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Friday, March 07, 2008

Gramm Crackers

Larry Kudlow recently interviewed Phil Gramm, chief economic advisor to Republican Presidential nominee Senator McCain. The following exchange stood out for me:
Kudlow: Alright, I hear you on that. But some people are asking the following question. In the McCain economic camp, how do you all get along with each other? You got yourself—nobody is more free market, rock-solid than you are. You got supply-siders like Steve Forbes and Jack Kemp. On the other hand, as Senator McCain travels around, he mentions some of his root-canal advisors. He’s got Pete Peterson, and he’s got Warren Rudman, who tend to be high taxers. He’s got the Concord Coalition, who’s never met a tax they didn’t want to raise, allegedly to balance the budget. It sounds like there’s a war between the growth guys, and the austerity guys, in the McCain camp. How do you resolve that?

Gramm: No, I don’ think there’s a war. But look, when we have a president who is making decisions that are going to affect the lives of real people, I want him to listen to every side of the argument. I know where he stands. I know what he believes. I know what his instincts are. But look, I don’t think you want a president who, A, surrounds himself with “yes” people, and I don’t think you want a president who’s listening to only one side of the argument. I think there are times when supply-side economics does, and should, carry the day. But I think there are demand-side factors. I think we want a president, in these tough times, who’s going to get the best advice he can [get], who’s going to bring together the best people he can get, and then make a decision. So, look, I view it as a plus that he’s got differences of opinion.
You know, it doesn't give me any pleasure to take jabs at Senator McCain; I'd much prefer it if I could back him without reservations and focus my fire on the usual miscreants in the Democrat party. But I'm not interested in having people go into a McCain presidency with their eyes closed, and I'm particularly not interested in being told that McCain is conservative when the truth of the matter is rather murky. Conservatives may find themselves having to fight President McCain on a number of issue - let's be aware of those areas where the battles may come.

Tax and economic policy may be one of those flash points, I'm afraid. Kudlow asks Gramm about the tax raisers (Peterson, Rudman) in the McCain inner circle; Gramm's response is that McCain needs advice from all sides of the argument.

I ask: When did raising taxes become any side of a conservative argument about economics? When did raising taxes become part of what Gramm describes as "the best advice" that can be offered to a conservative president? Did I miss the memo?

I suppose Gramm has to be diplomatic when talking about these other advisors, or maybe he's just incompetent as a spokesman, but I wasn't in any way swayed by his vague assurances. How about just closing the door on tax increases? How about a statement, if true, that these guys are just there for their knack at curbing government spending? Or, is it reasonable for me to suspect that tax increases will get a serious hearing in a McCain administration?

Until McCain cuts ties with these RINO tax hikers, I think it's an entirely reasonable suspicion, I'm afraid. He needs to make a choice and stop straddling the fence when it comes to economic policy - there should be no room in a conservative administration for tax hikers. If you want diverse viewpoints, let the supply-siders argue over which taxes to cut and by how much.

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