Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Words Have Meanings

Much has been made in the last few days about McCain's statement that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" on the same day that the Dow lost 500 points. After realizing that this might be, ya know, dumb and tone-deaf, he attempted to "clarify" his statement by saying that by "fundamentals", he meant the "the American worker and their innovation, their entrepreneurship, the small business, those are the fundamentals of America, and I think they're strong."

This attempted fix led to some ridiculous answers yesterday during his appearance with noted vicious lefty attack dog Matt Lauer on the Today Show.

Unfortunately for Senator McCain, words have meanings. In economics, as in other sciences or topics of the day, intelligent discourse requires common vocabulary. To anyone who has studied economics, "the fundamentals of our economy" brings to mind specific economic factors, including monetary policy, employment figures, productivity, and so on. You can't just go around assigning whatever meaning you want to such common phrases. It would be like, I don't know, promising to balance the budget and then saying after you fail that by "the budget" you mean "myself on a balance beam".

Of course, I have no doubt that the truth of the matter is that McCain, like his main economic advisor former Sen. Phil Gramm, thinks that the economy is fine and that we're all whiners, and then someone told him saying that this week was, frankly, dumb.

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