Economists

ECONOMISTS…. Yesterday was not a good day for the McCain campaign when it came to professional economists. First, the campaign released a statement blasting Barack Obama’s economic program, signed, ostensibly, by “100 economists.”

Then someone counted, and noticed that McCain could only find 90 economists willing to sign on to the “warning.” Indeed, two of the 90 actually work for McCain, suggesting there were pretty loose standards at work here. (There are over 17,000 economists in the American Economics Association.) As Jonathan Chait noted, “The takeaway here is that, even with the most generous standards, the campaign couldn’t find 100 economists in the country to badmouth Obama’s proposals, let alone endorse their own.”

And to add insult to injury, the Huffington Post decided to check in with the very same professional economists who endorsed McCain’s economic plan a couple of months ago, asking what they think of McCain’s new “Homeowner Resurgence Plan.” McCain probably won’t care for the response.

In interviews with the Huffington Post, roughly a dozen of McCain’s economist supporters said they disagreed with the Senator’s recent proposal…. Several viewed it as a gimmick, driven mostly by political circumstance. Only one pro-McCain economist spoke up in favor of the plan.

“This is just political gamesmanship,” said Robert H. Heidt, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law. “The bill is wildly over-ambitious in trying to rescue home buyers from the downturn in real estate appreciation. Its costs would never end. I will end up voting for McCain but this is ridiculous.”

Added George Viksnins, a retired professor of economics at Georgetown University: “Even though I support McCain I think this is an ill-considered program. This was something to get press time and face time, and that is the problem with our political system. This was done as a sound bite and without analysis.”

If I only had a nickel for every time that last sentence has come up in reference to a McCain campaign decision….

Post Script: For what it’s worth, as Hilzoy recently explained, The Economist, one of Sarah Palin’s favorite periodicals, recently surveyed actual academic economists, asking which candidate had the superior economic plan. Overwhelmingly, the economists preferred Obama’s approach.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.