Yes, R.I.P. Rick Perry, But Otherwise Interesting
November 9, 2011 7 Comments
It doesn’t get much worse. To put it delicately, there will be no President Perry.
I haven’t liked candidate Perry from the beginning of his actual entry into the race (i.e., the moment he joined the debates). And I’m a Texan who liked George Bush. But I wouldn’t have wished what happened to Rick Perry Wednesday night on anyone. I felt sorry for him, in a way that no viable candidate for any elected office should ever be felt sorry for.
Conversely, not to pile on, but it’s not simply the “forgetfulness” of the wincing moment (lest we spur a backlash from those who experience “senior moments”). Perry didn’t simply forget the percentage of U.S. debt held by Chinese lenders. He forgot one of the three entire United States departments he would supposedly eliminate if he were president (which would never actually happen, and is itself rank “pandering” to a constituency that barely exists). “Department of Energy,” he remembered later, adding to Department of Commerce and Department of Education. That’s a forfeiture of credibility on multiple levels.
And the Republican debates continue to sharpen the field, dramatically as it happens, and the stakes in 2012. The other candidates, even some of the trailing candidates, had impressive performances. I wasn’t quite as impressed with the overall economic acumen of the candidates in this debate as I was in the earlier Bloomberg debate likewise covering economic issues. But many of the issues put on the table, with 30 seconds to make six points, were delivered with a sophisticated grasp of what is, let’s face it, the vastly complicated interconnections of local, national and international economies.
Economics, by its nature not only the “dismal science” but questioned at times as “science” at all, yields “experts” backing every single competing theory about what’s wrong with the economy, how the current malaise came about, where relative accountability lies, what must be done to get back on the right track, and the relative merits of competing tax, trade, and spending proposals. In other words, the malleability of economic theory yields virtually any result, and its inevitably close kinship with politics means conclusions can be bought and sold in (ironically) a market of political economics. Whereupon all proposals, even recession-aggravating nonsense, all indictments, all theories, have both their sincere and their bought-and-paid-for wonks.
It being difficult for the average American to disentangle the academic language of competing economic theories, it is worth listening closely and carefully to candidates who can convey, in 30 seconds, (1) a bit of complexity (i.e., why it might be wise to pause before presuming the matter is simple); (2) a bit of understanding about macro-causal relationships — that is, the elementary things that cause things to happen, and then other things to happen, in our economy, and what conclusions may be drawn as a consequence — no easy feat in 30 seconds, and impressive that it could happen at all; and (3) a sense of economic priorities — that is, what pathologies must be addressed first and foremost, so that certain other economic problems might fade in virulence.
The foregoing discipline helps us understand the “dismal science,” as it gets applied in current times, better than we would have otherwise — and all Americans would have been educated, for good and bad, enlivening and wincing, edifying and stupefying, in Wednesday night’s debate. Would that Democrats were having similar debates, and we could see more clearly how the interconnected parts get spun in that parallel universe. For now, the debate is happening among Republicans — and it may be no more riveting than a Science Channel program with Morgan Freeman talking about black holes and extra dimensions, but I, for one, find both of them riveting, and important.