Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Little Thought, Please

It's hardly news that thought is generally a stranger to political advertising, no matter which party is responsible for it. However, one talking point which, for whatever reason, is starting to particularly grate upon my nerves is: "The economy is in crisis -- banks failing, plants closing, jobs lost. We can't afford four more years of Bush's tax cuts and policies that protect Wall Street while hurting Main Street."

What exactly is the logical relation between the first and second parts of this argument? If low taxes and pro-business policies are bad for the country, wouldn't it be equally wrong to support them whether the economy is doing well or doing poorly? If high taxes and more regulation is good for the country, then one's support for them should be independent of current economic conditions. And if one things, as I do, that high taxes and heavy regulation are generally bad for the economy, than telling me that the economy is already weak will do nothing to change my mind. (That turns the argument into: The economy is weak right now, lets kick it while it's down so we all feel better.)

I suppose it's wishful thinking to imagine that political advertising could rise above the level of "Four legs good, two legs bad!" but one still can't help being annoyed.

Particularly amusing in this case is that Senator Obama has said that he will hold off on raising taxes on "the rich" if the economy is in recession when he comes into office. This would seem to imply that he's aware that raising taxes has a slowing effect on the economy. (After all, one could hardly hold that "the rich" desperately need that the Bush tax cuts in order to buy food and make their mortgage payments -- because if that were the case they wouldn't be "rich".)

But then, I suppose even the increasingly cynical American public wouldn't go for an ad that said, "My opponent has the misfortune to be a member of the incumbent party at a time when our economic cycle is facing a downturn. Though this has little to do with his policies, and my policies would do nothing to alleviate it, I'd like you to vote against him just to show that bad luck will not be tolerated in our country."

2 comments:

j. christian said...

"My opponent has the misfortune to be a member of the incumbent party at a time when our economic cycle is facing a downturn. Though this has little to do with his policies, and my policies would do nothing to alleviate it, I'd like you to vote against him just to show that bad luck will not be tolerated in our country."

That's a home run right there. I wish a political candidate had the guts to say that!

It doesn't take a lot of study of economics to know that there's something called the business cycle, the key word being "cycle." There will always be booms and busts; some will be similar in causation and character, others will not. The temptation is always to say that "this crisis is different/worse." Maybe so. But if you really want to lay the blame for the current downturn on someone, you'd better get ready for a long list of culprits, starting with the American homebuyer for thinking that home prices would go up indefinitely. Tracing this back through the Fed to the President is awfully convoluted. Besides, Bush didn't install Greenspan, who arguably could be blamed for keeping interest rates too low for too long.

It's so disingenuous when candidates take the credit for creating jobs and point the finger at others for losing jobs...

Literacy-chic said...

I note that you use the phrase "increasingly cynical American public." Lately, I keep hearing "cynical" used in a decidedly derogatory manner, specifically in reference to McCain's choice of Palin as VP. For me, "cynical"="not naive." The way you use it here, "cynical" might be related to not being awed by Obama, or not buying into advertising fallacies. Personally, I think that one can be a cynical optimist. I'm happy to see someone using "cynical" more in the way that I understand it. Realizing that it's not, in itself, a positive term, still I think a bit of cynicism is not a bad thing to cling to (along with guns and religion, of course!).