Live blogging: Oh snap -- pork barrel, that!

Obama is so totally right about pork-barreling.

Published September 27, 2008 1:34AM (EDT)

Obama is making a very smart point about pork-barreling but not making it smartly. He should put it in context. Our federal budget is about $2.5 trillion. Pork-barrel projects actually account for closer to $30B-$50B, which is more than Obama is stating ($18B). (My departmental colleague, Roy Meyers of UMBC, is a budget expert on this matter.)

OK, still, even if on the high end, $50B is, as a share of $2.5 trillion, 1/50th of the budget. So what McCain is saying is that, for a family with a household expense that includes a mortgage, insurance, utilities, phone and cable that amounts to $2,500 per month, he's going to make you solvent by eliminating the $50 you pay to have some teenager mow and weed your lawn twice monthly. It's a total diversion. And McCain knows it.

Why is he getting away with this crap? I'm sorry, but because too few Americans can do math and/or understand budgeting. Millions, billions or trillions -- flies right over their heads. You have to put numbers in context. McCain knows this and tries to pretend he is a fiscal conservative by attacking your lawn-mowing expense while cutting out hundreds of billions in potential revenues by supporting the nongrowth Bush tax cuts.

Obama took a good whack at McCain's fallacious, misleading "budget talk." But he has to do it smarter.

P.S.: Give McCain credit for attacking cost-plus budgeting in defense contracting. But I'm not sure he has really spoken out against cost-plus all along. (Has he?)

P.P.S.: You knew McCain was going to drop the whole "most liberal senator" talking point. Not sure aligning with Tom Coburn is Obama's best solution -- better when he said being a liberal meant opposing failed Bush policies. Liked his hatchet-scalpel metaphor. Nicely played.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama John Mccain R-ariz.