Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Clinton Ad Quotes “Top Economist”

Clinton was for economists before she was against them.

As I mentioned yesterday, in the course of pushing her gas-tax holiday, Yale and Wellesley educated anti-elitist Hillary Clinton dismissed economists’ critiques of her plan by saying, “I’m not going to put my lot in with economists.”

Except, of course, when she does. . . .

Take, for example, this February campaign ad touting the Clinton plan for universal health care:

In case you didn’t catch that, the voiceover said:

Now she’s the only candidate for president with a plan to provide health care for every American. A top economist calls Hillary’s plan the difference between achieving universal health coverage – and falling far short.

And the graphic on screen reads:

"…the difference between achieving universal health coverage…and falling far short." –Paul Krugman, The New York Times, 2/4/08

Now, the fact of the matter is that I think that Krugman—that’s economist Paul Krugman—was right to give higher marks to the Hillary Clinton (by way of John Edwards) health care plan. The thing is, I also think that Krugman is right to pan the Hillary Clinton (by way of John McCain) gas-tax gimmick.

How can these two facts exist in the same head? Quite easily, of course. It would also be OK if I agreed with Krugman on one point, and disagreed with him on another. . . just as it would be OK for Senator Clinton to say that she was happy that Krugman liked her health plan, but disagrees with his assessment of her gas-tax holiday.

Unfortunately, that is not what she did. In an effort to score a bigger political point, candidate Clinton went for the broad brush, condemning all economists and all of their advice! It was a move perhaps as stupid as the gas-tax gimmick, itself.

And it was a moment that bodes ill for a Clinton presidency. Hillary Clinton went for the easy “fix,” she opted for political expedience rather than seize the chance to use a crisis as a teaching opportunity, as a way of moving the country toward a better, long-term solution. Worse still, when her plan is met with criticism, she stiffens, calcifies, and attacks the critic rather than the idea.

Policy based on short-term political gain, stubbornness, uninterested in new ideas, deaf to criticism, ad hominem attacks—does this sound familiar?

Of course, HRC is not GWB—but it does her, her party, and her country no good for her to act in such a Bush-like fashion.

And it does her campaign no good to be seen as so transparently ignorant of the facts, either.

Hannah McCrea (over at The Seminal) explained it all last week: the Clinton-McCain gas-tax holiday is an awful idea. Now, hundreds of those inconvenient economists have thrown their lot in with us elitist bloggers:

More than 230 economists -- Democrats, Republicans, advisers to past presidents and four Nobel laureates -- signed a letter today opposing proposals by Clinton and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain to suspend the 18-cent federal gas tax for the summer driving season.

"First, research shows that waiving the gas tax would generate major profits for oil companies rather than significantly lowering prices for consumers," they wrote. "Second, it would encourage people to keep buying costly imported oil and do nothing to encourage conservation. Third, a tax holiday would provide very little relief to families feeling squeezed."

But those economists—including four Nobel laureates—are writing in May, so they don’t count. They really should have gotten out in front on this back in February. . . when it was still OK to tout expertise and experience.

John McCain, who was responsible for the latest rehabilitation of this stupid gimmick, has freely admitted that he doesn’t really know very much about economics. McCain’s response to his knowledge deficit was to read Alan Greenspan’s book. That’s not much—but at least he has one economist to lean on (however wrongheaded and elitist that economist might be).

Greenspan, however, is still an economist—he won’t do for the “people’s cherce” Hillary Clinton. So, what then?

Soon, summer will be here, and, more than likely, there will be no gas-tax rollback. The problem of higher gas prices, flat supply, and growing demand will still be with us, as will many other economic problems. When searching for solutions, with whom will Clinton cast her lot?

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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