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May 5, 2008

We Don’ Need No Stinkin’…Economists?

Filed under: Politics — CPav @ 7:48 am
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In my Gas Tax post last night, I noted that there was a lack of support from economists — and, really, anyone not affiliated with the Clinton or McCain campaigns — for the McCain/Clinton gas tax proposals.

Evidently, on This Week with George Stephanopolous (which I admittedly did not watch yesterday morning, for a variety of reasons, the most important of which was that I wasn’t awake), a similar point was made:

Mr. Stephanopoulos challenged Mrs. Clinton to name one serious economist in favor of the measure.

“We’ve got to get out of this mindset where somehow elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans,” Mrs. Clinton retorted crisply.

So, evidently, those who are trained to be experts in economics are somehow “elite”, and shouldn’t be trusted to evaluate how the vast majority of Americans are affected by something as elitist as the economy.

Fortunately, one of the “common folk” didn’t let her get away with it:

Mrs. Clinton did not even flinch when a woman in the audience, an Obama supporter who said she made less than $25,000 a year, argued she, too, thought Mrs. Clinton was “pandering” for short-term political gain.

“Call me crazy,” the young woman said, “but I actually listen to economists because they know what they studied.”

Have we really reached a point in our society when being educated and speaking well are negatives? Senator Clinton has repeatedly attempted to paint Senator Obama as elitist and out of touch with the common man, ignoring the fact that he was a community organizer and paying off his student loans very recently.

Except for the $1.7 million home that she moved into in Westchester County, New York so that she could run for Senate from New York, Senator Clinton has not, by most accounts, lived in a home that wasn’t owned by the public for quite some time. Somehow one has to assume that she and Bill didn’t stay up at night trying to figure out how to make the mortgage payment on the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, or the White House. She admitted last week during a staged morning commute with a “common man” that it’s been years since she pumped gas for herself, and was unable to operate a gas station coffee machine without assistance.

And Barack Obama and the economists are elitist?

The 300 Project: 17/92

April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania Voters Speak (pt 1)

I have, for quite some time now, been mulling over Barack Obama’s “bitter and clinging” comments, which have been beaten to death by the media and both Hillary Clinton and John McCain.  In preparing, I asked two friends, married couple and Pennsylvania residents Charlotte McDivitt and Eric Kaun, for  their opinions, and whether or not they experienced or witnessed any of the outrage that Clinton and McCain were expressing on behalf of the voters.  While both were quick to disavow their credentials to speak to the issue, I disagree, and present to you the essence of their responses.

Charlotte answered first:

I have heard the comments and really don’t feel offended.  His assessment of small towns in America feeling “bitter” and turning to guns, religion and xenophobia is a fairly accurate call.  Many of the people I know who have guns are republicans.  Many of the more “faithful” people I know vote republican.  Many of the most rebel-rousing people I know who hate or fear illegals are republicans.  Not a surprise, much of Pennsylvania is republican.  Did he lose votes, maybe, but I would argue he never had theirs to begin with.  Pennsylvania, specifically has one of the oldest populations in the country.  The average age here seems to be 3 days dead.

In the 70s and 80s, we were blue collar and lost those jobs.  Our younger generations left in droves for better jobs in bigger cities.  Those of us who are still Pittsburghers can point out specific changes made in the city, county, state over the last 25 to 30 years.  The people still here are “bitter”.  We are bitter that mines and mills closed by the dozens because in a global market, we were unable to compete.  We were overpaid for our jobs and yet we wouldn’t support ourselves, opting for new and shinty and cheaper imported goods.  We all had to have the latest and greatest while paying least price.  We “wal-marted” ourselves into this situation.  We had quality steel, but the prices were huge because our wages were huge.  Japan came in with an abundant and eager workforce which could undercut the price of steel and we didn’t care that it had poor quality control.

With loss of jobs and young people, Pittsburgh then turned to sweetening deals for white collar businesses to establish here.  It worked, although that was a long haul because we had a loss of young and educated people here, so many of the early white collar jobs went to people like Eric, out-of-towners who had the education and needed a job.  These imported people created some more bitterness among the mature population, and caused a “backlash” of sorts as we found many of these imported young people leaving because they can’t find late night nightclubs or places young people want to frequent.

The 90s was a transitional period when white collar began making headway in this blue collar city.  Pennsylvania is a largely mature to old population that votes republican whether it is a good idea or not because they don’t care for change.  We’ve seen a lot of change over the last 30 years and most of it went sour.  Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are the two large cities with more liberal people living in them, but that leaves a lot of empty space for republicans to continue to spread and hate and fear, we call that section, “Pennsyltuckey” around here.

Of the people Eric and I know, better educated people tend to live in the city and are liberals.  There are exceptions to that.  I would say that most of those people are smart enough to listen to the man’s speech, not just a sound byte and vote accordingly.

We have poor options, as always, for President.  A war hero who was despised by his party until he did his “mea culpa” enough to be tolerated.  A woman despised by most women because she is a foreigner to most women – allows or encourages her husband to cheat.  A man of color who seems to be reasonable, in a fairly intolerant America.  Who will win?  I suspect Hillary will take the nomination and McCain will win the Presidency.

My wish is that voters would pay attention to local elections as much, or more than national, but that is a grasp.

Eric followed:

There’s no way I can answer better than that… and I sure can’t represent the views of most Pennsylvanians. To quote Ellory Schempp (whose court case as a teenager got mandatory Bible reading thrown out of classrooms – born near Philadelphia, worked at Univ-Pitt for a while): “Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between.” That may, of course, be true of most states – Wisconsin doesn’t even have a major city, and is certainly 90% hick, though its history is more progressive in general.

Accusations of “elitism” and “arrogance” frequently amuse me, especially given the governing record of the “regular guy” you’d “want to have a beer with.”  Who the ***k cares whether you can have a beer with the president? That’s a valid criterion? I heard Republican co-workers actually say that. (side note: The Onion has a terrific article about this: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/42590)

I’ve also lost track of some of the campaign, because I’m moderately bored. I found no substantial difference between the two candidates in debate transcripts (to help offset Obama’s rhetorical advantage) – I don’t believe there’s a real ‘substance gap’ there. And there’s no way on earth I’ll vote another Republican into office (even McCain, the least offensive of the bunch, though a bit of a flake with some bright spots), given the current composition of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. So either Hilary or Obama will get my vote, at least until the mean age of the court dips below 102 or whatever it is.

Anyway: his comments could certainly have been taken out of context, but don’t say anything incorrect on their own. Of course people get bitter. Overall American military and economic prowess naturally create some degree of entitlement, and when that’s yanked away, it’s time to turn back to “what made America great”: God and guns. Or at least to get the dirty immigrants out. Knee-jerk stuff, part and parcel of human nature, though thankfully in this country we don’t actually start slaughtering each other like in some other countries. Thankfully, the religion part has been largely secularized out of our national psyche – secularism being the true foundation of our success – so it’s usually lip service to whatever portion of the Bible one happens to remember and like, rather than faithful adherence to the entire book.

I think, though, that what makes people bitter is the gulf between rich and poor – or corporations and workers – in a democratic society. The gap between promise and reality is large and getting larger, though again we don’t suffer the parade of horrific dictators and deep-seated ethnic bloodshed of some nations…

And there you have it.  I want to let their words stand.  I’ll offer some thoughts on the results of the primary tonight.

<font size=-4>The 300 Project:  10/70</font>

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