Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Gary Becker's got a lot of 'splainin' to do

A few days after the McCain campaign released a list of 300 economists who supposedly support his economic plan, we learn this was a bit of a bait-and-switch, since the statement they signed was extraordinarily vague.

The McCain campaign’s economic team, led by adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, began collecting signatures from economists several months ago, with the intention of showing support for McCain's broad economic priorities, rather than the specific items in his Jobs for America proposal.

The statement they signed is 403 words long — and there is no mention of the gas tax holiday or the deficit, which the Congressional Budget Office projects will approach $400 billion this year.

But the Jobs for America plan is a 15-page document that touts a gas tax holiday proposal on the second page and prominently features the promise that “John McCain will balance the budget by the end of his first term” on the fourth page. The press release accompanying the economists’ statement claimed it was “in support of John McCain's Jobs for America economic plan.”

“This really is a general statement on the overarching principles of McCain’s plan to grow jobs and spur economic growth,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. “Obviously it is what it is and it’s a general statement about cutting spending and cutting taxes and making us more competitive to move forward.”

For that reason, Gary Becker, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, said he definitely supports the plan, even if he is not completely familiar with its specifics.

"I like the main thrust of the plan,” he said. “I felt that I could support it without knowing every detail."
Yes, those pesky little details do get in the way. And really, it is too much to expect an economist to familiarize himself with such minutiae. If the average person is hornswaggled into believing that Gary Becker thinks a gas tax holiday makes economic sense, well, no big deal.

Seriously though: Does Gary Becker support a gas tax holiday? Does he believe that McCain's budget plans are credible? If not, will he please issue a clarification to the effect that while he supports McCain's plan, he thinks the gas tax holiday is a gimmick and the budget plan a fantasy? Or will he permit the McCain campaign to continue to use his name to mislead the American public?

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