Yesterday, after two of Wall Street’s major banking institutions had just collapsed, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) declared that he “still” believes “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” As MSNBC’s First Read notes today, yesterday was only the most recent occasion that McCain has called the economy’s fundamentals “strong” as the economy worsened throughout 2008:
And, perception-wise, McCain didn’t help himself when he said the “fundamentals of our economy are strong” — words that Obama’s campaign yesterday pounced on and McCain later backtracked from. In fact, the Obama camp is up with a brand-new TV ad today (airing in “key states”) that whacks McCain for saying that. However, it’s worth pointing out that those words from McCain weren’t new. By our count, he has used that phrase at least 16 times between Jan. 1 and June 5th of this year.
In August, McCain told right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham, “I still believe the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” Listen here:
In his interview with Ingraham, McCain defined what he meant by “fundamentals,” saying “we’re still the most innovative, the most productive, the greatest exporter, the greatest importer.” On the defensive yesterday, he defined the economy’s “fundamentals” as “workers and small businesses.”
In fact, economists have a very different definition of what the actual fundamentals of the economy are. ABC News’s Jake Tapper spoke to a few, and they say the fundamentals are not strong like McCain claims:
“One definition,” responded one, providing this definition: “A very broad term which includes such economic measures as interest rates, the government’s budget deficit, the country’s balance of trade account (relating to exports and imports), the level of domestic business confidence, the inflation rate, the state of (and confidence in) the banking and wider financial sector and consumer confidence.”
“By this definition, things aren’t so good,” the expert said.
Another said, “To which we might add health of job market, value of home prices and stock prices (which have the greatest impact on household wealth) and ability of wages to keep up with prices — these fundamentals are also not good.”
Economic experts also tell The American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz that by at least seven different key measures “the fundamentals are not in fact strong.”
Speaking to reporters this morning, McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin claimed “that McCain has an ability to call a spade a spade. ‘You have to have the ability to look and identify a crisis, call it a crisis, not pretend that it’s fine,’ Holtz-Eakin said.”