(Alexandria, VA) -- As Tennessee Senate candidates Harold Ford and Bob Corker attempt to define their differences to voters, at least one difference can be measured in dollars and cents: that's the assessment of a study released today by the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), which found that roughly $32 billion separates the federal budget platforms of the two hopefuls.
"Pocketbook issues are always an important factor in contests across the country, but cutting through the thick campaign rhetoric is never easy," said NTUF Senior Policy Analyst and study author Demian Brady. "Now citizens have hard data, not just soft words, to evaluate the candidates' stances on federal spending."
In preparing his analysis, Brady used the campaign websites of the two leading contenders in Tennessee U.S. Senate race to glean information on any proposals that could impact the level of federal spending. He in turn verified these items against independent sources such as the Congressional Budget Office. Brady also cross-checked items through NTUF's BillTally system, which since 1991 has computed a net annual agenda for each Member of Congress based on their sponsorship of bills. Among the findings:
- Representative Harold Ford has offered a total of 29 separate proposals that would affect federal spending, 14 of which would raise federal outlays and 2 of which would reduce them: a 1 percent across-the-board cut in government spending (excluding veterans and education programs), and pension reform. If enacted all at once, these items would result in a net overall annual spending hike of $34.1 billion (13 provisions have an indeterminate price tag).
- Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker's agenda of 8 budget-related items constitutes a net yearly spending increase of at least $1.5 billion, even after accounting for his support of drilling in ANWR and the outer continental shelf that would result in $553 million of yearly taxpayer savings. Like Ford, Corker's blueprint has three aspects whose cost cannot be identified, although Brady notes that 4 of Corker's 8 policies would have the effect of driving outlays upward.
- In comparison, during the First Session of the 109th Congress NTUF's BillTally system determined that the annual spending-increase agenda of the average Senate Democrat was $52.1 billion, vs. $11.3 billion for the typical Republican.
- Homeland security and defense spending represented one of the largest categories of spending increases in both candidates' plans ($2 billion, or 94 percent of Corker's spending agenda and $24.7 billion, or 72 percent of Ford's agenda).
NTUF's analysis of the Tennessee candidates' agendas is one of several the group is currently conducting. Contests are being selected on factors such as geographic diversity, political significance as rated by outside groups and analysts, and the level of specificity in the candidates' platforms.
"This study shows that despite a rough parity on spending increases for veterans, Harold Ford and Bob Corker have drawn quantifiable distinctions over the size and allocation of the federal budget," Brady concluded. "Yet, neither of these agendas would actually stem the tide of red ink with lower expenditures."
NTUF is the research and educational arm of the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union, a non-profit citizen group. Note: The line-by-line cost analysis of the Tennessee Senate candidates' spending agendas, and more information on BillTally, are both available online at www.ntu.org.