Friday, September 26, 2008

"I Don't Care About the Economy."

Some months ago, as we have already mentioned, Father Anonymous spent a leisurely afternoon in the country, which included a long conversation about politics with a career military officer.  As these things will, the conversation got a bit testy, and both parties probably said things to which they would not want to be held later.

Nonetheless, we have chosen to forget our own rhetorical excesses, and focus on his.

In a conversation about the presidential candidates, the officer declared that his only criteria for choosing a president were military matters and foreign affairs, areas in which he considered John McCain to be by far the better choice.  He argued that Obama offered no serious foreign-policy ideas, and that the idea of talking to Iran without preconditions was dangerous.  

Among the many things that he said which struck us at the time, one particular seems relevant these days.  Concerning his choice of candidates, he said, "I don't care about the economy."

We suspect that this idea -- a president doesn't need to have deal with economic matters -- may be fairly common, especially on the right.  (Or friend Father Ron has said much the same thing on occasion.)  And why not?  That certainly does seem to be the thrust of the Constitution.  Art 2, sec. 2 is all about the military, treaties and ambassadors.  

But then there is that pesky remark about "principal officers of the [otherwise undefined] executive departments," or what we call a Cabinet.  And as our government has put flesh and muscle over the bare-bones outline devised by the Founders, those "executive departments" and their principal officers have come to be very important indeed.

Consider, for example, Henry Paulson, our Secretary of the Treasury.  Or the Office of Management and Budget, headed by Jim Nussle.  Or the governors of the Federal Reserve, who -- like ambassadors or justices -- are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  Not to mention the economic impact of the various regulatory agencies -- FDA, OSHA, EPA -- controlled by the chief executive. 

All told, it seems obvious that in reality (as opposed to Ron-Paul-style fantasies about a different government based on the same Constitution), the President of the United States plays a very significant role in the economic life of the nation.  Therefore, factoring sound judgment in economic matters out of a presidential campaign is short-sighted.  As recent events have demonstrated, it is almost suicidally so.

A president with a philosophical commitment to deregulation, or passive-aggressive non-enforcement of existing regulations, is probably not the best choice for steering us out of a disaster caused, in large part, by regulatory failure.  Nor can we place much hope in a president who has shown measured support for regulation (like, say, the McCain-Feingold law) but also needs to placate a party base that distrusts him for just that reason.

Nor can we trust the cabinet secretaries and bank governors who is notorious for his impulsive decisions (like, say, choosing a running mate he has barely met).

Just thought we'd mention this.

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