"The similarities are unmistakable: Both were war heroes, mavericks within their own party, reformers and defenders of the little guy," writes the WSJs Stephen Moore re John McCain's identification with his American hero, Teddy Roosevelt. Above left, John Alexander in "Arsenic and Old Lace" as Teddy Brewster, the batty brother who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt taking San Juan Hill as he charges up the stairs yelling "Charge!" John McCain, right, trying to keep a lid on his "intense and combative personality." (Photo credits unavailable)
"He bought and sold, and sometimes people lost their jobs; that’s the nature of business,” scathed the "inevitable" candidate, John McCain, at the CNN debate held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley last night --- with Air Force One in all its glory as backdrop -- revealing his contempt for the business of America in a schoolboyish attempt to cut his better, Mitt Romney, down to size. "His philosophy is best described as a work in progress," writes WSJ editorial board member Steven Moore, who interviewed the Republican frontrunner last week:
He is refreshingly blunt when he tells me: "I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." OK, so who does he turn to for advice? His answer is reassuring. His foremost economic guru is former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm (who would almost certainly be Treasury secretary in a McCain administration). He's also friendly with the godfather of supply-side economics, Arthur Laffer.
But Mr. McCain is no antitax supply-sider himself. He grandstanded against the Bush capital-gains and dividend tax cuts and even co-sponsored an amendment with Tom Daschle to scuttle the reduction in the highest income-tax rates. Why? "I just thought it was too tilted to the wealthy and I still do. I want to cut the taxes on the middle class." Even when I confront him with emphatic evidence that those tax cuts have been an economic triumph and have increased revenues, he is unrepentant and defends his "no" vote by falling back on class-warfare type thinking: "We have a wealth gap in this country, and that worries me."
Unfortunately for the future of the Republic should McCain or either of the front-running Democrats -- who all of them seem to believe a President can and should "manage" the economy rather than step back and let the invisible hand create wealth -- should one of them become Leader of the Free World, we'll have an Economics 101 gap in the Oval Office, and THAT worries us and Thomas Sowell, whose Basic Economics: A Citizens Guide to the Economy ought to be at the top of the Arizona senator's must-read list. From Professor Sowell's latest column:
One of the biggest problems with government intervention in the economy is that politicians usually have neither the knowledge nor the incentives to intervene at the right time.
Bruce Bartlett has pointed out that most government intervention in an economic downturn comes too late. That is, the problem it is trying to solve has already worked itself out and the government intervention can create new problems.
More fundamentally, markets readjust themselves for a reason. That reason is that people pay a price for their misjudgments and mistakes. Government interventions are usually based on trying to stop them from having to pay that price. People who went way out on a limb to buy a house that they could not afford are now being pictured as victims of a heartless market or deceptive lenders.
Moore's diagnosis of McCain's economics knowledge gap:
And in this very moment it becomes clear to me that John McCain aspires to be a modern-day [Teddy Roosevelt]. The similarities are unmistakable: Both were war heroes, mavericks within their own party, reformers and defenders of the little guy.
But here in a nutshell lies the danger of the McCain view of the world. Where some see the vast virtue of entrepreneurial wealth-generators and job-producers, he too often sees "robber barons." He seems forever in search of the next Joe Camel, Charles Keating, Ken Lay or Jose Canseco (Mr. McCain has been a prominent crusader against steroids in baseball).
He views himself, I believe, as a kind of modern-day Robin Hood, a defender of the downtrodden and tormentor of the bullying special interests, which is endearing [Say what?] and unquestionably a big part of his broad political appeal, but often leads to populist and parasitic economic policy conclusions like higher taxes on the rich and attacks on "huge oil profits."
With Robin Hoods like that, who needs robber barons? Besides, "pumping massive amounts of liquidity into the economy and pumping up government spending by giving money away through rebates may create more problems than it helps to solve," as economist Brian Wesbury notes in "The Economy is Fine (Really)," an encouraging WSJ read:
The irony is almost too much to take. Yesterday everyone was worried about excessive consumer spending, a lack of saving, exploding debt levels, and federal budget deficits. Today, our government is doing just about everything in its power to help consumers borrow more at low rates, while it is running up the budget deficit to get people to spend more. This is the tyranny of the urgent in an election year, and it's the development that investors should really worry about. It reads just like the 1970s.
The good news is that the U.S. financial system is not as fragile as many pundits suggest. Nor is the economy showing anything other than normal signs of stress . . . Initial unemployment claims, a very consistent canary in the coal mine for recessions, are nowhere near a level of concern.
Because all debt rests on a foundation of real economic activity, and the real economy is still resilient, the current red alert about a crashing house of cards looks like another false alarm . . . Keep the faith and stay invested. It's a wonderful buying opportunity.
If Senator McCain doesn't have time for the economics expounded in the pages of the WSJ or in the writings of Thomas Sowell, how about a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down? "We can’t keep rapping the knuckles of the invisible hand," writes Scott Ott, the master satirist of ScrappleFace, turning the just-say-no party's cut-and-run stance on its head:
In his final State of the Union address tonight, President George Bush plans to announce that the U.S. economy has become such a quagmire that the federal government will begin a phased withdrawal . . .
“The people, and their businesses, will have to make it on their own,” the president will reportedly say. “If we keep bailing them out, they’re never going to learn to live with the consequences of their actions. Risk, reward and failure are the lifeblood of capitalism" . . . The federal government will stand down so American ingenuity, intiative and persistence can stand up.
In Ott's "reportage," the Democrats, on cue, "have already signaled opposition to the pull-out plan, advocating instead a surge of government involvement in business and in the finances of every citizen." Does the Republican [in name only?] senator really believe this stuff, or is it -- as we wrote a couple of years back in "McCain in the Balance" re his decision to jump on the human-caused global-warming bandwagon -- "just that he knows human weakness when he sees it and is all too willing to cynically prey upon it in his grab for the golden ring"?
Update: You want human weakness? Hurry on over to Dr. Sanity's Carnival of the Insanities. You're soakin' in it.