On Saturday, the New York Times put it very succinctly:
This has been a week in which the stock markets lurched sickeningly downward. The treasury secretary had to swat away rumors that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the pillars of the mortgage business, may be crumbling. Oil prices spiked, again. Airlines cut schedules and raised prices, again. And the best that could be said about one of the nation’s biggest companies, General Electric, was that it didn’t do worse in the second quarter than Wall Street had expected.
All of that made it more clear than ever why this nation desperately needs the next president to have a clear-eyed vision for the economy — and the federal budget in particular. And yet, the biggest news that Senator John McCain made last week was his renewal of a pledge to balance the federal budget by 2013. How? Who knows?
Mr. McCain’s main campaign promises, if fulfilled, would lead to huge budget deficits. Extending the Bush tax cuts, enacting more tax cuts of his own and staying the course in Iraq would cost hundreds of billions of dollars more, every year, than the small bore spending cuts he has specified. Mr. McCain cannot balance the budget on a crusade against pork and a one-year freeze in a sliver of federal spending. Either he has a secret plan to balance the budget or he’s blowing smoke.
It is safe to assume there is no secret plan.
It is safe to assume that John McCain is looking more and more like Bob Dole than Ronald Reagan. But it is far from safe to assume that his electoral prospects will be the same. The corporate media have not yet begun to fight. But they will not have an easy time of it.