***SCROLL DOWN FOR RESPONSES FROM THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN, THE DNC, AND OBAMA CAMPAIGN***
In an interview with the Washington Times, McCain's top economic adviser Phil Gramm tells America to suck it up and stop complaining about the economy:
"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.
Gramm, whose extensive ties to Enron proved problematic during the firm's implosion several years ago, was serving as a lobbyist for the international banking and subprime mortgage giant UBS until April. As Mother Jones documented, Gramm played a key role in the subprime meltdown during his time in the Senate.
UPDATE: Responses to Gramm's remarks: Democratic National Committee spokesperson Karen Finney:
What John McCain, George Bush Phil Gramm just don't understand is that the American people aren't whining about the state of the economy, they are suffering under the weight of it -- the weight of eight years of Bush-enomics that John McCain and Phil Gramm have vowed to continue. How dare John McCain and his advisers so callously dismiss the challenges the American people face. no wonder voters feel John McCain is out of touch, he and his campaign don't even understand the everyday issues Americans are dealing with.
From Obama's campaign:
"One of Senator McCain's top economic advisors may think that when people are struggling with lost jobs, stagnant wages, and the rising costs of everything from gas to groceries, it's merely a 'mental recession'. And Senator McCain may think it's sufficient to offer energy proposals that he admits will have mainly 'psychological' benefits. But the American people know that our economic problems aren't just in their heads. They don't need psychological relief - they need real relief - and that's what Barack Obama will provide as President," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.
From McCain's campaign:
"Phil Gramm's comments are not representative of John McCain's views. John McCain travels the country every day talking to Americans who are hurting, feeling pain at the pump and worrying about how they'll pay their mortgage. That's why he has a realistic plan to deliver immediate relief at the gas pump, grow our economy and put Americans back to work."
UPDATE: McCain jokes about making Gramm ambassador to Belarus:
McCain himself tried to diffuse growing criticism over Gramm's comments with some humor. Asked if there was chance that Gramm would be his Secretary of Treasury, McCain responded: "I think Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus, although I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that."
Obama personally addressed the controversy while campaigning in Virginia:
"I want all of you to know that America already has one Dr. Phil," Obama said, laughing as the crowd cheered. "We don't need another one when it comes to the economy. We need somebody to actually solve the economy. It's not just a figment of your imagination, it's not all in your head."
"It isn't whining to ask government to step in and give families some relief," he said, drawing a standing ovation from the nearly 3,000 people in a high school gymnasium. "And I think it's time we had a president who doesn't deny our problems or blame the American people for them but takes responsibility and provides the leadership to solve them."
UPDATE: McCain also said economic troubles were 'psychological': A highlight reel that McCain's campaign surely doesn't want floating around today: