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July 10, 2008

McCain Throws Phil Gramm Under the Bus

Damnit, I was just writing this post, to be headlined "Throw Phil Gramm Under the Bus!"

Gramm's statements were insulting to Americans -- he called us a "nation of whiners." This is nearly as bad as Obama himself calling Americans "bitter" and "clingy." It's only less bad because McCain didn't say it himself.

The statement was wretched politics. First of all, we are not technically in a recession, but it is all but guaranteed. When we spend money on products made by Americans, we are paying the salaries of all those Americans who made that product. With fuel costs skyrocketing, we simply cannot afford to pay the salaries of as many Americans -- thus, we will lose jobs, we will lose wealth, we will lose productivity. The additional money we're paying for fuel, both directly and indirectly, is going almost entirely into foreign pockets, and furthermore we're paying more money for the same amount of fuel. (Less, actually.) We're not even creating additional jobs by buying more fuel.

Secondly, the media has convinced the country we are in a recession, and in fact have been in a recession for seven years. According to the media, Bush began his term in a recession, then the economy grew a bit so that we we could continue to be in a recession, and lately has fallen precipitously from the previous recession into a fresh recession.

There is nothing to be gained from fighting this. As they say, do not pick a fight with someone who buys printing ink by the barrel-full. McCain, wisely, has chosen to pretend we're in a recession, because to claim otherwise sets him for the media attacking him for "being out-of-touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans."

McCain knows we're not in a recession. But he also knows he is forbidden to claim we're not in one. So he plays the media's game-- and he's wise to do so.

Finally, this was idiotic because the American people are not the bad guys here. When Americans have been polled on their personal economic situations in the recent passed, the great majority reported they were doing fair to very well. But when asked how the country is faring, they consistently say we're on the wrong track, in a recession, and all that.

What accounts for this great divergence between personal, anecdotal data on the economy one one's feelings about the entire country's economy? Well, one knows one's own finances first-hand, but one only knows about the national economy from the media. And the media has been pounding the drumbeat of recession and economic crisis for seven long, long fucking years.

How could the American people think otherwise? The media has consistently downplayed the actual numbers on the economy while always talking up crisis just over the horizon, or already upon us.

For God's sake, they were still talking recession when the economy spiked over 6% growth in one quarter. They shifted from the "technical" definition of a recession (which is, by the way, the real one) to reporting a recession according to how people "feel."

Never mind the actual numbers -- let's talk about what a large groups of non-experts without economics training or access to the actual data feel about information they've never seen.

So if Gramm wanted to make this point, he attacked the wrong target. In political terms, attacking the media is a winner; attacking the voters, not so much. And in terms of simple reality, he also attacked the wrong group. The public has been lied to constantly for seven years; that's not their fault. It's the fucking media's.

This is a serious blunder, and one which will haunt McCain. Obama's like a pig in shit misrepresenting Gramm's statements. He just claimed Gramm said that "high gas prices are just a figment of your imagination," which Gramm didn't say; he said merely, correctly, that we were not yet in a recession.

And the gall of Obama -- who actually favors high gas prices and resists every attempt to increase supply -- to dare suggest such a thing.

Nevertheless, dishonesty aside, the damage is done. And so should be Phil Gramm. McCain is rebuking Gramm, but that's not enough.

Cut him loose. Not because he's an incompetent or a bad guy. Of course Gramm knows his onions. But he is a political liability, and quite a bad one, and surely there are any number of competent economic advisers to be had who have not insulted the voting public for no very good reason at all.


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posted by Ace at 03:43 PM

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