Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Maconomics 101

During the primary campaign Senator John McCain once admitted to the Wall Street Journal editorial board that he "really doesn't understand economics." When I first read his remarks I assumed the Republican presidential candidate was just being modest.

Since then, and on several occasions, candidate McCain has stated that this country's "fundamentals" are sound. Of course, I thought he was speaking of the economy. Or maybe he was paraphrasing Republican President Herbert Hoover, who said, "no one can rightly deny the fundamental correctness of our economic system."

When I hear the term "fundamentals" in the context of bank failures, increasing unemployment and rising prices, I think of financial measurements. The business publication Forbes actually provides a definition on its web site: "The qualitative and quantitative information that contributes to the economic well-being and the subsequent financial valuation of a company, security or currency." For businesses, information such as revenue, earnings, assets, liabilities and growth are some of the fundamentals. Analysts and investors analyze these to estimate the value of an asset.

Of course, McCain is a maverick. McCain often sees things differently than the Washington establishment. He even eschews the Internet. So it was no surprise when yesterday, at an evening campaign stop, Senator McCain provided a whole new definition for the word fundamentals: "the American workers." Therefore, when McCain says the "fundamentals are sound," he means that the American workers are skilled, hard working and resourceful. Conversely, when Democrats say the fundamentals are not sound, they are unfairly and foolishly attacking American workers.

McCain plays if from the gut and he has proven, from time to time, to have good instincts. Certainly the selection of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate shook up the campaign and has brought him into a virtual tie with Obama/Biden. But today the fun is over. The economy is in dire trouble. The ripple effects of today's financial crisis will be felt by all Americans for years to come.

Now is not the time to play word games. Now is the time for strong economic leadership.

President Herbert Hoover also said, "Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt." I only hope that there will be something left for my child to inherit.

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