In the first debate, John McCain said 'pork barrel' four times; in the second debate: three times. In the economic 'plan' on McCain's campaign website, he repeats 'pork barrel' twice. Chances are McCain will repeat 'pork barrel' in the last debate enough times for it to be noticed, probably three times, maybe four. Somebody should tell McCain that his tactic will not work. While McCain talks 'pork' in the debates, voters caught in the crash of 2008 are pounding their fists on the table while shouting, 'Bush!'
McCain's 'pork barrel' hobbyhorse bespeaks an effort to reach so-called 'fiscal conservatives' that simply is not working.
By now, most Americans can see that by repeating 'pork barrel,' McCain is trying to convince voters that Barack Obama's would bring the wild and wasteful spending habits that Republicans attribute to the Democratic Party. We all now the routine. Republicans convince voters of their 'fiscal conservative' bona fides not by reining in spending, but by accusing Democrats of 'raising taxes' and then 'spending your money.' Up to this point in election history, it has been an effective Republican tactic -- which is not to say that the accusation is true, but only that the tactic won votes for GOP candidates.
Nowadays, however, when Americans think about profligate spending, they do not think about Democrats. Instead, when voters talk about grossly excessive government spending, they leave 'pork' out of the conversation and just talk about 'Bush.'
Given all the enormous expenses the current administration has racked up with all of its failed policies and ventures, it is not surprising that the word 'Bush' became a key linguistic signifier for 'wasteful government spending' quicker than grease through a goose.
If I say, for example, 'the Bush tax cuts,' I am not just describing the author of a particular tax program, but an approach to taxation that includes huge giveaways at the risk of massive declines in federal revenues.
Likewise, if I say, 'the Bush war,' I am not just describing a failed occupation that destroyed thousands of lives, destabilized a region, and emboldened Iran, but an approach to military spending that gives billions to private companies in no-bid contracts.
Or if I say, 'the Bush bailout plan,' I am not just describing a gift-from-God rescue package for investment bankers, but an approach to the economy based on the burning enormous amounts of tax revenue -- public funds -- to cover the losses incurred by private traders gambling in unregulated, high-stakes financial markets.
Just the other day, the famous Times Square Debt Clock hit at a number so high most human beings have no way of even understanding what it means -- $10,149,875, 434,832 (the first ten is 'trillion'). This event was widely reported in the media not for the sheer size of the our national debt after just eight-years of George W. Bush as president, but because the Debt Clock was not designed to allow for the debt to increase by any more digits.
In 1989 when the Debt Clock was designed to draw attention to way Ronald Reagan's economic policies were crippling the nation with debt, nobody imagined it even possible for the figure to get this high. So they only built enough spaces for a number with 14 digits. Unfortunately, Bush's economic policies have rendered the Debt Clock obsolete.
McCain may be talking 'pork' in the debates, but voters fed up with the current economic disaster are shouting one word in frustration: 'Bush!'
(cross posted from Frameshop)