Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Clinton Camp Decides to use Anti-Intellectualism to Win an Election. They are officially Republicans.

Apparently, the singular lesson that Senator Hillary Clinton has learned from her much touted "35 years of experience" is that having a lot of experience doesn't count for jack. That's the only possible takeaway from her bitter and clingy support for a "gas tax holiday" - an idea so lacking in merit that it has required her campaign to wage a full-scale jihad against anybody who knows anything about anything other than maybe the topic of "Shots of Crown Royal make my belly say YUMMM!"

Clinton's battle against People Who Had The Traitorous Gall To Learn Things And Later Apply That Knowledge To The Real World has expanded to campaign surrogates. On this morning's Morning Joe, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez helped to advance the cause of creepy anti-intellectualism:

BRZEZINSKI: Just tell me one economist that supports this.

MENENDEZ: You know, thank God that we don't have economists making necessarily public policy, because they don't really feel the pains of average Americans.


Really? I seem to recall that a top-flight economist named Joe Stiglitz helped Bill Clinton's administration formulate public policy, and from what I'm told, he did just fine. Stiglitz, of course, opposes the gas tax holiday, making him a model of the sort of common sense and consistency one needs to not further exacerbate the "pains of average Americans" with bad economic policies.

And, truly, in the clearest sign yet that the "gas tax holiday" is a horrible mistake, it has received the endorsement of Bill Kristol.

KRISTOL: The gas tax is I think an interesting issue. You know, the entire liberal establishment is against Senator Clinton and Senator McCain and their proposal to have a summer holiday on the gas tax. Clinton has taken on the issue. I sort of admire her for this. She has not backed up at all. She has challenged elite liberal economists. She has an ad up now in North Carolina and Indiana asking why Obama doesn't want to give consumers a little bit of a break. I actually think that she has a pretty good argument on this, that the entire establishment disagrees. If she could win taking on the entire conventional liberal establishment on an issue like this, with a populist middle-class appeal, I think that would be interesting and would say something about where the Democratic primary electorate is as opposed to where the elite opinion pages of the newspapers are.

Naturally, Kristol's contention that the "liberal establishment" is against the "gas tax holiday" fails to account for the fact that economists on both sides of the aisle are against it. As in, all of them. And you hardly need to be "elite" to be against it - students that fail to grasp the elementary nature of supply and demand rarely matriculate from ECON 101 to the exciting sequel, ECON 102.

UPDATE: Former Clinton labor secretary, and now Obama supporter, Robert Reich, asks some Clinton economic advisers about her comments this morning:

When asked this morning by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos if she could name a single economist who backs her call for a gas tax holiday this summer, HRC said "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists."

I know several of the economists who have been advising Senator Clinton, so I phoned them right after I heard this. I reached two of them. One hadn't heard her remark and said he couldn't believe she'd say it. The other had heard it and shrugged it off as "politics as usual."

That's the problem: Politics as usual.

The gas tax holiday is small potatoes relative to everything else. But it's so economically stupid (it would increase demand for gas and cause prices to rise, eliminating any benefit to consumers while costing the Treasury more than $9 billion, and generate more pollution) and silly (even if she won, HRC won't be president this summer) is worrisome. That HRC now says she doesn't care that what economists think is even more troubling.

Meanwhile, Politico's Ben Smith notes that Clinton's campaign is arguing that the gas tax distinction is a character issue:

Clinton has been sharpening her argument that policy distinctions between the candidates -- on health care, on banning foreclosures and on the gas tax -- are really a character issue, making her in touch and Obama out of touch.

Clinton aide Howard Wolfson put it as clearly as the campaign has on a conference call just now. Obama, he said, is "somebody who just doesn't seem to understand that middle-class families are hurting, working-class families are hurting, that they need relief. He would rather side with the oil companies over the interest of middle-class families."

Original Post:

Sen. Hillary Clinton is sticking to her policy proposal of a gas tax holiday, and the breadth of her now-famous statement that members of Congress are either "with us or against us" has been extended to economists. Today she joined George Stephanopoulos for a "This Week" town hall.

When asked to name a credible economist who backed her idea to use a windfall profit tax against oil companies to fund the suspension of a tax on gasoline, Clinton responded:

"I'm not going to put my lot in with economists"... Clinton added that the tax holiday would work "if we actually did it right."

She continued the line of attack, criticizing more generally "this mindset where elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans."

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