Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tuesday Primary: Full Throttle on the Campaign Trail

by Larry Mongoss, guest blogger

Another Tuesday. More primaries in a race that has dragged on longer than anyone had expected it to. I am certainly not a typical voter, but the more I get to know about people in politics the less I like them. There have been a few notable exceptions to that experience, oddly enough, and mostly for silly reasons, Ronald Reagan among them, but this campaign has not raised any from either side of the aisle.

More painful than getting to know politicians, is listening to them pander to the short term interests of voters as they try to propel themselves into office. I was not surprised when John McCain, a man who has re-declared himself “very well versed in economics” suggested on April 15th that the federal tax on gasoline be lifted for the summer. Lowering taxes has long been a mantra of the Republican Party, and lowering them on something that every person who drives can relate directly to is that much sweeter. Some people have complained that such a move is a bad one and they are right. It will do little to help consumers in the short term. The price we pay at the pump will not fall by 18.5 cents a gallon, but probably only by a few cents as oil suppliers take more of the pie. Longer term this action does nothing to address the energy, environment and security problems we face, but will only make them worse. It is a quick would-be fix that will do no good.

Thus, I was surprised when Hillary Clinton grabbed McCain’s play and ran with it on April 28th. As implausible as it seems, I am still not cynical enough. Barack Obama, and probably some of the would-have-beens are not going along with this notion of taking away the gas tax. Actually, Obama was politically artful in describing this as a gimmick that would only save people 30 cents per day. But the argument about why this is a bad idea is an intellectual one; it does not have the visceral impact of offering someone an extra $2 in change every time they fill up.

All of this is obviously old news, and politics as usual in America, and really almost every country in the world, has a fair bit pandering policy statements (read my lips). What is interesting this time around is that the race is close, and prominently putting forth bad policy may have flipped Indiana into the Clinton column, and even makes North Carolina seem unsure. Clinton has proven herself a tenacious candidate and it would be a mistake to count her out. But wouldn’t it be ironic if clearly bad policy promulgation keeps her in the game. If it does turn out to be a winning strategy, we are in for an absolute treat this fall.

No comments: