So the economy is the elephant in the room, and John McCain is the Repubs' man to fix it. A day or so ago I Googled to see what the candidates have said about economic issues throughout the campaign and before.
Obama seems to be regularly criticized for being light on details; there is a sense of him speaking in election-friendly generalities which don't give too many specifics. And the lack of specifics opens him to criticism for not occupying a coherent piece of real estate.
But that's much better news than what assaults the viewer about John McCain. I expected a position shift for McCain, since he has spent his career on the Republican deregulation and free-market bandwagon and that train has now wrecked in spectacular fashion. But after being the slowest guy on the block to recognize the meltdown, his views since that time have been all over the map, seemingly wandering without any anchoring principle whatsoever except political expediency. Him saying "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" and "the fundamentals of our economy are at risk" on the same day is a matter of record (two speeches in Florida on 9/15, five hours apart). And Google quickly evaporates any hope that this flip-flop was an aberration.
This first quote below is the one that prompted me to look for more info. I could not imagine someone blaming the meltdown on excessive government regulation, or finding the fix for the situation in a further dismantling of government oversight in the economy.
From a speech John McCain gave on 3/25/2008 in response to the subprime upheaval:
"Our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital."***
From the New York Times, 9/17/08:
In January, McCain argued that Americans were better off than they were eight years ago. By this summer he had released an advertisement that said "we're worse off than we were four years ago."And later in that same article:
His first big speech on the mortgage crisis warned against excessive government intervention. A month later he released a plan for government action to help people keep their homes.
Thinkprogress.org has a number of things, and the videos showing these quotes are posted there. Back in April:
Yesterday, Bloomberg TV aired an interview between host Al Hunt and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in which the presidential candidate attempted to distance himself from President Bush and empathize with middle-class Americans who are struggling financially:
I respect the views of people who basically think that the status quo is satisfactory today. I don’t. I think Americans are hurting, and hurting badly. In fact, I think Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago, when you look at what’s happened to middle-income Americans.
These remarks seem disingenous. On Thursday — just one day before the aforementioned interview, McCain also sat down with Bloomberg TV’s Peter Cook. During that interview, he said there had been “great progress economically” since Bush took office:
MR. COOK: You think if Americans were asked, are you better off today than you were before George Bush took office more than seven years ago, what answer would they give? […]
SEN. MCCAIN: I think if you look at the overall record and millions of jobs have been created, et cetera, et cetera, you could make an argument that there’s been great progress economically over that period of time. But that’s no comfort. That’s no comfort to families now that are facing these tremendous economic challenges.
From a different post, referring to an ABC TV interview in July:
Q: You have admitted that you’re not exactly an expert when it comes to the economy and many have said –
McCAIN: I have not. I have not. Actually, I have not. I said that I am stronger on national security issues because of all the time I spent in the military. I’m very strong on the economy. I understand it. I have a lot more experience than my opponent.
In fact, McCain and his advisers have repeatedly admitted that he is weak on economic issues:– Seeking to explain his shift on economic issues, McCain claimed: “I didn’t pay nearly the attention to those issues in the past. I was probably a ’supply-sider’ based on the fact that I really didn’t jump into the issue.” (January, '00)
– “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should,” McCain said. “I’ve got Greenspan’s book.” (December, '07)
– Carly Fiorina, a top McCain adviser, acknowledged that McCain has said he knows little about the economy, noting that “he did say it one time, no question, maybe twice.” (6/10/08)The McCain campaign has conjured up a variety of dodges on the topic. Last January, when Tim Russert asked him about his “I still need to be educated” claim, McCain said, “I don't know where you got that quote.” Adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said McCain’s admitted lack of economics knowledge was an example of his "wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor." Last month, McCain said the media took the comments “out of context.”
And again, this time from a Wall Street Journal interview with Steven Moore: "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." "The issue of economics is something that I've really never understood as well as I should. I understand the basics, the fundamentals, the vision, all that kind of stuff,'' he said. "But I would like to have someone I'm close to that really is a good strong economist. As long as Alan Greenspan is around I would certainly use him for advice and counsel."
And yet again in the Baltimore Sun, December, 07 (quoted in the Economist's View):
"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."
"The issue of economics is something that I've really never understood as well as I should. I understand the basics, the fundamentals, the vision, all that kind of stuff,'' he said. "But I would like to have someone I'm close to that really is a good strong economist. As long as Alan Greenspan is around I would certainly use him for advice and counsel."
From Michael Tomasky at the Guardian in the U.K.:
In 2001, McCain was one of just two Republican senators to vote against [George W. Bush's] tax cuts. "I think it still devotes too much of it to the wealthiest Americans," he said at the time. And now? Well of course big tax cuts are the anchor of his economic plan.
From a Bloomberg editorial by Gene Sperling, 6/6/08 (which seems especially telling when McCain is accusing Obama of promising a trillion dollars of new spending which he claims is unfunded):
So let's do a little math: Start with $100 billion for extending current tax cuts for the highest earners. Add to that an additional $50 billion it would cost to eliminate the alternative minimum tax for the highest earners, another McCain proposal. Throw in $200 billion to $300 billion in corporate-tax cuts and you have a cost of $350 billion to $450 billion a year. That works out to $3.5 trillion to $4.5 trillion over 10 years.***
In the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression--we don't even know how bad yet it will get; it may be the worst in recorded history--John McCain seems a very poor choice to help us find our way out.