A Little Straight Talk Goes a Long Way

Quick!  Throw Phil Gramm under the bus!  The economic advisor of presumptive nominee John McCain has dared to “insult the American people” and therefore, he must be repudiated.  Right?  Certainly, according to McCain.  But the real answer is that Gramm has a point.

The former senator’s statement to The Washington Times was insensitive at a time when every single voter and interest group must be coddled.  But are McCain and Gramm on the “Straight Talk Express” or not?  Apparently, a little straight talk goes a long way.

“You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession,” said Gramm.  “We have become a nation of whiners.  You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline.”

Since Gramm is likely in some rehabilitation center trying to get tire marks off his butt, let me explain what he was trying to say.  Sure, we are in a soft economy.  But we are not in a recession and we are certainly not in a depression.  We are in a downturn because of the sub-prime crisis and the high cost of fuel for which the government and its $23-billion Department of Energy has no answer.  

As far a being a “nation of whiners,” Gramm may have been referring to the media – or to liberals in general.  Every night, whether it’s Charles Gibson, Brian Williams, or Katie Couric, we’re subjected to the mainstream media’s opinion that we’re in the toughest times since the Great Depression.  According to the Business & Media Institute, the networks referred to the Great Depression 42 times in the first four months of the year.

But if you check your history, the market lost 85 percent of its value between 1929 and 1932.  One person in four was out of work.  People stood in food lines and depended on government assistance just to eat.

So Phil Gramm’s “whiners” might be network reporters – with the notable exceptions of CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo and FOX’s Neil Cavuto.  Ms. Bartiromo has warned that we could “talk ourselves into a recession.”   That’s precisely Phil Gramm’s point.  

Or he might have been referring to the Democratic candidates for president as “whiners.”  On the stump, both Clinton and Obama delighted in telling one horror story after another about how bad it is for the American people.  

But all this is way too much straight talk for Sen. McCain.  “Phil Gramm does not speak for me,” he said.  In reality, Gramm could have said a lot more.

This nation’s economic downturn is the result of one thing – government.  Our elected officials seem to have one overriding goal and that is their own reelection.  They have failed us on energy policy, and now gasoline prices are skyrocketing.  They have failed us on tax policy, and now the American people have a tax burden that is hard to shoulder.  Neither McCain nor Obama have much of plan to fix either of these issues, though tax-and-spend policies would obviously increase under Obama.

Worst of all is how our government has failed us on runaway spending.  This year, the federal government is poised to spend $400 billion more than it will take in. Entitlements are out of control and baby boomers are starting to retire.   When Sen. John Cornyn failed to support doctors who were protesting a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments, he was taken to the woodshed by the AARP.  Yet we don’t have the money.  

What we’ve done is to add yet another entitlement (the pharmaceutical benefit) and expand S-CHIP insurance.   Mr. Bush grew the Department of Education and even created a new cabinet agency:  Homeland Security.  

In my home state of Texas, a new web site called reports that “had Texas’ government been able to restrain growth to only population and inflation between 1990 and 2007, more than $320 billion could have remained in taxpayer pockets.”  Government at every level is out of control.

If John McCain really believes in “straight talk,” he should crawl under that bus and retrieve Phil Gramm, and together they should present a plan to reduce the size of government, fix our runaway entitlements, get us a sensible energy policy, and reduce the overbearing tax burden.  If they fail to do that, the American people might as well elect a tax-and-spend liberal like Obama.  And then, we’ll have four years to do some serious whining.