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The presidential candidates argued about the economy and fiscal policy at a debate on Oct. 7, 2008, in Nashville.
Barack Obama criticized John McCain's talk of earmarks, saying that cutting earmarks would not significantly affect the federal deficit.
"Senator McCain has been talking tough about earmarks, and that's good, but earmarks account for about $18-billion of our budget," Obama said.
Fiscal conservatives concerned about the national debt — which is now more than $9-trillion in total — often mention earmarks as something that needs fixing. But earmarks are only a small part of the problem.
According to an Office of Management and Budget tally, earmarks totaled $18-billion for the 2008 budget, or roughly 10 percent of the deficit for that year. Another report found that appropriations bills in fiscal year 2008 included $16.5 billion for earmarks. Those numbers are lower than previous years because earmarking dropped considerably following the congressional lobbying scandals of 2005 and 2006. But even at their peak in 2005, when earmarks hit $52-billion, according to the Congressional Research Service and the OMB, that was only 16 percent of that year’s deficit of $318-billion.
The numbers show Obama gets his earmark number correct. We rate his statement True.
Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal 2008 Budget Outlook
Office of Management and Budget, FY08 Appropriations Earmarks Summary .
Congressional Budget Office, Historical budget tables
Congressional Research Service Memorandum, “Earmarks in Appropriations Acts,” Jan. 26, 2006.
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