The Phony Campaign

2012-07-15 Update

[phony baloney]

No big changes here:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 21,500,000 -400,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 994,000 +1,000
"Gary Johnson" phony 399,000 +7,000

The Big Phony News this week involves American participation in the global economy. The Obama campaign, for re-election purposes, claims this to be a bad thing. At least when some private businesses do it. Or if it happened in Massachusetts while it was governed by Mitt Romney.

The Romney campaign didn't do much better, dubbing President Obama "outsourcer in chief" for subsidizing "solar and wind energy companies that end up making their products outside the United States."

Yeah, like that's the problem with government subsidizing what-used-to-be-free private enterprise.

So, in general: bad week for economic literacy, good week for xenophobia, protectionism, and demagoguery.

  • Things got real stupid when it was revealed that the US Olympic uniforms for this year's games were made in China. I made the mistake of watching ABC News one evening, where Anchor-Airhead Diane Sawyer spent a good fraction of her show smarmily oozing Concern and Outrage about the issue.

    A must-read antidote was provided by Daniel Ikenson at Cato. Read the whole thing, but here's a good summary:

    If you are still not convinced that our policymakers' objections are inane, consider this: As our U.S. athletes march around the track at London's Olympic stadium wearing their Chinese-made uniforms and waving their Chinese-made American flags, the Chinese athletes will have arrived in London by U.S.-made aircraft, been trained on U.S.-designed and -engineered equipment, wearing U.S.-designed and -engineered footwear, having perfected their skills using U.S.-created technology.

    Republicans were quick to offer a similar principled defense of free trade.

    Sorry, just kidding: actually, they were quick to point fingers at Ralph Lauren, the uniforms' designer, and major contributor to Democratic candidates.

    Meanwhile, Ben Shapiro at Breitbart suspects that all the brouhaha is simply a pretext to (eventually) point out that the US athletes at the Romney-run 2000 Olympics were outfitted by a Canadian company.

  • I would be remiss in covering the Phony Campaign if I failed to link to a Bloomberg editorial entitled " Obama-Romney Debate Over Offshoring Is Phony and Harmful" It notes how the Obama campaign is dragging us back to the bad old days of 1992, when Ross Perot ranted about the "giant sucking sound" of American jobs moving to Mexico. And notes that the Romney campaign's responses have been (variously) "specious", a "mishmash of exaggeration and falsehood", and "foolish".

  • The Obama campaign continued to lie without shame about Romney's company, Bain Capital. At the Columbia Journalism Review, Brendan Nyhan notes that our mainstream media is doing an absolutely dreadful job in covering the issue.

    Rather than clarify the misleading nature of the Obama campaign's claims, many reporters have played stenographer and simply summarized the debate for readers. These "he said," "she said" reports--which have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and the Associated Press and on CBS News--serve the basic function of notifying the public of the existence of a dispute but fail to help voters arbitrate among the conflicting claims.

    Also common, Brendan notes, is the pundit-driven approach. These don't care much about the accuracy of the President's charges, but instead concentrate on the relative effectiveness of the charges and Romney's responses. Are they "working"? Do they "stick"?

  • I wrote about this a couple years ago, but it's time to note it again. Here's President Obama yesterday in Virginia:

    "I want to stop giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas," Obama told the audience of 2,100 at Centreville High School. "Let's give those tax breaks that are investing right here in Virginia, right here in the United States of America, hiring American workers to make American products to sell around the world."

    If you think you've seen that bolded phrase before, it's only because you have.

    Obama 2010:

    End tax breaks that reward some U.S. companies with overseas subsidiaries and encourage those businesses to create jobs in other countries, President Barack Obama is telling Congress.

    Obama, 2007:

    When I am president, I will end the tax giveaways to companies that ship our jobs overseas, and I will put the money in the pockets of working Americans, and seniors, and homeowners who deserve a break.

    John Kerry, 2004:

    I've proposed a new economic plan for America. It begins by putting an end to tax incentives that are encouraging American companies to ship jobs overseas.

    Bill Clinton, 1992:

    Eliminate deductions for companies that ship American jobs overseas and reward outrageous executive pay.

    That's a couple decades of broken promises, and you'd think that all the jobs would have been shipped overseas by now.

    I'm sure that phrase focus-groups extremely well, which is why the Democrats seem to trot it out for every campaign.

    So why are those TaxBreaksForCompaniesThatShipJobsOverseas still around? Two reasons:

    1. Repealing them would be obviously bad policy.

    2. See above: it's a good thing to say in a campaign. If Democrats actually followed through on it, they would have one less demagogic issue to campaign on.

Last Modified 2014-12-05 11:58 AM EST