Thursday, August 21, 2008

McCain: Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

"A plague o' both your houses!" Or on at least four of them! Maybe seven.

This past week, McCain's campaign did a bang-up job of appealing to the out-of-touch, mathematically-challenged, ridiculously wealthy demographic. First off, he suggested that you're not really rich unless you make at least $5 million a year. I took a quick look at the Census Bureau data on income and found that, as of 2006, only 1.9% of U.S. households earned over $250,000. According to the IRS, the top 1% of earners made $1.1 million in 2007, and the top 1/10th of 1% earned an average of $5.6 million. Thus, according to McCain, slightly more than 1/10th of 1% of Americans are rich. It really makes you feel for those poor middle-class folks making $1-4 million a year and struggling to afford their Bentley Continental GTs, ocean-front vacation villas in Monterey, and month-long vacations in Monaco.

He followed that stunner up a few days later by admitting that he didn't know how many houses he and his wife owned. He said he had to check with his staff, and then he responded that he owned "at least four." Newsweek had recently estimated that the McCains own at least 7 properties. Now, all of the numbers between 4 and 7 are fairly small numbers -- for a preschooler.

It's a little disconcerting that a Presidential nominee has to have his staff check on how many homes he owns. It's easy to Monday morning quarterback, but there were so many better responses:
  • "I only have one home, and that's wherever my wife is."
  • "As I was saying about my time as a prisoner of war..."
  • "A nun, a democrat, and a Sunni walk into a bar..."
  • "I really need to hit the head. Let's pick it up here later."
  • "Speaking of houses, did you know that Obama's middle name is Hussein?"
At the same time, there is a touch of brilliance in the "at least" approach. This is something all politicians could use.

Q: How many kids do you have?
A: At least one.

Q: How many years have you been married?
A: At least a couple.

Q: Have you ever cheated on your spouse?
A: At

These comments from McCain are hardly surprising given his admitted lack of knowledge about economics. McCain has previously said:
"The issue of economics is something that I've really never understood as well as I should. I understand the basics, the fundamentals, the vision, all that kind of stuff,'' he said. "But I would like to have someone I'm close to that really is a good strong economist. As long as Alan Greenspan is around I would certainly use him for advice and counsel."
Now, some may feel that a solid grasp of economics would be helpful given our budget deficit, national debt, unfunded liabilities, rising unemployment, trade deficit, deteriorating currency, rising commodity prices, and stagnating incomes. They can be forgiven for their naivete. All that really matters is that our President surrounds himself with experts in the field like Alan Greenspan, who presided over and encouraged unprecedented credit growth, a ridiculous increase in the money supply, and cascading bubbles in the stock and housing markets.

I want to be clear that this is not an endorsement of Obama in any way. McCain and Obama both quibble over marginal differences in their economic plans while demonstrating no understanding or appreciation of the precarious and deteriorating financial condition of our country. President McCain would probably trip all over himself in his eagerness to start a war with Iran and Russia simultaneously. President Obama, with the support of a democratically controlled Congress, could certainly do some damage in the tax and spend arena.

Given these two potentially awful outcomes, I recommend the following:
  • Buy gold.
  • Buy a gold mine.
  • Remove, melt, and save any gold fillings you have.
  • "Accidentally" swap luggage with Michael Phelps at the Beijing airport.
  • Gradually strip mine your neighbor's property when he's at work.
  • And buy some silver, too.
Disclosure: The Rubbernecker is long gold and silver and short the Republicans and Democrats.