What Economic Experience?
So, the federal government agreed last week to spend at least seven hundred billion dollars to bail out Fannie and Freddie. In response, the Dow plunged almost eight hundred points in a day, falling below 10,000. Europe’s markets are reeling—London’s stock market experienced its biggest drop since 1987, Germany is facing bank failures on the same scale that the U.S. is. Asian markets are down as well.
In this crisis, it’s clear that America’s next president must be a man know is familiar with economics; someone who understands the fiscal situation and can deal with it with confidence and skill. Ronald Reagan is an example—his vision and support for supply-side economics lifted the U.S. out of recession, and was responsible for the eighties boom. Even Bill Clinton didn’t do an awful job on this issue—he balanced the budget (with more than a little help from the Republican Congress), and didn’t raise taxes much. The U.S. needs a Reagan; even a Clinton would be tolerable, if barely so.
It won’t get one. Incredibly, none of the four presidential and vice presidential candidates has a clue about economics. Several years ago, in a moment of candor rare among politicians, John McCain admitted that he didn’t know much about economics.
Was he ever right. McCain has some good economic ideas (a lower corporate tax rate is a must for America), but also some dreadfully bad ones (carbon caps for businesses will cripple productivity, besides driving businesses out of the country). Sometimes, McCain seems cut from the Teddy Roosevelt activist government cloth (this was especially evident during his fight for campaign finance reform), and other times McCain goes into Barry Goldwater mode (his healthcare plan is quite good—much better than, say, Mitt Romney’s). This confusion makes for a confusing, sometimes contradictory economic policy.
Sarah Palin’s economic instincts are good—she comes from the small government element of the party, and did cut spending as governor of Alaska. But her experience on this issue is laughable—she actually cites budget cuts from her time as mayor of Wasilla as proof of her economic credentials! The difference between the budget of Wasilla and the budget of the entire country is unimaginably vast. To put things in perspective, Wasilla is half the size of Lebanon, Ohio (which is a Cincinnati area town you’ve probably never heard of—unless, of course, you happen to live in Cincinnati), which is maybe a twentieth the size of Cincinnati, which is a tenth the size of Chicago. Experience in Wasilla is irrelevant—running that town really isn’t much harder than being a community organizer.
Speaking of community organizers…it’s hard to judge the extent of Barack Obama’s fiscal knowledge, given that his political career consists of having served only as an oft-absent state senator and then as a presidential candidate, with only a brief time in the U.S. Senate in between. He doesn’t really have a record on economic affairs, and didn’t do anything noteworthy during the bailout negotiations, or during any other time for that matter. Obama doesn’t have the economic experience required to lead the country.
Neither does Joe Biden, but you already knew that. All Biden seems to have done in thirty years in the Senate is to introduce a law against violence towards women, and portions of that law were struck down by the Supreme Court. Nobody thinks he understands the economy—including, probably, Joe Biden himself.
So, America needs economic leadership—and won’t get it. Talk of another Great Depression is probably exaggerated, but a very nasty recession is very possible. And in these troubled times we get Barack Obama and John McCain, whose combined understanding of the economic is probably about that of Mike Huckabee* (that’s an insult). In other words, the economic outlook isn’t good.