Saturday, May 10, 2008

Policy Symbolism

I just needed to take a short break from making the figures for my graduate thesis, and was reading some of the lefty blogs I've been using to keep track of the Democratic nomination process. I am, as you may expect, quite pleased about recent developments on that front. The only thing is that I wish the networks conducting exit polls after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries had included a question about the whole "Gas Tax Holiday" kerfuffle.

Now, this is highly anecdotal. My personal response, and that of many of my friends, to the recent fashion for direct financial assistance from the government that won't solve any problems and adds to our astronomical federal deficit (economic stimulus payment, I'm looking at you) has been along the lines of "That's the stupidest fucking idea I've ever heard." Obviously I've been supporting Obama, but his dead-on response to the inane gas tax holiday was absolutely perfect, and I'd love to know if that caused any undecided voters to break his way. In of itself the gas tax holiday wasn't the biggest deal in the world; its a bad idea, but we enact plenty of bad legislative ideas. However, both the McCain and Clinton campaigns have both tried to make it a symbolic issue about their concern for working people. Personally, I don't really like symbolic legislation to begin with, but its even more grating when its insulting, essentially predicating that as a voter you're unable to weigh long term consequences versus short term benefits, and just plain dumb in addition to being symbolic. It would be encouraging if the electorate had responded negatively to such pandering, but as of now we can only speculate.

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