Honest John?

John Cole thinks he has caught John Edwards in a moment of truthfulness:

MATTHEWS: Can you talk to the people of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, et cetera, all those Rust Belt states, if you will, and you can promise—can you promise those middle aged workers my age, who are losing their jobs, can you promise them that you‘re going to keep those jobs for them?

EDWARDS: No, that wouldn‘t be the truth, Chris.

I think what I can say to them is that we can change our trade policy.

That will have an impact on the flow of these jobs.

We can change our tax policy and not give tax breaks to American companies leaving and going overseas, and instead reverse that and give breaks to companies that are staying here.

I think it will have an impact. But I think they deserve to know the truth, and we have other work to do to create additional jobs and new jobs to replace the jobs that have been lost.

The “No, that wouldn‘t be the truth” appears candid but is rather negated by the rest of the answer. Aside from expanding the federal workforce, or engaging in massive spending programs, there’s not a whole lot presidents can do to create jobs. The best they can do is create a tax and regulatory environment that doesn’t get in the way of growth and hope the business cycle does the rest.

Perhaps the best thing Bill Clinton did when he was in office was to aggressively support free trade. Indeed, it seemed to be the only issue he was actually ideologically commited to; he even spent significant political capital and alienated part of his own base by supporting NAFTA. But, combined with the huge Internet boom, the economy took off beyond anyone’s dreams. For Edwards to be running on a neo-mercantilist platform in the guise of job creation makes him no better than Pat Buchanan or Ross Perot.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    . But, combined with the huge Internet boom, the economy took off beyond anyone’s dreams.

    If you go back and look at the numbers the economy was not that stunning.

    He inherited from Bush 41 an economy on the way up and rode it for 7.5 years before it went into a recession. Along the way we never had a GDP as high as we have now EVEN WITH the dotcom explosion.

    The argument has been made on several occasions that if you take the dotcom bubble out it was deplorable.

    What made the “Clinton Economy” seem great was that he kept telling people it was great. That whole perception=reality thing.

    Like the rest of his life/Presidency it was mostly a sales job.


  2. RicK DeMent says:

    I GDP the # one metric of economic performance? What about per capata GDP? would that not give us a better picture as to how individuals are doing?

  3. McGehee says:

    The GDP is ised to measure the overall performance of the economy. There are other ways to measure how individuals are doing. But you already know that, Rick.