According to the latest polls, the economy is the biggest issue for voters. So I ask myself which candidate for president has the most support from economists. And my answer is...um...I don't know.

Now here's the interesting part about that particular piece of ignorance: I follow the news more than most people. So why don't I know the answer to the most important question in this election?

I know all about lapel pins and fist pumps and gaffes and ministers. I have a pretty good idea where the candidates are on most irrelevant issues. But I don't know if independent economists have a consensus on who would be the best president, economy-wise.

The best I could find on the Internet in a quick search was a list of (presumably) Democrat economists supporting Obama and a list of (presumably) Republican economists supporting McCain. Does that really tell me anything?

Obama Economists


McCain Economists


Do you know whose side most independent economists are on, or do you pretend you have that sort of expertise yourself?

I expect some people will leave comments to this post along the lines of "It is obvious that (one of the candidates) has the best economic policy because he will do (whatever) and the other guy won't!" Unfortunately, economics is not common sense. It's a mix of science, calculus, chaos, expectations, and voodoo. In other words, if you think you understand economics, that's proof that you don't.

Here's the question of the day: Who do you think would be the best president for improving the economy, and what makes you an expert on economics?

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-5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
Which ever candidate will move us the furthest from Bushenomics will be the best, as you may have noticed that things have been getting less than great at a rapid pace for those who are not in the "base" of our commander in chimp.

A more serious consideration is that the next president will very likely appoint at least two members to the supreme court, maybe more. Once again, which ever candidate will move us furthest from Bushpolitics will do the best, as you may have noticed that things have been getting..........

This could go on for a while, better make yourself comfortable.

Jun 17, 2008
I also want to say that I think if you are looking into the future, Obama would make the better candidate, because Obamanomics is a hilarious word that I hope catches on in the history books.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
<quote>t never ceases to amaze me that people will pay $5 for a 12-ounce cup of coffee at Starbucks, and $1.50 for a 16-ounce bottle of water, but whine like pigs when gas costs $4 per Gallon. A gallon is 128 ounces. People will pay $12 per gallon for bottled water. One would think that gas is inherently more valuable than water. Or coffee.</quote>

huh.??...There are alternatives for that $12 per gallon for bottled water and coffee....but my cars don't run on coffee and water..I wish they could...I know..common sense is not common! ;)
Jun 17, 2008
There are so many unpredictable factors that go into economics that you might as well shake a magic 8-ball if you are picking the president entirely on that basis. When Clinton was running against Bush Sr., there were no economists predicting the dot com boom of the 90's. War can either be a huge stimulus for the economy, or a huge burden. Nation changing events can occur.

The platforms originally put forth by the candidates never actually come to fruition, anyways. The best idea is just to put the person in with the most common sense and hope that their intelligence allows them to adapt to the rapidly changing global economy.

-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
The gas tax holiday is the best evidence I've seen, but it's not the particular decision for or against (which involves complex economic issues) which concerns me.

*Every* economist seems to agree that the gas tax holiday is a bad idea, and won't help in the ways politicians keep saying it will: <http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/05/gas-tax-redux/>. I don't pretend to understand all the complex economic issues that lead to this conclusion, but everyone who knows a lot about those issues comes to the same conclusion.

No politician is going to know more about economics than economists do. And when all the economists present a simple, widely-studied, and universally-agreed fact about economics, any politician would be crazy to say "I may not know much about the subject, but you guys are all totally wrong, and I'm willing to bet the country's future on my gut instinct about that!"

We're not going to get an expert economist as president, but we should at least try for one humble enough to accede to experts when they all agree.

McCain fails this test. Obama (on this issue at least) passes.
Jun 17, 2008
John McCain has said in the past that he doesn't know much about the economy.

Scott is OK with that, as neither of the candidates knows enough, in his view.

However, I think that it is important to note that the president does not usually make decisions, as much as choose people to make decisions, set broad principles to be guide their decision-making, and only occasionally step in the approve the biggest decisions.

So, the question is really which one would choose the best advisors, department secretaries, etc..

John McCain said that week that'd trust the people, rather than economists. Actually, he said "so-called economists."


So, he says he knows little, and that he wouldn't trust the scholars and experts in the field, the ones who call themselves "economists." Perhaps there is a good reason not to trust economists, but in the absence of such a reason, it sounds like he will engage in short term pandering, worsening the deficit and thereby the governments agility when it comes to influencing the economy, and making the government more of drain on the economy. Essentially, he has said, "If the American people want a tax cut, I don't care what the economists say."

That's pretty bad. In fact, that's so bad that I've got to say that Obama would be better for the economy, simply because he might be average.

What makes me qualified on this? Well, I took some economics courses in college and grad school, but that's not it. Really, it is that I believe in knowledge and expertise. Saying that you don't trust those who are expert in the relevant field, regardless of the field, is something I've seen in the current administration. It is something I see in my field, with predictable results.

Jun 17, 2008
Gas price arguments are funny. Oil companies make a tiny percentage in profit -- something ludicrous like %5 - . Obviously, that amounts to something when you're selling millions of gallons, and the number is bigger when gas prices are higher. But in almost every other business sector, profit margins are greater than 50% of gross for a product, and nobody seems to be pissed off when these companies are successful. Where is Microsoft's "Windfall Profits" tax? Where is the dairy farmers' windfall profits tax? Where are the concert T-shirt windfall profits tax? Those businesses all earn much higher margins for their products.

It never ceases to amaze me that people will pay $5 for a 12-ounce cup of coffee at Starbucks, and $1.50 for a 16-ounce bottle of water, but whine like pigs when gas costs $4 per Gallon. A gallon is 128 ounces. People will pay $12 per gallon for bottled water. One would think that gas is inherently more valuable than water. Or coffee.
Jun 17, 2008
1. I agree people should listen to independent economists. The key is to pick a group of them BEFOREHAND otherwise your selection process introduces bias. The problem with that is most economists tend to be conservative (on non-social policy) so it would be hard to find "neutral" economists. It would be like finding neutral labor leaders.

2. I haven't spent anytime learning the candidates platforms in detail yet. I am too busy learning about them 3rd hand from blogs!
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
Didn't McCain admit he doesn't pay much attention to economic issue? Either way, I think Obama is better if only because you have shift the view on the market every so often. You have republicans in too long, companies rely on having their way. You have democrats in too long, they fiddle with the market too much and prevent it from growing.

What makes me an expert on the subject is that I'm not an economist, meaning my track record isn't that bad. I'm also an accomplish weather man and sports odds maker.
Jun 17, 2008
Hi Scott,

You know, there's a business opportunity here. Imagine a magazine that covers all aspects of the news from an Economist's perspective. It would look at each presidential candidate and evaluate them on how they would do as Economists. I'm not sure what I would call such a magazine. Maybe, the Dismal Scientist? Or, the Economist?

(By the way, there is a British magazine that does something similar. My take on their take so far: McCain's policies are a little crazy but with some good parts; Obama is talking about populist policies now but has a crack economic staff that will do the right thing when they need to.)

Love your blog.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
Neither McCain nor Obama will be good for the economy. I do know from observation that a good economy happens when government gets smaller and tax cuts (to everyone, even the "evil" rich) get larger.
Since I've stated that I know what engenders a good economy I've taken myself out of the running for President
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
<quote>You think the oil companies could get away with that? </quote>

Where have you been living..pal? Did you see the price of gas....FYI, it is $4:00 with credit card and $3.93 with cash at the cheapest gas station in my area. Exxon Mobil made record profits http://money.cnn.com/2008/02/01/news/companies/exxon_earnings/ last quarter, ALL when the living public has been toiling to pay the gas prices. If you have kids, you could easily feel the pinch of essential items like milk(because of gas, not because of decrease in production)....As one of the posters mentioned the oil companies know that the price of oil is in-elastic, and so they are using it to their advantage.

