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McCain's Answer for Poverty? eBay!

April 25, 2008

In Martin County, Kentucky this week, John McCain added another one his "Forgotten Places" to the growing list of places his campaign would now like to forget. With a straight face, McCain told the residents of the economically devastated region that eBay represents their economic future. And he did so by appropriating the words of Meg Whitman, who just happens to be not only McCain's national campaign co-chair, but the former CEO of eBay.
As NPR reported this morning, McCain took pains to deride President Johnson's "Great Society" and subsequent action by the federal government to alleviate poverty. Donning his compassionate conservative hat, McCain told an audience in Inez, Kentucky, "You have a right to expect us to show as much concern for helping you create more and better choices to make for yourselves as we show any other community in America." And one of those better choices, according to John McCain, is to become a seller on the auction site, eBay:

"Today, for example, 1.3 million people in the world make a living off eBay, most of those are in the United State of America."

Ebay's Whitman couldn't have put it better herself. In fact, she put it almost exactly the same on way on CBS 60 Minutes in March. As she told Lesley Stahl:

"We have about - around the world, about 1.3 million people make most, if not all, of their living selling on eBay."

That John McCain, who more than once admitted his limited knowledge of the economy, would parrot one of his most senior campaign aides is unsurprising. But that he would cite eBay as the way forward for a community where 37% live in poverty and 40% of the wage income comes from mining seems remarkably callous, even by McCain's standards.
No doubt, tens of thousands off people make a good living as eBay sellers. As eBay's Whitman told CBS' Stahl, "people can supplement their income from several thousand dollars a month to...I think our top seller on eBay grosses $20 million." But for a country slipping into recession and facing the loss of thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs in a rapidly globalizing economy, a high-speed Internet connection and an eBay virtual storefront is hardly a substitute.
As American workers confront increasing insecurity due to competition in China, India and elsewhere, John McCain apparently believes they should follow in the footsteps of Whitman's legions who earn their living selling "high tech electronic equipment, maybe it's audio equipment, maybe it's Barbie dolls, maybe it's collectibles, or a certain niche of collectibles, of coins, of china." Instead building products and offering services for the world, McCain's Americans should just sell stuff to each other. And when all else fails for distressed homeowners, McCain's Americans should just join the rapidly growing ranks of those:

"Doing what is necessary -- working a second job, skipping a vacation, and managing their budgets -- to make their payments on time."

Sadly for John McCain, a nation of struggling workers supplementing their income by selling on eBay isn't an economic plan. That's not a cure, but a symptom of the disease.
Note: The eBay community weighs in on McCain's diagnosis for the economy.
UPDATE: As it turns out, President Bush, too, sang the praises of the eBay economy last year. Note his use of the term, "part of their living."

"Today eBay is a global business that reported nearly $6 billion in net revenues last year. Hundreds of thousands of Americans now make part of their living by selling products on that website. EBay is an entrepreneurial success story that has helped thousands of Americans become entrepreneurs themselves."

32 comments on “McCain's Answer for Poverty? eBay!”

  1. Does this man have no original (bad) ideas? He took a page right out of the Cheney playbook with this one. Prior to Bush or McCain shilling for their friends at Ebay, 'auctioning off your personal possessions as economic stimulus plan' was Mr. Dick's suggestion--clearly not relevant enough to even be remembered--several years ago. As distressing as it is that a viable candidate for presidential office is this economically illiterate, it is equally unseemly for such a person to blatantly shill for for his/her business cronies during a presidential campaign. Can't he at least have the decency and finesse to be deceitful about whose pocket he's in until after the election? Sheesh. Not just frighteningly out-of-touch, but demonstrably dumb-as-a-post to boot! Guess he's a shoo-in to win.

  2. This man McCain is PATHETIC!!!!!! Ha,Ha, Make a living on e-bay????????????

  3. No wonder Ebay rakes in the billions, have you had a look at their fees? Also if you take in that they also own Paypal, then double the billions. It doesn't mean that the poor are making a killing like Ebay are.

  4. I am a seller on eBay and I actually started selling internationally just to try and help out our struggling economy. While I do agree that McCain calling eBay the cure for our economic crisis is outright rediculous, if enough eBay sellers list and sell internationally, it CAN help to bring in money from other countries into the US economy. Unfortunately I think eBay is used mostly in the US at the moment though.

  5. Isn't it funny how he's chosen a running mate he touts as having put up her jet on Ebay? Very interesting; he just won't let this Ebay thing die!

  6. s distressing as it is that a viable candidate for presidential office is this economically illiterate, it is equally unseemly for such a person to blatantly shill for for his/her business cronies during a presidential campaign

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

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