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McCain Excluded Workers from "Economic Fundamentals" - Until Now

September 17, 2008

On Wednesday, the New York Times blasted John McCain's cynical attempt to escape from his repeated proclamations that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Facing a backlash over his latest declaration even as Wall Street imploded Monday that all is well, McCain just hours later tried to redefine "economic fundamentals" to refer to American workers. Noting that the "Mr. McCain lavished praise on workers, but ignored their problems," the Times branded McCain's double-talk "the real insult."
But even more insulting, of course, is that John McCain knows all too well that "economic fundamentals" means something else. It's not just that McCain has used the expression at least 18 times over the course of the campaign. Back in April, he told us how he defined the term, and to be sure, the American worker was no part of it.
On April 17th, Senator McCain was interviewed on Bloomberg TV by Peter Cook. Cook posed Ronald Reagan's Carter-killing question to McCain. John McCain proudly declared not only "that there's been great progress economically" during the Bush presidency, but that "the fundamentals of America's economy are strong":

MR. COOK: I'm going to ask you a version of the Ronald Reagan question. 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.
But let me just add, Peter, the fundamentals of America's economy are strong. We're the greatest exporter, the greatest importer, the greatest innovator, the greatest producer, still the greatest economic engine in the world. And, by the way, exports and free trade are a key element in economic recovery.

As with his feeble attempt Monday to disown his Hoover-era rhetoric, McCain literally the next day on April 18th flip-flopped on the Bush economy. Again appearing on Bloomberg TV, this time with host Al Hunt, McCain backtracked and acknowledged, "Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago."
Fast forward to this week's Wall Street meltdown and John McCain is in full retreat from his "fundamentals are strong" comment. His semantic scheme isn't merely to question what the meaning of "is" is. This time, he's using American workers as a human shield:

"My opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals of America are strong...Our workers have always been the strength of our economy, and they remain the strength of our economy today."

Sadly, the saga over "fundamentals" is just the latest installment of John McCain's long-running tale of duplicity when it comes to the economy. Back in June, McCain ridiculed economists for their overwhelming dismissal of his proposed gas-tax holiday scheme:

"You know the economists?'' McCain said June 12 at Federal Hall, near the New York Stock Exchange. "They're the same ones that didn't predict this housing crisis we're in. They're the same ones that didn't predict the dot-com meltdown. They're the same ones that didn't predict the inflation that's staring us in the face today."

Three weeks later, McCain had a change of heart towards their profession, announcing that 300 economists had "enthusiastically endorsed" his so-called "Jobs for America" plan. But as the Politico noted at the time, that too was a fraud:

There's just one problem. Upon closer inspection, it seems a good many of those economists don't actually support the whole of McCain's economic agenda. And at least one doesn't even support McCain for president.

This morning, the New York Times rightly concluded of McCain's rapid redefinition of economic fundamentals, "The clarification was far more worrisome than his initial comments." After all, this pathetic chapter is just the latest confirmation that John McCain's understanding of the fundamentals of the American economy is weak.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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