Spender vs. Spender

March 29, 2004 • Commentary
This article originally appeared on Nation​al​re​view​.com on March 29, 2004.

John Kerry is the consummate modern candidate with his blow‐​dry hair, earnest tone, and easy ability at covering all sides of every issue. He has also mastered the art of giving rousing stump speeches that say little by using vacuous statements, such as “we need a real deal that stands up to the powerful interests.”

Perhaps Kerry’s greatest campaign asset is his ability to design spending initiatives that target every conceivable special interest. The following is a list of spending proposals mined from John Kerry’s website. By my count, the website includes at least 79 separate initiatives that would create new programs or step up spending on current programs.

There is one interest group that the senator has forgotten about: the American taxpayers who would pay for all this new spending.


  • Increase spending on conservation programs and farm subsidies.
  • Expand Amtrak service in rural areas.
  • Increase spending on rural health care and community health clinics.


  • Increase AIDS spending abroad to $30 billion.
  • Increase spending on tuberculosis and malaria.
  • Increase spending to train foreign health‐​care workers.
  • Expand programs to assist children orphaned by AIDS.
  • New programs to help women reduce risk of HIV infection.

Americans with Disabilities

  • Enhance Medicare coverage for workers with disabilities.
  • Low interest loans for bus companies to purchase accessible busses.
  • Federal grants for Paratransit, particularly in rural areas.
  • Expand Project ACTION for civil rights in transportation services.
  • Increased spending on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


  • Increase child‐​care funding with grants to the states.
  • Ensure after‐​school care for every child in America.
  • Fund states to provide salary bonuses to child‐​care workers who get training.
  • Expand child anti‐​abuse programs.
  • Increase the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
  • New program to train health professionals and school officials to prevent childhood obesity.

Economy and Jobs

  • Expand YouthBuild and other job‐​training and education programs.
  • Subsidize manufacturers to provide worker health‐​care and retirement benefits.
  • New “State Tax Relief and Education Fund” to give the states $50 billion over two years.
  • Expand programs that assist minority‐ and women‐​owned companies.
  • Assist workers in declining industries to retrain and upgrade skills.
  • Cancel a portion of student loans for engineering and computer students if they agree to work in manufacturing.


  • Expand Head Start and Early Head Start.
  • New National Education Trust Fund to increase education funding.
  • Fund the 21st Century Community Learning Center program.
  • Expand early intervention efforts like Gear‐​Up and TRIO.
  • Issue $24.8 billion in new bonds to build and repair schools.
  • New refundable tax credit for $4,000 of college tuition.
  • New “I Have a Dream” program to prepare for college.
  • New “Service for College” initiative to earn college tuition in exchange for two years of community service.

Energy and Environment

  • New Manhattan Project to make America independent of Middle East oil.
  • New renewable energy trust fund.
  • New national tracking system for chronic diseases and environmental hazards.


  • Expand health care coverage to 96 percent of Americans and provide health insurance for every child in America.
  • Enhance Medicare benefits to include rehabilitation services, community‐​transition services, mental‐​health parity, and home health service.
  • Expand the new Medicare drug benefit.
  • Expand Medicaid benefits.
  • Greater federal financing of long‐​term services for the disabled.
  • Subsidies to companies and insurance firms to pay for part of catastrophic health costs.
  • Technology bonus for companies to switch to electronic health records.
  • Fund drug‐​abuse prevention and treatment.
  • Raise the Medicare‐​reimbursement rate for nurse midwives.

Homeland Security

  • New First Defenders Service to hire 100,000 firefighters.
  • New Community Defense Service to organize Americans under community Service Captains.
  • National Homeland Health Initiative for health training and research.


  • New demonstration projects for disabled housing.
  • Expand Section 8 housing‐​voucher program.
  • Increase funding for seniors’ independent living centers and local aging agencies.

National Service

  • New Retired Not Tired program to enroll 100,000 seniors in community service.
  • New Summer of Service program for teenagers.
  • Major expansion of the Peace Corps.

Native Americans

  • Increase funding for the Indian Health Service.
  • Strengthen health care for Indian seniors.
  • Increase funding for roads and infrastructure in Indian Country.
  • Build safe and affordable housing in Indian Country.
  • Increase loans to Native‐​American‐​owned small businesses.
  • New Office of Native American Affairs in the Small Business Administration.
  • New grant program to assist American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  • Repair and build new schools for Indian children.
  • Increase funding for tribal colleges.
  • Increase funding for tribal courts.

Small Business

  • Expand micro‐​loans for small businesses.
  • Expand loans for small business start‐​ups.
  • New Office of Manufacturing at the Small Business Administration.
  • Increase the government’s venture capital investments.
  • New refundable tax credits to small businesses for health insurance.


  • Fund cutting‐​edge technology that the private sector will not.
  • Increase research funding for the Department of Energy, NASA, and the National Science Foundation.
  • Double funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Urban America

  • New Affordable Housing Trust Fund to provide 1.5 million rental units for low‐​income families.
  • New funding for faith‐​based charities that provide services to children, families, seniors, and that fund AIDS education, shelter, drug prevention, and job training.
  • Increase funding of drug‐​treatment programs.

Veterans and Military

  • Increase veterans’ retirement benefits.
  • New program to fund health care for reservists.
  • Bolster Family Assistance Centers on military bases.
  • Improve service members’ life insurance and increase benefits for surviving spouses.

What is the total price tag for John Kerry’s promises? Nobody knows, since few are costed‐​out by the candidate. Besides, the prescription‐​drug bill jumped one‐​third in cost after it was signed into law, illustrating that federal programs usually cost more than promised anyway.

What Kerry’s promises reveal is a candidate who thinks that the solution to every societal ill — real or perceived — is an expanded federal budget. In November, Americans will have to decide whether Kerry’s big‐​spending promises are worse than Bush’s big‐​spending record.

About the Author
Chris Edwards
Director of Tax Policy Studies and editor of DownsizingGovernment.org