Thursday, July 10, 2008

We Will Sell No Whine Before Its Time

Phil Gramm committed a gaffe the other day when he talked about the country being in a "psychological recession." Technically, he's right - the country hasn't had negative growth for two consecutive quarters; in fact, growth has been anemic but consistent, at least according to the government measurements that are used to make determinations about such things.

But here's where he screwed up.

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in
decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth
continues in the economy, he said.

Even if this statement is intellectually defensible, it's not very smart. And as a practical matter, Gramm's statement can be fairly construed as whining, too.

McCain wasted no time throwing Gramm under the bus, of course.

A reporter asked if there’s any chance that Phil Gramm would be McCain’s
Secretary of Treasury or play a significant economic policy-making role in a
McCain administration.

“I think that Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for
Ambassador to Belarus,” McCain joked, “although I’m not sure the citizens of
Minsk would welcome that.”

As one of my old bosses, who had a deathgrip on the obvious, used to say, perception is reality. It doesn't matter whether Gramm is correct or not from a technical perspective - there are a lot of people who are hurting. It's not psychological for the people at Northwest Airlines who are losing their jobs right now. And while I personally think people are overreacting to gas prices, it's still not easy for a lot of people. The thing is, people tend to forget how bad the bad times have been in the past. Many voters don't remember what life was like in the 1970s, when we had the famous "misery index" of double-digit unemployment and double-digit inflation. Things aren't nearly that bad right now. But try telling that to an angry mob.

The impression I'm getting is that both Obama and McCain don't really understand much about the way people live their lives. When he's not attached to his TelePromTer, Obama oozes condescension, like he did the other day when he offered his silly "merci beaucoup" bon mot to the bien pensants who had gathered before him at a campaign event. A great many Americans quite sensibly don't give a rip what Europeans think about our gringo language skills; most Americans never make it to Paris. Meanwhile, McCain sends out a guy who paints all of us with a broad brush and calls us whiners. And it's only early July, so we have another four months of this stuff. Yay, huh?


Gino said...

if mc cain keeps throwing every consistant conservative under the bus, as he has been, he will alienate his base to the point where they wont even show up to hold their noses.

he acts more like the DNC nominee trying to act conservative enough than the GOP guy trying to moderate to the middle.

Anonymous said...

McCan't didn't go far enough in discrediting Gram.
People who have been trying to find jobs, housing, living without insurance are not whiners..they are asking what in the hell is going on.?
It is very easy for those living in their fancy homes with their lovely pensions,
and health insurance that covers every thing even their Viagra,
to sit back and judge others.
It's time for a BIG change, and it's time we took care of our own laundry.