« McCain should say: "I shall go to Alaska! (And I will take along the press!)" | Main | R.I.P. Dr. Michael DeBakey and Tony Snow »

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gramm's right, McCain's wrong, but Gramm and I will both vote for the grumpy old man anyway

Okay. I understand why it's politically expedient to throw Phil Gramm under the bus.

But Gramm โ€” who has a PhD in economics, who taught that subject at Texas A&M for many years before entering the U.S. Senate, and who knows damn well what the definition of a "recession" is, and that under that definition we still haven't been established to be in one (except according to pseudo-economists who are eager to throw long-established bright-line definitions overboard in order to get press interviews) โ€” is exactly right.

So this, by McCain, is a disgraceful act of disloyalty by a man who should know better.

What McCain ought to have said:

Sen. Phil Gramm is a professional economist, and under the classical definitions of that academic discipline that define the term "recession," he's unquestionably correct. I've known him personally as a close friend for many years, and I value him as an advisor, in large part because he also understands how broad economic measurements taken for the country at large can still be dramatically at odds with what jumps out at us in our everyday lives. In our everyday lives, paying more than $4 per gallon of gas makes us feel poor, even though hundreds of millions of over-taxed Europeans would think that's a bargain. In our everyday lives, someone whose spouse has just lost his job because the company he worked for has moved its manufacturing plant to China feels like her family isn't just in a recession, but a depression, regardless of what the nation-wide statistics say.

I've said over and over again that I'm not satisfied with how our economy is doing, and I intend to make serious changes when I'm president, starting with our energy policies. I need the American public to rally behind me, to whip this do-nothing and always-say-no Congress into shape. Phil Gramm's been taken out of context here, but I count on him to continue giving me economic advice. Regardless of what the press may say, I know he knows both the theory of economics and the practical reality of hard times. And I'm going to rely on his expertise and challenge him to provide every bit of his creativity in returning our economy to its peak performing condition, which has been and will again be the envy of the entire world.

McCain is a grumpy old man. I would bet good money some handler told him he needed to denounce Gramm's remarks, and maybe even Gramm, and McCain gave in when in his heart, he probably knew he ought not. I'm going to vote for McCain, but if I spent a week in his company, while I suspect at the end of it we'd end up good friends, we'd likely have also had at least two shouting matches en route thereto, because I lack the patience and good judgment of someone like John Cornyn. Neither of us would have changed our minds.

I hope McCain is elected, but if he is, I fully expect to harbor these same feelings at the end of his presidency.


UPDATE (Fri Jul 11 @ 11:10pm): Several of my commenters have pointed out, and I agree, that Gramm was off base in referring to Americans as "whiners." I suspect he was trying to say something to the effect that many Americans have absorbed the mainstream media's consistent overly-pessimistic portrayal of the economy, and are therefore more pessimistic than either the national statistics or their own circumstances and experience would justify. This is emphatically true with respect to the Laurie Davids of the world, who bash Bush for ruining the American economy while they continue using the ample proceeds from record-setting premium cable TV programming to fly Gulfstreams to Davos. And nationally, from the top of the economic pyramid to the bottom, we're more acutely aware of some economic changes than others: Most of us wince at the $4+/gallon pump prices for gasoline, yet we don't feel a corresponding and offsetting amount joy from being able to buy an incredibly advanced DVD player at Walmart for less than $70.

So yeah, there's a kernel of truth even to the impolitic "whining" comment. Yet McCain's pronouncements on the economy are almost indistinguishable from Laurie David's or, for that matter, Barack Obama's. That's a capitulation to an over-reaction, and it does the American public a disservice.

I'm not at all suggesting that McCain run as Herbert Hoover. But neither should he let Obama run as FDR. For pete's sake, it's not 1929 (which my father still remembers), nor even 1979 (which I still keenly remember!). Our economy is still, quite literally, the envy of the world, the standard to which all others aspire but none has matched.

Instead, my advice to him is this: "Man up, McCain, on economic issues like you have on national security and foreign policy issues. You're a warrior, seeking to lead a nation of strivers. Quit buying into Obama's victimology vibe. (And quit being a jerk to your friends like Gramm. To use a metaphoric example that will make sense to those who've read your book, McCain: You just stole Gramm's washcloth, and you should be ashamed.)"

Posted by Beldar at 06:55 AM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Gramm's right, McCain's wrong, but Gramm and I will both vote for the grumpy old man anyway and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) TmjUtah made the following comment | Jul 11, 2008 8:30:42 AM | Permalink

Gramm blew it by calling the recesssion the product of whining.

There's nothing whiney about energy and food costs, nor the clear fact that the agency most responsible for driving the mortgage industry into the ground is in fact the Federal government.

Fan, meet feces. And soon.

I can pull the handle against Obama, no problem. But McCain seems bent on making the act as traumatic experience as possible. In addition, he's arrogant and petty enough to probably realize his only chance of winning is how afraid of Obama the right side of the electorate gets, and make even more explosive gaffes closer to the election.

He's a bigger fool than he already looks if he doesn't pick Palin, or at least Romney, to temper the pain.

(2) Mike Thomas made the following comment | Jul 11, 2008 1:14:37 PM | Permalink

I do hope that McCain takes your advice and embraces Gramm.
I want to see Gramm become a prominent fixture in the McCain campaign.
Nothing like calling Americans a "nation of whiners" to get on our good side.

(3) Jim Rhoads aka vnjagvet made the following comment | Jul 11, 2008 1:40:46 PM | Permalink

Gramm is right about the recession. But what is the utility of calling his fellow citizens "whiners" while purportedly speaking for a candidate for President?

Had he done this "off the record" it may have been a conversation starter, but the way he did it was sure to damage McCain with the muddled middle he needs to win.

(4) DRJ made the following comment | Jul 11, 2008 3:27:55 PM | Permalink

I agree with you that Gramm is right to point out the economic facts but I think he was wrong to call people whiners. He ought to know better as a politician, but it's his experience as a teacher/professor that makes this especially egregious.

People are worried about the economy and their finances. Some have good reason to be worried and some are worried because of the drumbeat of bad news in the media. The public needs to be educated and reassured, not lectured for being whiners. Gramm is a former professor proficient in economics and politics, and that makes him well-positioned to reassure and educate. He blew it.

(5) Charles Vairin made the following comment | Jul 15, 2008 2:34:05 PM | Permalink

The difference between a recession and a depression is that it's a recession when you are out of work and a depression when I am out of work. Since the American dollar is so week the rest of the world is having a field day buying up American companies and mistreating American employees. For example demanding attendance at 5:30 am and 11:30 pm conference calls if you want your job. Things are changing so fast people are concerned. This is the second time that the Bushes have allowed the wealth of middle class Americans to be swallowed up by the banking industry cheaters --Neil Bush being one that got away. So I agree that Phil stepped in it when he said that the people are whiners. Many of us will have to pay again for the dishonesty of the bankers and the failure of the government to regulate the industry. Yes yet another government agency failure. FBI, NSA, CIA, ICE, JUSTICE, FOOD AND DRUG TOMATO,SPINACH AND ON AND ON.

The comments to this entry are closed.