Editor's note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN's "Campbell Brown: Election Center" at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the "Cutting through the Bull" segment of Friday night's broadcast.
Campbell Brown says candidates should admit they won't be able to pay for all their promises.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Whether or not you agree with spending $700 billion on the bailout, plus another $150 billion on what looks like pork-barrel goodies, one thing's for sure: That's $850 billion we won't have to spend on those long lists of promises being made by the presidential candidates.
Something's gotta give. The money's just not there. I know that. You know that.
But our presidential and vice presidential candidates are not being straight with us about this reality. The vice presidential candidates got the question, point-blank, at Thursday night's debate. Here it is:
Gwen Ifill (debate moderator): Given the events of the week, what promises have you and your campaigns made to the American people that you're not going to be able to keep?
Sen. Joe Biden (Democratic vice presidential candidate): The one thing we may have to slow down is a commitment we made to double foreign assistance. We'll probably have to slow that down.
Sen. Biden, we looked it up.
The United States spends about $23 billion a year on foreign aid. And granted, I am terrible at math, but I'm pretty sure $850 billion minus $23 billion still leaves you pretty deep in the hole. So how about Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate. What did she have to say?
Palin: Well, the nice thing about running with John McCain is I can assure you he doesn't tell one thing to one group and then turns around and tells something else to another group including his plans that will make this bailout plan, this rescue plan, even better. I want to go back to the energy plan....
Useless answer. She completely dodged the question. I wish I could tell you the presidential candidates were more forthcoming. They're not. Here's Sen. Barack Obama's answer. He's been telling crowds the same thing in every speech. Watch Campbell's commentary »
Obama: Will the next president have to scale back his agenda? There's no doubt that some programs or policies I've proposed on the campaign trail may require more time to achieve. The answer is yes and no.
Obama then launches into a list of things he won't cut: health care reform, better schools, making college more affordable. You're not giving us an answer, Senator. And if Obama isn't being specific, Sen. John McCain was pretty vague when the question came up during the September 26 debate.
McCain: Look, we, no matter what, we've got to cut spending. First of all, by the way, I'd eliminate ethanol subsidies. How about a spending freeze on everything but defense, veteran affairs and entitlement programs?
While freezing spending sounds great in theory, financial experts say when you throw Sen. McCain's promised tax cuts into the mix -- and the fact that we are now fighting two wars -- the numbers don't even come close to adding up. So, to both of our presidential candidates, please stop treating us like we are idiots. We know the country is in real trouble. We know you cannot do all the things you are promising. Cut out the bull, prioritize your goals, and tell us honestly what you're going to do.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.