John McCain pledged yesterday to balance the budget by 2013.  Barack Obama responded by claiming that it can’t be balanced, and he can’t be bothered to try:

Not only does Obama say he won’t eliminate the deficit in his first term, as McCain aims to do, he frankly says he’s not sure he’d bring it down at all in four years, considering his own spending plans.

“I do not make a promise that we can reduce it by 2013 because I think it is important for us to make some critical investments right now in America’s families,” Obama told reporters this week when asked if he’d match McCain’s pledge.

So what is more important in tough economic times? For the government to spend more to help hard-hit Americans or to eliminate a deficit that can lead to higher borrowing costs and slow the economy?

The best policy would be to keep government from interfering with capital that can create new opportunities.  In this particular slowdown, strengthening the dollar would also be a good idea.  Blithely ignoring the deficit — and in fact proposing massive expansions of federal spending — will both weaken the dollar and burden Americans even more than now.

Democrats have complained for years about the Bush administration deficits.  In fact, they routinely use that as one argument against the Iraq war, claiming that it has exploded the deficit.  Now are the Democrats about to say that the deficit is of no consequence at all, and that spending shouldn’t rely on financing?  They insisted on pay-go in 2007, although they broke their own rules in the 2008 budget.

Nedra Pickler tries casting the two campaigns as both spending more than current levels, but there is a large difference between the McCain and Obama spending plans.  Obama would add almost $300 billion in new spending each year, while McCain would add less than $20 billion, and McCain has at least outlined cuts to balance them.  The difference becomes more significant with Obama’s stated indifference to the deficit, now and in the future.

This time, Obama won’t just execute a flip-flop for himself.  He’s about to force the entire party to do a 180 on deficit spending.  When do the backflips cease with Obama?