Monday, May 12, 2008

The magic that is Carly Fiorina

From the "Are they lying or are they stupid?" files:

I think, I hope, that the American people are getting sick of lies. Not the kind in the spin room after a debate when the supporters all tell the slack-jawed media how well their candidate did; we're used to that and don't much care any more.

No, I'm talking about the blatant bald-faced lies that candidates or their surrogates tell when they want to appeal to a certain constituency. You want to make yourself look tough and experienced, you tell the world that you braved sniper fire. You want to appear to care about the struggles of motorists, you offer up a gas tax "holiday" that will do little for anyone except reduce the money in a fund to maintain an already decrepit infrastructure. You play up your "35 years of experience" when anyone can see that a good portion of that time was spent in photo ops and banquet appearances.

And I pray that Americans are finally tired to death of stuff like this, of being told that black is white and up is down, in which people who know better behave as if the people are flat-out stupid, unable to discern what is right in front of them.

If so, I think John McCain has a big problem. Because he sent Carly Fiorina, failed business executive, out to do battle with George Stephanopoulos on yesterday's This Week on ABC. I've written about Carly before, I'm not a fan; I expressed it this way on March 30:
Carly Fiorina, 53, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who held a great deal of responsibility for the decline of once-proud Lucent Technologies through her vendor financing schemes. After leaving Lucent in a huff because she didn't get the top job, she took over HP, continued their drop in quality while merging it with equally decrepit Compaq; upon failing to make the combined company work, Fiorina was dismissed by the HP board. She is now rumored, for no reason anyone can understand, to be a possible candidate for the vice presidency under John McCain.
She is one of the cornerstones, along with Phil Gramm and Pete Peterson, of the campaign to make us think that McCain is up to speed on economics, a topic about which he has seemed totally uninterested.

As she settled in with George, he asked her about the gas tax initiative ("economists know nothing") and health care ("the market will provide"), and then he came around to the movement of profits overseas (and the tax break we give American companies as long as they never bring those profits back) and the offshoring of jobs.

When you evaluate anything Carly has to say about offshoring, keep in mind that she did a ton of it while at Hewlett-Packard, fired a lot of people who actually knew something about the technologies she was touting, and even called it "right-shoring." So we already know she's pretty cavalier with the whole American job thing.

But what she did say with George was remarkable for its obtuseness. She contended that there are two reasons that companies offshore jobs: the onerous tax burden on American companies, and the lack of Americans to get and maintain their skills. Her solution, right out of the Republican playbook: cut those taxes and free American companies to keep those jobs right here.

Leave aside that this proposal makes absolutely no sense (how would lower taxes in the U.S. be able to compete with no taxes on the money made abroad?). What is significant is that she omitted the actual reason that companies offshore: that labor is cheaper overseas.

No matter what you think of offshoring or McCain or Fiorina herself, this is a remarkable omission. How stupid do these people think we Americans are when they expect us to swallow the idea that moving a $30/hour job overseas to someone making $.50/hour has no effect on the decision to move it? It shows a complete sense of contempt for logic to insist that taxes and education are the only factors.

Even if you believe that offshoring is a good thing, you have to be disturbed that this level of thinking is what passes for economic wisdom in a future McCain administration. Because, make no mistake, Carly is angling for a prominent position, a taxpayer-financed job in which she will be free to ignore such trivialities as facts. I would be appalled if I were a McCain supporter that he couldn't find anyone who can make a case based on reality; as it is, all I can see is another four or eight years with a group of people who can willfully ignore even basic truth in order to further their agenda. And that's mighty scary.


Citizen Carrie said...

The Financial Services Forum
issued this news release about how businesses are lobbying Congress to keep the offshoring tax break going, as I guess it's set to expire this year.

Also, the Financial Services Forum held another one of their Succeeding in the Global Economy Town Hall discussions this morning at the Illinois Institute of Technology. I don't suppose you attended, did you? If not, I'm sure if you visit their website they'll have the 2 1/2 video uploaded pretty soon ;-) I still haven't forced myself to watch the video from their Town Hall meeting in Charlotte from January of this year.

Citizen Carrie said...

Make that 2 1/2 HOUR video instead of 2 1/2 video in my above comment.

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