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Both Candidates Push Economic Solutions

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Amidst less-than-stellar economic news, both Barack Obama and John McCain addressed the economy today and both took swipes at the Bush administration.

Obama, while not naming Bush specifically, said irresponsibility on Wall Street and in Washington has caused the current problems – presumably referring to a lack of regulation and oversight. Obama said he would mix short-term relief with long-term fixes.

McCain blamed the economic problems specifically on the Bush administration’s excessive spending over the last 7 ½ years. He promised to balance the budget by the end of his first term.

While both candidates have offered more details in the past than they did today, I think both are primarily blowing smoke at this point. A president’s ability to affect the economy, in the short OR long term, is minimal at best. Yes, different priorities and policies will have different results, but the overall health of the economy depends on a huge number of factors.

I do think we need to move towards a balanced-budget focused governance, but I don’t believe either Obama or McCain, based on their stated priorities, will be able to achieve such a goal. And while I have no opposition to good regulations and proper government oversight, I strongly question any president’s ability to get Congress and the various federal bureaucracies to solve more problems than they create. I’m not saying we couldn’t use better regulation and/or oversight, I just can’t imagine the implementation of such initiatives being a magical cure for the economy.

None of this, of course, matters. The economy is a potent political issue and presidential candidates from Reagan to Clinton have used economic down times to win elections. McCain is smart to position himself as opposed to the current administration but his “balanced budget” focus, as important as such measures are, make him seem very 1992. Meanwhile, Obama won’t have too much difficulty strapping McCain to Bush’s economic policies and thus, in most people’s minds, to the current economic troubles.

As long as the economy staggers, McCain will have a tough time.