The Truth-O-Meter Says:

"Senator McCain has been talking tough about earmarks, and that's good, but earmarks account for about $18-billion of our budget."

Barack Obama on Tuesday, October 7th, 2008 in a debate in Nashville, Tenn.

Obama's earmark number is correct

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.

About this statement:

Published: Tuesday, October 7th, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Subjects: Federal Budget


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.


Written by: Angie Drobnic Holan, Shawn Zeller
Researched by: Angie Drobnic Holan, Shawn Zeller
Edited by: Amy Hollyfield

How to contact us:

We want to hear your suggestions and comments.

For tips or comments on our Obameter and our GOP-Pledge-O-Meter promise databases, please e-mail the Obameter. If you are commenting on a specific promise, please include the wording of the promise.

For comments about our Truth-O-Meter or Flip-O-Meter items, please e-mail the Truth-O-Meter. We’re especially interested in seeing any chain e-mails you receive that you would like us to check out. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.

Browse The Truth-O-MeterTM: