Platitudes We Can Believe In

I was running some errands and got to listen to part of Hillary Clinton’s convention speech, and what a typical mish-mash of nonsense and pandering platitudes. Change we can believe in? Please, spare me.

What really got me was this baloney,

And when Barack Obama is in the White House, he’ll revitalize our economy,….

It just drives me crazy. Presidents have very little control over the economy and those policy tools they do have access to are imprecise and clumsy. Will the economy strengthen while Obama is in the White House? Yeah, almost surely. Would it strengthen if McCain is in the White House? Yeah, almost surely. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it would strengthen even if Mickey Mouse were elected president. And please, nobody post a comment claiming Bill Clinton revitalized the economy as his wife falsely claimed.

And of course we get the usual emotional tugging of the heart strings,

I will always remember the single mom who had adopted two kids with autism, didn’t have health insurance and discovered she had cancer. But she greeted me with her bald head painted with my name on it and asked me to fight for health care.

I will always remember the young man in a Marine Corps t-shirt who waited months for medical care and said to me: “Take care of my buddies; a lot of them are still over there … .and then will you please help take care of me?”

I will always remember the boy who told me his mom worked for the minimum wage and that her employer had cut her hours. He said he just didn’t know what his family was going to do.

Yes, lets base our choice of president on emotion. Lets chuck out rationalism in favor of emotionalism.

He’ll transform our energy agenda by creating millions of green jobs and building a new, clean energy future.

Reminds me of the old joke, do you know when a politician is lying? Their mouth is moving and sound is coming out of it. If it was worthwhile to invest in all of these green technologies it would be happening now creating millions of jobs. That it isn’t tells us that these technologies are not profitable right now. Perhaps one can make an argument for government funded basic research, although I wouldn’t, but the idea that the President can direct this investment by fiat instead of letting the market do it suggests a massive misuse of resources. We’d end up losing just as many and perhaps more jobs in the process of subsidizing these unprofitable ventures. And what will help make these technologies more viable? Why the very thing Hillary Clinton thinks is bad, high gasoline prices and the profits enjoyed by oil companies.

We need to elect Barack Obama because we need a President who understands that America can’t compete in a global economy by padding the pockets of energy speculators, while ignoring the workers whose jobs have been shipped overseas. We need a President who understands that we can’t solve the problems of global warming by giving windfall profits to the oil companies while ignoring opportunities to invest in new technologies that will build a green economy.

[…]

But we don’t need four more years . . . of the last eight years.

More economic stagnation … and less affordable health care.

More high gas prices … and less alternative energy.

Hillary Clinton is an intelligent woman, further it is a reasonable assumption that she knows that higher gasoline/fossil fuel prices will spur research and development of alternatives. Thus, the best conclusion is that Hillary Clinton is a liar, or as I noted above, how can you tell a politician is lying? Her mouth is moving and sound is coming out of it.

This kind of platitudinous blathering is oh so typical of politicians these days (note I said politicians, this applies to both parties). This isn’t “change we can believe in”, it is the same old crap with a new slogan.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Politicians, US Politics
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Mike P says:

    “Yes, lets base our choice of president on emotion. Lets chuck out rationalism in favor of emotionalism.”

    This is somewhat strange, considering that the other candidate for president is basically running a low issue/high character campaign. McCain’s entire candidacy is almost premised on the fact that he has an emotional, compelling backstory (that he is cheapening on a daily basis by invoking his time as a P.O.W. as a means to deflect any criticism). McCain’s case against Obama is about appealing to people’s emotions that Barack is not like them. He’s barely even trying to make a case on the merits of policy. “Celebrity”? Obama would rather lose a war than an election? These are emotional appeals.




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  2. anjin-san says:

    Yes, lets base our choice of president on emotion.

    You mean like the argument that McCain should be president because he was a POW 40 years ago?




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  3. Steve Verdon says:

    It is only strange if your premise that I believe the Republicans rely only on rationalism. They rely on emotionalism as well. During the Republican convention I could probably take this post and change it very slightly and it would still work.




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  4. Steve Verdon says:

    anjin-san,

    Your mistake is your faulty assumption I support, like or even will hold my nose and vote for McCain. I despise the man.




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  5. Brett says:

    Quite a bit of the basic research that underlay current private technologies was government-funded, particularly by military research efforts (*cough*Internet).




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  6. Martha says:

    Dropped out of grad school.
    Work in the energy industry. (Call center?)
    Well w/ those impressive qualifications your opinion should have great weight.
    Natural McCain supporter.




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  7. Martha says:

    Sorry I skipped it.
    Nice dog!
    What’s her opinion?




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  8. Christopher says:

    Presidents have very little control over the economy? Huh?!?

    President Reagan and President Bush, 2 presidents that sure did a lot with the economy-CUTTING TAXES-by getting the govt. even a little tiny bit OUT OF THE WAY! Who in the world thinks that if Carter had stayed in office the economy would have gotten significantly better? Who in the world thinks that after 9/11 the economy would have gotten better in the absence of the Bush tax cuts?

    And if you don’t believe that a President (::shudder::) Obama will affect the economy (in an extremely negative way I believe) then you have absolutely no business posting thoughts about the economy here.




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  9. Steve Verdon says:

    Well Martha we can see you’ve been Obamafied. You’ll note that twice now, and this makes the third time in comments, I’ve stated I do NOT support John McCain. Try not to be so damned stupid in the future.

    Oh, and for the record my rottweiler likes neither candidate as neither of them feed her. My pit bull might like both McCain and Obama, but she likes all people.

    Christopher,

    Bad news, the economy entered an expansionary phase in November 2001. So yes, without President Bush in office the economy would have recovered.

    Brett,

    Quite a bit of the basic research that underlay current private technologies was government-funded, particularly by military research efforts (*cough*Internet).

    Yes I know, but is your argument that we would never have the internet save for military research efforts? It is sort of like saying we’d never have the assembly line if it weren’t for Henry Ford.




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  10. anjin-san says:

    You mean like the argument that McCain should be president because he was a POW 40 years ago?

    I am talking more about the McCain campaign than you…




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  11. sam says:

    This kind of platitudinous blathering is oh so typical of politicians these days

    Well, Steve with your critique (and evenhandedness), you’re in very good company, for isn’t this kind of thing a characteristic of electioneering in democratic states? Plato thought so. Let me get highbrow here for a minute. When people read the Allegory of the Cave in The Republic, they are generally, and rightly, taken by the visual imagery. After all, the central literary motif of the allegory is the transition from darkness to light. The men in the cave mistake the shadows on wall for reality, and only when one of them escapes and makes his way out does the truth become manifest. But there’s an auditory component in the allegory that’s often missed. The poor bastards chained in the cave also hear broken fragments of conversation between the men carrying the statues, and they take these broken, mangled fragments for genuine speech. This is Plato’s dig at political rhetoric in a democracy. This kind verbal flim-flammary, he thought, was an essential characteristic of the democratic form of government.

    Now what Plato had trouble getting his head around was how well, in the end, democracy works (even given the excesses and dumb actions it sometimes leads to). Democracies seem to muddle through, if in a messy way, in spite of the flim-flammary. I’ve been following presidential elections since the late 50s, and I cannot recall a single campaign where this kind of rhetoric as not employed, regardless of the party affiliation of the candidate. And I doubt you could find a campaign in our history where it was absent. It’s not new and will be with us as long as our democracy lasts. But somehow we get through. So by all means, critique away. But don’t get wound up thinking it could be different.




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  12. I am going to assume the odd role (for me) of a Clinton defender. I think that Clinton’s speech last night had one audience of any significance: those Democrats who voted for her and were still not sure about voting for Obama. If viewed through that prism, it was a brilliant speech, platitudes and all.

    And I share a great deal of your positions on the specific platitudes cited. Of course, the truth of the matter is that next week’s speeches are also going to laced with platitudes and wishful thinking as well.




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  13. Dave Schuler says:

    is your argument that we would never have the internet save for military research efforts?

    I think that’s the case. The communications and computer industries have been dominated by a few companies for the entirety of their existence (mostly on the basis of their patents or other government interference). Those companies have had no interest whatever in the kinds of collaborative effort represented by the Internet. They’re too busy looking for proprietary solutions.

    Microsoft was dragged kicking and screaming onto the Internet.

    Additionally, if there’d been business process patents a century ago and if Henry Ford had taken one out, the assembly line wouldn’t have been taken into general use. At least not in this country.




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  14. Anderson says:

    Steve Verdon doesn’t like politics. That’s perfectly sensible.

    But then, why post about it?

    Another “hey platitudes, GET OFF MY LAWN!” post.




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  15. Bithead says:

    Bad news, the economy entered an expansionary phase in November 2001. So yes, without President Bush in office the economy would have recovered.

    Doubtful.
    The Economy was in an expansion phase in the Carter years, too. And you see what he did with that.




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  16. DMan says:

    It just drives me crazy. Presidents have very little control over the economy and those policy tools they do have access to are imprecise and clumsy.

    Will the economy strengthen while Obama is in the White House? Yeah, almost surely. Would it strengthen if McCain is in the White House? Yeah, almost surely. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it would strengthen even if Mickey Mouse were elected president.

    And yet, later in the comments you say…

    So yes, without President Bush in office the economy would have recovered.

    Which is it? Do Presidents affect the economy or no? I’m having trouble following logic that states the economy will recover even if Mickey Mouse is in office, despite the fact that it has failed to do so to this point because Bush has been in office.




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  17. JT says:

    Let’s also see what the candidates are saying about crime, about drug offense policies, about overcrowded prisons and so on. One percent of our population is in jail or has been in jail recently, millions of men and women whose lives are completely changed for the worse. What will the candidates do about that?




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  18. Dan says:

    This country is so messed up because we have so many ignorant people, including this ‘writer’. And they are the voters who elect our leaders. How can someone say ‘Presidents have very little control over the economy’ after witnessing what happened to our economy in the last eight years! Many of Bush’s policies, like the war, contributed to our huge deficit. It led to the fall of the US dollars which helped to inflate the commodity bubble. It is so obvious, especially in the past week, when the dollar rose, the oil price went down, and vice versa. Both the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post had articles saying the administration’s HUD’s ratcheting up the main affordable-housing goal contribute to the current sub-prime mess. A president can definitely be able to mess the economy big time, as shown by this administration. Unfortunately, even people who have college education don’t even know that.




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  19. Michael says:

    DMan,
    Clearly Mr. Verdon’s position is that the economy has recovered under the current President, as shown by his lovely graph.

    Dan,
    Presidents have very little ability to improve the economy, which I believe was the main point in Mr. Verdon’s post. That they have the ability to ruin it, I think, is not in question.




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  20. Anderson says:

    Say, when do we get Steve V.’s post on the Gettysburg Address, or Lincoln’s second inaugural?

    I can’t wait.




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  21. Steve Verdon says:

    Anderson,

    Usually your comments are well thought out.

    Not so much this time.

    Michael,

    Right. I don’t think Bush has done anything magical to speed the recovery of the economy. Did cutting taxes help…mmmm probably. But so what, that is straight out of Keynesian Economics for Presidents 101. He also increased spending and ran a deficit. Again, straight out of Keynesian Economics for Presidents 101. Nothing shocking here, really.

    At the same time, continuing to saddle the country with additional debt even after the economy was growing…not a good move for the long term. Tossing on the big “gimme” for the old farts via the Medicare drug program, again not good for the long term outlook for the economy. Add on the various energy bills, highway bills, and all the additional regulatory nonsense…and it isn’t good.

    So little ability to have a short term impact on the economy save for clumsy and imprecise tools.

    Dan,

    Which is it? Do Presidents affect the economy or no? I’m having trouble following logic that states the economy will recover even if Mickey Mouse is in office, despite the fact that it has failed to do so to this point because Bush has been in office.

    The economy has recovered. Since November 2001 the economy has been in an expansionary phase.

    JT,

    What will the candidates do about that [drugs and prison overcrowding]?

    Nothing, both candidates love the War on Drugs, and both parties have willingly sacrificed civil liberties to appear tough on crime. In short, both parties, for whatever reason, have been heading to the gutter on this one for a long time now.

    Dave,

    I think that’s the case.

    I’m still doubtful. We might not have the internet we have now, but that we’d have nothing? I dunnno, I’m still doubtful on that one.

    Sam,

    Now what Plato had trouble getting his head around was how well, in the end, democracy works (even given the excesses and dumb actions it sometimes leads to).

    Really? That is why we don’t have problems with a huge impending shortfall in Medicare. Why budge surpluses seem to be so persistent. That earmarks are on the decline. That there is no revolving door between the Hill and K Street.

    Oh…wait…sorry, got those all precisely backwards.

    Wasn’t it Winston Churchill, that big fat idiot, who wrote that democracy is the worst form of government except for all others that have been tried? What the Hell did that jerk know?




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  22. Bithead says:

    I’m still doubtful. We might not have the internet we have now, but that we’d have nothing? I dunnno, I’m still doubtful on that one.

    So you should be. Likely we’d ahve come up with something without the kind of issues we’ve been subject to… IPv4 wouldnt have even been in the picture, for example at least in that form. The securty issues, etc. If there’s a buck to be made, the solutions would have happened. As a person who is on the net many hours every day dealing with it’s various problems, I wonder often what we cost ourselves in the way of design because of the governmental involvement.

    And as to the folks making the argument that the government was alone responsible for the internet, (Al Gore’s claims to one side for the moment) are they really considering that they’re pushing for Military spending? (Chuckle)




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  23. Michael says:

    So you should be. Likely we’d ahve come up with something without the kind of issues we’ve been subject to… IPv4 wouldnt have even been in the picture, for example at least in that form. The securty issues, etc. If there’s a buck to be made, the solutions would have happened.

    Yeah, because IPv4 has been such a terrible investment……

    If the internet had been designed by commercial entities, instead of Darpa, it’s very structure would be very different. Your ISP would also be your content provider, just like they are for TV. What do you do if your TV provider doesn’t host a show you want to watch? Compare that to what you do if your ISP doesn’t host a website you want to visit.

    The internet is a “cloud” because that’s what Darpa needed, to be able to connect point A to point Z, with multiple routes (B->C, C->D, D->B, etc) through which to do so. This makes it very hard to monopolize and monetize the internet, which is not ideal for commercial entities. If commercial interests had designed it, both A and Z would have to be a customer of (ISP)B in order to communicate over one of the B[] nodes. They’re already trying to do this (A=you, Z=Google, B=Verizon), which is why net neutrality is important.

    As a person who is on the net many hours every day dealing with it’s various problems, I wonder often what we cost ourselves in the way of design because of the governmental involvement.

    The internet wasn’t designed by the government, it was designed by the military and by academics, they designed it to fit their purposes, and it works remarkably well for the rest of us too.




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  24. Eric says:

    I was running some errands and got to listen to part of Hillary Clinton’s convention speech, and what a typical mish-mash of nonsense and pandering platitudes. Change we can believe in? Please, spare me.

    Well, I eagerly await Steve’s nearly identical critique of the RNC next week–or is it just Democrats that are full of nonsense and platitudinous?

    No, I expect a column next week from Steve about how realistic and sedate, yet eloquent and visionary the RNC speakers were, and how they were nothing like the self-important windbags at the DNC, and how Republicans alone represent the true “change we can believe in.” No, I’m sure Steve won’t have any problem recycling that phrase and applying it to conservatives. It’s just that right now it’s blowhard-y because the Dems did their gig first.

    Presidents have very little control over the economy and those policy tools they do have access to are imprecise and clumsy. Will the economy strengthen while Obama is in the White House? Yeah, almost surely. Would it strengthen if McCain is in the White House? Yeah, almost surely.

    Oh, I see. Now that the economy is in the tank, suddenly Presidents have no control over the economy. But when the gettin’ (the goin’?) was good, well, conservatives were falling all over themselves to heap praise upon GWB and his great visionary policies. Of course, when the goin’ (the gettin’?) was good with Bill Clinton, well, suddenly Presidents have no control over the economy–but in any event every good conservative knows that it was Reagan’s economic policies that were responsible for our great economy during Clinton’s term.

    Funny how Democratic Presidents seem to be the only ones simultaneously powerless over the economy but fully responsible for its poor condition.




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  25. Brett says:

    Yes I know, but is your argument that we would never have the internet save for military research efforts? It is sort of like saying we’d never have the assembly line if it weren’t for Henry Ford.

    No, but it would have been slower. In most of these technologies, the gains weren’t immediately apparent, and the start-up research costs were enormous.




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  26. Dave Schuler says:

    There is no reason whatever to believe that the Internet would have grown in any way other than it did. It is based on protocols placed in the public domain. Without that step it would not have grown as it has. The for-profit companies have only developed proprietary protocols.




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  27. Michael says:

    There is no reason whatever to believe that the Internet would have grown in any way other than it did. It is based on protocols placed in the public domain. Without that step it would not have grown as it has.

    I’m confused, are you saying that the internet would or would not be the same had it been designed by commercial interests?




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  28. bains says:

    Yes, lets base our choice of president on emotion. Lets chuck out rationalism in favor of emotionalism.

    And yet millions of Americans will use solely emotion when they pull the lever for Obama.

    Which is fine. I just wish they would stop pretending otherwise.




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