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According to the latest polls, the economy is the biggest issue for voters. So I ask myself which candidate for president has the most support from economists. And my answer is...um...I don't know.


Now here's the interesting part about that particular piece of ignorance: I follow the news more than most people. So why don't I know the answer to the most important question in this election?


I know all about lapel pins and fist pumps and gaffes and ministers. I have a pretty good idea where the candidates are on most irrelevant issues. But I don't know if independent economists have a consensus on who would be the best president, economy-wise.


The best I could find on the Internet in a quick search was a list of (presumably) Democrat economists supporting Obama and a list of (presumably) Republican economists supporting McCain. Does that really tell me anything?


Obama Economists


http://econ4obama.blogspot.com/2008/06/obama-economic-advisors-and-economic.html


McCain Economists


http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2008/05/economists-who.html


Do you know whose side most independent economists are on, or do you pretend you have that sort of expertise yourself?

I expect some people will leave comments to this post along the lines of "It is obvious that (one of the candidates) has the best economic policy because he will do (whatever) and the other guy won't!" Unfortunately, economics is not common sense. It's a mix of science, calculus, chaos, expectations, and voodoo. In other words, if you think you understand economics, that's proof that you don't.

Here's the question of the day: Who do you think would be the best president for improving the economy, and what makes you an expert on economics?

 
Did you hear about the genetically altered bacteria that can eat garbage and poop oil?


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article4133668.ece


There are a lot of potential scalable sources for renewable energy, but nothing got me more excited than these bacteria. I think it is the cartoonist in me that wants all the problems of the world to be solved by critters that eat garbage and poop oil.


I fantasize that someday the United States will hold a national lottery to see who gets to tell the president of Venezuela that we no longer need his oil. I think I would approach that conversation this way:


Me: "You know that oil you sell us?"


Chavez: "Si. What about it, Yankee devil?"


Me: "It's the life blood of your economy, isn't it?"


Chavez: "Si. What is your point, demon crud?"


Me: "Oil is the most valuable thing in your entire country, isn't it?"


Chavez: "Si. Where is this conversation going?"


Me: "We invented bugs that eat garbage and poop oil."


Chavez: "It will never work!"


Me: "You better hope so because I put some in your drink."


So I figure these bacteria will create all the oil we need for automobiles and jets, while the new mirror-based solar energy plants going up in the deserts will handle all of our future household and industrial energy needs. Maybe you toss in a few nuclear sites, and problem solved. Someday we'll look back and realize that oil at $140 was the best thing that ever happened.

 
There are few things I enjoy as much as a good conspiracy theory. The upcoming election in the United States will be fascinating because there is a high probability we will find out if there are any hidden puppet masters running the United States. That would happen if, for example, Obama is clearly ahead in the polls in November but somehow loses the election. I consider both of those outcomes likely.


Obama's tax plan involves taking money from the presumed puppet masters (rich people and corporations) and divvying it up among the people he hopes will vote for him (the masses). The only way that approach could fail with voters is if there really are puppet masters and they really are determining who gets to be president.


Fasten your seatbelt.

 
Is it ever okay for your leaders to lie to you if they genuinely believe it is in the best interest of the country?


Personally, I'm okay with that, even if it turns out to be a colossal mistake. All I ask is that smart people did their best to get it right. Hey, no one is perfect.


That's why I can't generate any genuine anger toward our current bumbling government despite the fact they killed hundreds of thousands of people, steered the economy into a ravine, and ruined two hundred years of International good will. I actually think they were trying to do the right thing as they saw it. And if they weren't smart enough, the voters have to be blamed for that. Our politicians didn't get any dumber after being elected. We knew what we were getting.


I don't think I'm alone in my opinion. Otherwise we'd be in the middle of the impeachment process.

(Sorry about the line spacing. The blog interface is random today.)

