Economists: Now With 30 Percent More "Con"


Alex Burns and Avi Zenilman had a good enterprise story on Wednesday about the McCain campaign's support from economists.

In interviews with more than a dozen of the signatories, Politico found that, far from embracing McCain's economic plan, many were unfamiliar with — or downright opposed to — key details. While most of those contacted by Politico had warm feelings about McCain, many did not want to associate themselves too closely with his campaign and its policy prescriptions.

Constantine Alexandrakis, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, expressed second thoughts about signing.

"I would describe myself as an Obama supporter," he explained. "Maybe I shouldn't have rushed into signing the letter."

Megan McArdle made a prediction:

If anyone bothers to call them, I'm pretty sure they'll get a few not-very-political types who were recruited by enthusiastic colleagues, and then a boring litany of "Maybe not perfect, but a lot better than the alternative."

Well, Nico Pitney and Sam Stein e-mailed 150 more of the economists on the list.

"Yes, I support the Jobs for America policy proposal, especially a simplified tax code, lower restrictions on trade, and energy development," said Michael Connolly, Professor of Economics, University of Miami. "[But] I am worried that continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will tear apart our social fabric and defeat any economic proposal to reduce the deficit and stimulate growth. Guns are crowding out butter."

This past week, the McCain campaign presented the list of the economists as backing a general statement outlining the Senator's economic objectives. But when asked to weigh in on specific proposals—as opposed to the 403-word executive summary—many in the group shuddered. Among individual policies, McCain's idea of a gas tax holiday was the one most scoffed at with nary an economist offering a defense.

"It would do nothing but increase the quantity demanded—and it wouldn't increase supply," wrote Dave Garthoff of the University of Akron. "So price would just go back up again until demand and supply approached equilibrium, and everyone would blame the oil companies."

Basically, the McCain campaign played an okey-doke and got caught. The statement its economists signed was a short bit of pablum about tax simplification and free trade, but the McCain campaign says that they support the "Jobs for America" plan. I take this a bit more seriously than McArdle becasuse the objects raised by Connolly and Gartoff are issues on which McCain is worse than Obama. McCain's making a calculation on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that no one should take seriously: that we'll win the wars, and that'll put our fiscal house in order. At the same time he's ready to spend whatever it takes to fight the wars, leading to worries like Connolly's.