<quote>They keep that money and all hell breaks lose. That's what my BA in English/History and a fair amount of common sense tell me. </quote>
If you read my post properly I said increase the price by that much, not keep that amount!.

Jun 17, 2008
i don't think any person living today is qualified to run the economy.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
Hi diegocg,

I disagree with your implication that debt is bad and that running a deficit is bad. Your government should not be run like a big business or like your personal finances. A government's stability comes from its ability to issue debt. Currently about 11% of the budget goes to debt service. That number needs to be watched closely, but as long as that number doesn't increase at an increasing rate, our debt isn't a bad thing. Why pay off debt when someone is giving you cheap money? Most of your services would disappear if the government only provided what it could pay for, and no long term projects would ever be undertaken.

Politicians who say they are going to run our country like a business always make me laugh, which is why I wouldn't support Romney or Perot. And a politician who equates government spending to personal spending is just showing that they don't understand the full capacity of how the government functions.

BTW, the military is not the biggest part of the budget, both HHS and SSA get more money.

0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
good post davidmeyrowitz!. I couldn't have said better.

The oil mafia would have taken the gas tax difference as a amount they could increase the price by, as the consumer was anyway paying it.

It is not only his gas tax stance, but he has proven to be a politician who doesn't go by the popular fad, as almost always it proves to be wrong. He was one of the very few politicians who voted against the IRAQ war(which is a trillion dollar mess), when Billary voted for it and when it turned out to be bad turned around and spoke against it.

He is not taking the help of lobbyists who are people who know people in powerful positions who can get the work done for $s. Most often the work is against the common public for a big multi-billion dollar organization.


-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
I believe that McCain would be better for the economy. All this talk about tax rates and spending miss the big picture; ultimately US domestic policy will be shaped by what is going on in the global economy. If we want our economy to succeed, that will mean more trade and lower trade barriers across the globe. I know that McCain believes in free trade, but it's tough to know where Obama stands. His anti-Nafta, protectionist rhetoric, however, even if you assume he's lying, is a little scary. I'm just not willing to take that risk.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
Catch 22 - if you think you understand economics, that's proof that you don't.

So, I don't know how to improve the National Economy - does that mean I'm the best candidate?

PS: I think that anyone who thinks
the government can 'fix' the economy
should read
Time Enough For Love, by Robert A. Heinlein.
Jun 17, 2008
Without trying to be the least bit funny: whoever Thomas Sowell is for. He's about as independent and brilliant an economist as you can find.

[Isn't it just as hard to pick the right economist as it is to pick the right economic policy? Either way, you have to be the expert yourself to pick right. -- Scott]
Jun 17, 2008
Obama. The gas tax holiday is my evidence. McCain (and Hillary) supports a gas tax holiday. He claims that middle-America needs the relief this summer. Obama firmly opposes the gas tax holiday.

Why? As almost every economist will tell you, a gas tax holiday won't lower prices, it will only raise Oil companies' profits. Demand for gas is nearly perfectly inelastic (although this is being tested now). The oil companies can estimate demand fairly well (they certainly have enough data) and know that consumption has dipped less than 1:1 given the rising cost of gas recently. Because of this, oil companies wouldn't lower prices if there were a gas tax holiday, they would keep prices the same but maintain higher profit levels.

Obama recognized this and opposed it. Perhaps Obama himself didn't recognize this, but at least he surrounded himself by competent economic advisers. Either way, Obama showed that he has a better grasp on economics than McCain.

My qualifications include a BS in Economics and an average level of common sense.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2008
From both listening to Marketplace on NPR and reading your blog, I decided to start reading about Economics as it sounds interesting and useful in other ventures. The first books I picked up was "Economics in One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt From reading it, it seems like most economists get it wrong. Although perhaps it's because most economists are partisan. Or maybe Henry Hazlitt doesn't know what he's talking about. He seems to make sense to me.
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