 
I'm amazed by people who can sleep eight hours a night. If I sleep that much I feel like I got hit by a truck the next day. I prefer six to seven hours of sleep per night. I guess I'm lucky because scientists recently discovered that eight hours a night is too much.


http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20080610/hl_time/howmuchsleepdoyoureallyneed


Add the "eight hours of sleep" myth to the eight 8-ounce glasses of water you were supposed to drink per day, the food you weren't supposed to eat before swimming, and the huge amounts of bread you were supposed to eat for a healthy diet.


Seriously, is there ANYTHING I learned when I was a kid that is true?


I'm reasonably sure that if I make a funny face, it will not get stuck in that position. If I go outside without a jacket, I won't catch a cold no matter how much the words cold and cold sound alike. And all of my friends who smoked cigarettes ended up taller than me.


What baloney did you learn as a kid?

 
I'm in the process of trying to build a house. And by "build a house" I mean I am paying other people to do it. My contribution was in the planning stage. I tried to think of everything I might reasonably want in a house, so the design would be complete. Now that the plans are finalized, I keep hearing ideas I wish I had included. This happened again when I read about the legal problems of Broadcom co-founder and billionaire Henry T. Nicholas. This guy had an underground party room in his mansion that his wife didn't know about. How cool is that?


http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/06/05/broadcom.indictment.ap/index.html


I am totally slapping myself in the head now because I never once thought about including a secret underground party lair in the plans. Now it's too late. And I suspect Shelly will be closely watching the construction phase, asking a lot of questions such as "Is that the pantry or the entrance to a secret underground party lair?"


To make things worse, I am exactly the sort of person who would build a house with a secret underground lair. But I probably wouldn't use it for parties because I'm selfish. I would just say I was on a business trip and go hide in there. All I'd need is a TV, refrigerator, and a toilet. It could all be in one room. I wouldn't even need overhead lights as long as the TV was always on. And obviously a chair would be redundant if you have a toilet. Easy peezy is the way I like it.


I'd use my secret lair to watch all the TV shows I can't watch with my family, such as Battlestar Galactica, and Southpark. The only risk is that it might sound a bit pathetic when the authorities raid my house for Garfield copyright infringement and discover that I have an underground television lair. There is no type of beard I can grow that would make that situation seem cool.

 
 

Check out my previous blog and the comments. If you use the ranking feature you can see the top several arguments for voting for McCain versus Obama. I found it fascinating to see which arguments were most persuasive to the extra-smart readers of this blog.

Personally, I think neither McCain nor Obama meet the minimum requirements to be president. I think we're hosed either way. But I am inspired by your arguments to come up with my own best case for each candidate. First, McCain:


Argument for McCain


You've heard the saying, "Only Nixon could go to China." If not, here is some background: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixon_in_China_(phrase)

Likewise, only McCain, the ultra-hawk, can make peace with Iran or North Korea or Cuba. No one could accuse him of being soft. If a hawk like McCain decides to make peace, it must be because peace is clearly the best option.

Likewise, only McCain could draw down troops in Iraq without it appearing to be a defeat. All he'd have to say is, "We'll be back tomorrow if needed," and it would seem credible. That promise wouldn't be credible coming from Obama. And the threat of return is the only thing that would make a withdrawal work.

McCain went hard to the right to get the nomination. And he appears to have been inconsistent on some issues just to get elected. That proves he is a practical guy who knows how to get the job done. Once elected, he could be expected to drift back to the middle, where things can be accomplished in this country. Even if you like more of Obama's plans compared to McCain's, only McCain could get the support from congress to get anything done. Obama will be stonewalled, especially when he tries to pay for his plans by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Even if you like that idea, it can't happen in this country because corporations and the wealthy control congress.

If you like any two ideas from McCain, and you like ten ideas from Obama, you're still better off voting for McCain because his two ideas can happen. Obama's ideas are too left to get the support needed.


Argument for Obama

McCain is simply too old to be trusted with his finger on the nuclear button. While it is entirely possible that one particular 70+ guy could defy the rules of aging and remain sharp, it is a fool's bet for voters when so much is on the line. He's clearly sharp enough today, but at that age, the drop will come quickly.

