Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A professional dilemma 

The McCain campaign, for a second time, has invited my signature to a letter of support from economists. When it first came a couple of months ago I deleted it because of one and only one thing: the gas tax holiday, which I think most economists agree is a terrible idea. The letter makes no reference to it, however; it makes in fact no reference to energy policy whatsoever. Its focus is on fiscal policy and trade, two areas where in fact I am in broad agreement with Senator McCain. (The corporate tax rate cut, for example, is something I think needs cutting.)

So here's the question: Obama supporters will take a signature by any economist as meaning that economist agrees with every position McCain has taken. I do not; I'm probably in the 75-80% range on fiscal policy and regulation, near 100% on trade policy, and in the sixties on his financial market policies. I'm more inclined with hearing his views change regarding energy; I'm still unhappy about him tossing Phil Gramm under the bus (I understand it's the right thing to do politically, I just don't agree with it as the behavior of a 'maverick'.) Is 100% agreement on issues required to sign this document?

Advise me in comments. In doing so, please identify if you are an economist and if you are or are not a McCain supporter, unless you're someone I already know.

UPDATE (8/7): Thanks for your comments. I am impressed by the range of opinion. I understand that one cannot find someone you agree with 100% -- Steve Forbes is certainly closer to me on economic policy than John McCain, but even he wouldn't align perfectly -- but I've never been sure where the line is where you decide to sign a letter like that. And as someone noted, there are some very fine economists on that list. Being in the company of an Allan Meltzer is rarefied air.

But there's a difference between being a political supporter (there's little doubt who I'll vote for here) and giving a professional opinion. The letter seems to be asking for that higher standard. Give me another day to think about it.