Ignore the Rhetoric

The Economist has an article on the economic policies being promoted by Sens. Obama and Clinton in their campaign speeches and comes to the same conclusion as I did, ignore the rhetoric:

How worrying is their populism? The sanguine—and conventional—argument is that none of it matters much. Democratic candidates always veer to the left during primaries, because that is where the votes are. But come the general election, the winner will tack back towards the centre, where the crucial independent voter resides.

The winner, unless Mrs Clinton can stage a dramatic comeback in the big primaries on March 4th, is likely to be Mr Obama. If you look on his website rather than listen to his speeches, there are plenty of intelligently designed, reasonably centrist proposals to be found (see article). It is sensible, for instance, to make it easier for people to save for retirement by enrolling everyone in a scheme unless they specifically opt out. His plans for health-care reform, like Mrs Clinton’s, are middle-of-the-road. And his economic advisers, even more than hers, are sound academic economists. So although it might seem odd to advise suspicious voters to ignore the rhetoric of a man whose principal appeal rests on his speeches, Mr Obama in office would surely seek to be something other than the capitalist-hating demagogue he has recently sounded like.

The Economist continues with a warning:

Yet there are reasons to worry. The longer the Democratic race grinds on, the more entrenched the candidates may become in their populism. As America moves into the election proper, there is every likelihood that it will do so against a backdrop of worsening macroeconomic figures and rising numbers of house repossessions. Both John McCain and the Democratic nominee will then be chasing swing voters who are, typically, white working men—the type already prone to pessimism about their prospects. This group is not a natural part of Mr Obama’s constituency and, if he were the nominee, he might well be tempted to keep the populism turned up high. If he were elected president, backed by a Democratic Congress with enhanced majorities, Mr Obama might well feel obliged to deliver on some of his promises. At the very least, the prospects for freer trade would then be dim.

On a related note Joe Gandelman is suspicious of the story I posted on yesterday:

The blogosphere has been buzzing about this story since early yesterday morning. Unfortunately, even bloggers who are not dedicated Clinton partisans — even some who like Obama – kinda lost their critical faculties on this one and accepted it at face value, despite the red flags all over it.

The sole reason that Joe presents for wondering about the story is the genetic fallacy, a form of ad hominem: CTV is a conservative news organ and, consequently, they’d publish a lie about Obama.

My own view is more in line with The Economist’s observations: strident opposition to NAFTA isn’t consistent with the remainder of Sen. Obama’s foreign and economic policy positions and, as I’ve said before, you’ve got to say a lot of stupid things to get elected. Since I don’t believe the rhetoric whether the CTV story was true or not is a matter of indifference to me.

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  • Let me co-opt the discussion with an aside to Mr/Ms. Eye: My mail to your compuserve address gets returned for some reason, so let me say here that Fedex will deliver the three notated and collated sets on Monday before 3:00. Now back to NAFTA…

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