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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

In prioritizing economic versus security issues for purposes of casting your vote, keep in mind that the Marines pay more attention to the POTUS than do macro-economic trends

At last, I'm into November. Hoo-rah for file maintenance!

In hindsight, I like this guest-post title at HH.com less than I did at the time. Too long, too long. Nevertheless, the premise is correct: Come Inauguration Day, every Marine in Washington will snap perfect salutes to the new Commander in Chief, who will deserve them by virtue of the office he holds. The Dow-Jones average is likely to be less deferential.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Gas station sign in Houston on Oct 31, 2008 (photo: Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle)Given the rather startling photograph on the left, why is it that George W. Bush is not being hailed right now — triumphantly by the GOP, reluctantly by the Democrats — as a genius for definitively and dramatically solving the single most acute economic problem that was facing most Americans this past summer, when gasoline prices at the pump were topping $4 per gallon?

The answer any truthful macro-economist will give you is: George W. Bush didn't have anything much to do with that fall in gasoline prices at the pump. And neither did Congress.

The precipitous fall in gasoline prices in September and October was the result of world-wide economic forces outside either of their control and, indeed, mostly explainable even by economists only through guesswork. The simplest classical economic answers can only hint at part of the price change: worldwide demand for refined gasoline, while diminished at the margin by this summer's high prices, hasn't dropped by anything close to half, and worldwide supply, while increased at the margin by those same high prices, hasn't grown to anything close to double either. Although the cumulative long-term decisions made by governments are certainly one factor in such worldwide economic price trends over time, the role played by any government — be it in Washington or Riyadh or Caracas — in this particular pricing spasm was inconsequential over this time-frame.

Friends and neighbors, it's simply a fact that the general public and the popular press give politicians both too much credit and too much blame for both short-term and long-term economic changes. It wasn't FDR and the New Deal who ended the Great Depression, it was World War 2. It wasn't Bill Clinton who grew the gross domestic product in the 1990s and thereby swelled tax revenues to balance the budget briefly, it was the integration into the national and world economy of the information revolution most clearly symbolized by the personal computer on which you're reading this internet blog post.

I'm not saying that governments don't affect economies. They do, especially at the margin and over long periods of time. Only bad and thoroughly intrusive governmental policy applied across a wide number of variables over a period of decades could have screwed up our health care system to its current point of ridiculousness, to pick a prominent example. The current economic crisis in the housing market, to cite another example, is an acute problem — like a mutli-hundred-billion-dollar bowel inflammation — which was directly caused by well-intended but stupid government attempts to legislate away basic economic laws by pretending that people who really can't afford expensive home mortgages could actually afford them if we just tweaked the terms of their adjustable rate mortgages enough and the real estate market always kept booming. (Yes, it was a government-run Ponzi scheme.)

And really bad government — a government that taxes its most productive people and their capital at confiscatory marginal rates, for example, of the sort we had by the conclusion of the fiasco known as the Carter Administration — can really screw things up. Indeed, the single thing at which government is most effective is taking away money from law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.

So by all means, in deciding how to cast your own vote, or in discussing with undecided friends how they ought to cast theirs, factor in whatever economic concerns you may have for what they're worth. They are important.

But as you do that, just keep in mind that photograph above and to the left. And if you're unwilling to give George W. Bush and/or the Pelosi-Reid Congress credit for that dramatic drop in gas prices at the pump — and indeed they don't deserve that credit — then discount, too, the economic wonders that you expect your preferred political ticket to accomplish if elected.

Gentle readers, if we're not safe on American soil from the sort of suicide bombings that are routine in much of the middle east, it doesn't matter nearly so much what the latest LIBOR index is. If instead of the leader of the free world and its only remaining superpower, America becomes a vacation cruise ship of touchy-feely cultural relativism drifting from Kum-bay-yah recital to recital, while our enemies infiltrate us and exterminate our allies like Israel, then it doesn't matter whose health insurance legislation you think you like better.

I earnestly commend to you Fred Kagan's op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, entitled Security Should Be the Deciding Issue.

And I remind you that just like our current one, our next commander-in-chief, whoever he turns out to be, is virtually certain to get immediate and vigorous compliance with the orders he snaps off to his military adjutants, whereas those gasoline price signs and a whole lot of other important economic facts of life are mostly, at least in the short and middle terms, going to do exactly what they were already gonna do anyway.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 04:46 AM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Energy, Politics (2008) | Permalink

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