Opinion: McCain adviser: Americans are wimps

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Are we really that badly off in America? Hardly. The U.S. economy has experienced several consecutive years of uninterrupted growth, yet most Americans believe the country is in a recession (which, by definition, it is not). Yes, gas prices are high (though not compared to other powerful nations) and some mortgage borrowers who should have thought twice about buying that $700,000 bungalow are having trouble making payments. Yeah, there are major problems, but a recession? Not even close.

So for once, I have to say Phil Gramm has a point. The former senator from the Lone Star State, who is now a top economic adviser to McCain, wasn’t far off when he referred to the nation’s ‘mental recession’ and frustratingly (if a little sophomorically) dubbed us a ‘nation of whiners.’


Almost as if to prove Gramm’s point, the tough-as-steel McCain immediately distanced himself from his adviser:

“Phil Gramm does not speak for me,” John McCain said today at a town hall meeting when asked about Gramm’s comments that the U.S. had become “a nation of whiners.” “I strongly disagree,” McCain said. McCain added Gramm would play no role in his administration, other than being exiled to a former Soviet republic. “I think Sen. Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus, although I’m not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that.”

More reaction to Gramm’s gaffe after the jump.

From the Atlantic’s Matthew Yglesias:

My understand is that economic downturns do have a certain psychological component insofar as expectations make a different to the economy, but we’re clearly living through some very real supply shocks. The rising cost of food and energy, coming at a time when many people are seeing the value of their main asset decline, naturally causes hardship and slows economic growth. The fact that everyone has more difficulty obtaining credit than they did a couple of years ago doesn’t help matters. These are all very real phenomena.

From Ed Morrissey at Hot Air:

Democrats call Gramm out of touch for calling the US a “nation of whiners”. It may be politically inapt in an election year, but the description isn’t far wrong. We hear comparisons made to the Great Depression and a “Herbert Hoover economy”, but that only proves how incoherent and economically illiterate critics can be. Growth remains positive and unemployment remains in the range of historical average of 5.5%. Contrast that to the economy of Jimmy Carter, when unemployment, inflation, and interest rates all went out of control — and even that was nothing next to the Depression. Whiners? You bet. And the most ironic part of this criticism is that most of the people launching it want to do exactly what Hoover did — revert to economic protectionism. They want a Smoot-Hawley approach to foreign trade that would make whatever economic troubles we do have grow exponentially.


From the Democratic National Committee blog:

Not exactly ‘I feel your pain.’ ‘Foreclosure Phil,’ as he is known, reportedly helped shape John McCain’s ‘economic policy’, specifically on the housing crisis. Comments like these show proof positive that Americans will not get any kind of relief from a McCain administration, just orders to stop their ‘constant whining.’