So Phil Gramm Shocks You?

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Well, the blogs and the DNC are all over Phil Gramm’s interview with the Washington Times yesterday. Will teh nooz pick it up? After all, this would make their favorite candidate barbeque host look, uh, less than in touch:

“You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession,” [Gramm] said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. “We may have a recession; we haven’t had one yet.”

“We have sort of become a nation of whiners,” he said. “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline” despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

“We’ve never been more dominant; we’ve never had more natural advantages than we have today,” he said. “We have benefited greatly” from the globalization of the economy in the last 30 years.

To be sure, we should be neither surprised nor shocked at such callousness. The Grammster does have a public track record of rhetoric consistent with his ideology, noted for example by the late Molly Ivins upon Gramm’s leaving public office in 2002:

Gramm both looks like a snapping turtle and has the personality of one. When he ran for president in 1996 and finished fifth in Iowa, all the profiles written of him included the line “Even his friends don’t like him.” Self-righteous and strident, Gramm demonized his opponents and used bitter, polarizing rhetoric. During a Senate debate over Social Security, a member pointed out that the proposal under consideration would hurt 80-year-old retirees. “Most people don’t have the luxury of living to be 80 years old,” Gramm scoffed, “so it’s hard for me to feel sorry for them.” Well, there is that.

On another occasion, Gramm ridiculed a newspaper photo of poor people who were forced to cut corners to put food on the table. “Did you see the picture?” Gramm asked a crowd. “Here are these people who are skimping to avoid hunger and they are all fat!… We’re the only nation in the world where all our poor people are fat.” During the fight over health care reform, Gramm said, “We have to blow up this train and the rails and the trestle and kill everyone on board.” When an elderly widow in Corsicana told him that cutting Medicare would make it more difficult for her to remain independent, Gramm said, “You haven’t thought about a new husband, have you?”

And surprise! Gramm’s priorities as a legislator matched his rhetoric:

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the recipient of enormous banking contributions, Gramm did an even bigger favor for the financial industry in 1999 when he sponsored the Financial Services Modernization Act allowing banks, securities firms, and insurance companies to combine. The bill weakened the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to help meet the credit needs of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Gramm described community groups that use the CRA as “protection rackets” that extort funds from the poor, powerless banks. The bill is also a disaster for the privacy of bank customers and weakens regulatory supervision. As Gramm proudly declared, “You’re not going to find a single bank, insurance company, or securities company that will say they were hurt financially by this bill.”

To be fair, Gramm occasionally found it in his heart to assist the poor — like the time he suggested that mothers on welfare would be better off working for $2.50 an hour. A more typical Gramm vote, though, came on an energy bill that benefited oil and gas companies at the expense of consumers. “There are winners and losers in every economic decision,” Gramm said portentously. He was then getting more oil and gas money than any other member of the Senate…

No doubt this “economic expert” will soon opine about a “planet of whiners” such as these:

The soaring cost of food increased the number of hungry people in the world by 122 million in 2007 and now threatens to swell the malnourished population for a decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

According to the department’s annual Food Security Assessment, 982 million people were hungry last year, up 14% from a revised estimate of 860 million in 2006. The number of new hungry people — the biggest increase since the department started producing the report 16 years ago — is roughly the population of Japan.

I’ll bet the Grammster will point out that starving babies have big bellies. Big bellies! What’s that all about?

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