The economics of the McCain-Obama debate

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What did we learn about the candidates’ economic policies tonight?

John McCain is going to cut pork-barrel spending. All $18 billion of it.

Barack Obama has a lot of seven- (or five- or three- or whatever) point plans to make things better for nurses and other regular folks like you and me.

And they’re both going to vote for the Bush-Paulson-Frank-Dodd-Bachus-Shelby-Cantor $700 billion bailout plan.

Beyond that, I’m not quite sure what to say. McCain was somewhat more prone to say silly things, economically speaking. But Obama was so intent in getting through all his talking points that he didn’t make much of an impression–on the economic stuff, at least–either.

The silliest McCain statement, I thought, was that his first priority upon taking office in January would be a spending freeze. We’re going to be in the middle of a recession in January; the spending freeze can wait. But instead of directly addressing that, Obama said McCain’s approach was a “hatchet not a scalpel,” and that we had to protect childhood education. What?

McCain also said the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter. Obama didn’t call him on that, but we happen to have one of Switzerland’s leading business journalists over for dinner tonight, and he shouted: “That’s not true! Germany’s the world’s biggest exporter!” The CIA agrees: Germany No. 1, China No. 2, U.S. No. 3.

McCain also said, “This isn’t the beginning of the end of this crisis, this is the end of the beginning.” So does that mean it’s gonna get a lot worse? He never elaborated.

I can’t find similar oddities in my notes of Obama’s statements on the economy. They were all careful and controlled and full of bullet points. He kept coming back to the “failed policies of the Bush administration,” which was fair enough. And he gave McCain some crap for the whole “fundamentals of the economy are strong” thing. McCain responded that he meant American workers are very productive. Which is true.

To his credit, McCain also said that he’s for cutting corporate tax rates and building 45 new nuclear plants. Those aren’t universally popular positions, and he made his position on them clear. Good on him.

Anyway, I’m clearly not cut out for debate coverage. I found the whole thing to be stultifying and alcohol-abuse-inducing. At least it was good wine (Glatzer, Riedencuvee Zweigelt, 2006).

Final thoughts: McCain had the better tie. And I had no idea he was so bitter at having lost the Senate Miss Congeniality contest (he brought it up twice). Does anybody out there know who won?