McCain supported the gas holiday over the objections of every economist. That proves he's either dishonest or willing to ignore experts, even when all of them are on the same side. Either explanation disqualifies McCain for the job of president.

Presidents don't have much impact on the economy. And as different as Obama and McCain seem on Iraq and Iran, they would end up in the same place: stuck in Iraq and talking tough with Iran but doing nothing. So you can discount the economy and foreign affairs in your voting calculation. Presidents make their biggest impact on how we feel. That was Reagan's gift and Kennedy's too. Obama makes people feel inspired and hopeful, and those things have a huge impact on the economy and even education. The very existence of an African-American president would change who we are as a country in a way that everyone agrees is positive.

If you agree that presidents have little power over economics, and both candidates will end up on the same place with international affairs, you have to decide between the inspiration of Obama and the senility of McCain. Those are the two most predictable elements.

And if you happen to be a social lefty, you need Obama to nominate the next few Supreme Court justices.


Summary

I reiterate that I don't think either man meets the minimum qualification I would like in a president. I just like the challenge of coming up with good arguments. How'd I do?

 
 

This blog has a comment ranking system. Let's have some fun with it by having our own presidential debate. Pick a side, either Obama or McCain, and leave a comment explaining why your pick would be the best president.

Then be sure to vote for the best other comments that aren't your own. Let's see which arguments float to the top.


You are not required to be brief, but my guess is that people will vote you down if you can't make your case in a paragraph or two.


The challenge is to support your argument. For example, saying one candidate will vote for some particular treaty is just a fact, not an argument, unless you can include a link to an article saying most experts disagree with the treaty.


Go.

 
 Do you remember the fellow who was fired for posting a Dilbert comic at work? It made national news twice. The first time was when he got fired, and the second time was when I did a series of comics about it:


http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/WaterCooler/story?id=4323900


Later I posted Dave Steward's story and his resume on my blog, hoping someone would offer him a job. He just e-mailed to say something good came of it. Dilbert blog reader Bob Buchholz offered to help Dave with his resume (which needed help), and a company with a sense of humor gave him a job a month ago. Dave thinks Bob's help on the resume made the difference. He's working security again, this time within walking distance of his home.


I don't know Bob personally, but apparently he is a generous guy.

 
 

People who love to read physical newspapers often cite "discovery" as one of the advantages over the Internet. Your eye scans the entire page and you notice interesting items that you wouldn't have otherwise known about. The problem is that many of those interesting items are total downers. Most news involves unpleasantness of one sort or another, so the more you see of it, the unhappier it makes you.


This got me wondering how the Internet handles all the bad news, since I see headlines many times a day online and never come away feeling sad. Today's news headlines on yahoo.com were interesting because they are mostly couched in upbeat terms.


  • McCain, Obama plunge into 5-month general election '08 race

  • Clinton: 'I am committed to uniting our party

  • Group: Somalia is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in a decade

  • Fire may cost Universal Studios tens of millions

  • United Airlines reportedly plans to ground 737s, 747s to save fuel

  • Astronauts to fix international space station's broken toilet

  • World War II veteran, 83, graduates from Texas high school

  • NBA Finals Stanley Cup MLB French Open NFL Olympics

The toilet on the space station isn't "still broken"; it's being fixed! Clinton didn't lose a primary in which she stayed too long; she's uniting the party! United Airlines isn't in a death spiral that begins by grounding lots of airplanes; they are saving fuel! And that feisty 83-year old World War II veteran is graduating high school! And hey, what about those sports!


Even Yahoo couldn't fix the headline about Somalia, but there are no photos on the home page. And "humanitarian crisis" sounds much better than starving by the truckloads. It seems like maybe the problem could be fixed with good paperwork.


I wonder if anyone has studied whether the Internet has generally more upbeat takes on the news compared to physical newspapers.

 
 
 
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