps to his agenda, Kerry’s campaign promises could still hit taxpayers with a $226 billion blow, on top of the 29 percent spending run-up under George W. Bush’s term.”

The study systematically examined the fiscal policy implications of Kerry’s agenda, using campaign and third-party sources (such as the Congressional Budget Office) to assign a cost to each budget proposal the candidate had offered. For legislation Kerry has endorsed, the study also relied on NTUF’s BillTally project, a computerized accounting system that has, since 1991, tabulated the cost or savings of every piece of legislation introduced in Congress with a net annual impact of $1 million or more.

“Despite Kerry’s attempts to outflank Bush on the deficit issue and portray himself as the more fiscally responsible candidate, the data behind Kerry’s rhetoric tell a different story,” said study author Drew Johnson, an NTUF policy analyst. “Enactment of Kerry’s ‘revised’ spending agenda in its entirety would still mean higher taxes, a larger national debt, or likely both.”

$6 Trillion Spending Increase Over Four Years

The study reported Kerry’s plan would include major new spending that would require significant federal tax increases, the need for which he has not yet acknowledged:

  • Based on Kerry’s promise to “pay for” every program he has proposed, U.S. taxpayers would each face an average $2,206 tax increase during Kerry’s first year in office, and a cumulative increased tax burden of $6,066 over his first term.
  • If Kerry’s policy agenda were enacted in full, annual federal spending would rise by at least $226.125 billion during the first year of a Kerry presidency alone.
  • Despite the candidate’s promise of nearly $36 billion in spending cuts, $734.62 billion of Kerry’s spending agenda remains unaccounted for and presumably would have to be passed on to American taxpayers in the form of increased taxes or greater federal debt.
  • Kerry has promised nearly $115 billion in new social welfare, foreign aid, energy, and environmental spending during his first term, including $2 million to restore voting rights to felons.
  • According to BillTally and VoteTally figures included in the July 12 report, Kerry sponsored or cosponsored $182 billion worth of new federal spending legislation in 2003 and voted to increase federal spending long-term by an additional $466.5 billion during 2002. Federal spending actually increased by $147 billion in both 2002 and 2003, for a total two-year increase of just under $300 billion. VoteTally figures for 2003 are unavailable due to Kerry’s many absences from key votes.
  • Of 70 policy proposals Kerry has made, only five are cost-saving ideas.

“By exempting a series of major discretionary categories, Kerry’s so-called ‘strong’ spending caps are actually so porous as to be no more effective than the restraints George W. Bush has sought,” Johnson concluded. The current federal budget deficit is expected to hit a record $445 billion, according to a July 31 report from the Associated Press. “In the final analysis, the ‘winner’ of the 2004 election could very well be the federal deficit–leaving taxpayers with a landslide loss of their economic freedom.”

Annie Patnaude ([email protected]) is deputy press secretary of the National Taxpayers Union.

For more information …

The July 12 report, “One Hand In Your Pocket: How Kerry’s Campaign Pledges Stand to Cost Taxpayers Billions,” is available online at