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What Are Those Strong ‘Economic Fundamentals?’

With the bankruptcy of Lehman Bros. and the Bank of America takeover of Merrill Lynch roiling Wall Street, Sen. John McCain attempted to reassure voters about the economy at a rally this morning in Jacksonville, Fla.

Before an audience of about 3,000, McCain repeated his assertion that “the fundamentals of the of our economy are strong,” adding, “these are very, very difficult times.” Here’s the video:

The current banking crisis comes in the wake of the federal “don’t call them bailouts” bailouts of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Obama campaign wasted no time in jumping on McCain’s comments. Obama spokesman Bill Burton released the following statement:

“Today of all days, John McCain’s stubborn insistence that the ‘fundamentals of the economy are strong’ shows that he is disturbingly out of touch with what’s going in the lives of ordinary Americans. Even as his own ads try to convince him that the economy is in crisis, apparently his 26 years in Washington have left him incapable of understanding that the policies he supports have created an historic economic crisis,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

At a rally in Michigan, Sen. Joe Biden took the opportunity to hammer McCain.

“John McCain has confessed, and I quote – I want to make sure I get it right – he said, ‘It’s easy for me to be in Washington and frankly be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.’ Well, he’s right. He’s right. If all you do is walk the halls of power, all you’ll hear is the wants of the powerful.

Ladies and gentleman, I believe that’s why John McCain could say with a straight face as recently as this morning, and this is a quote, ‘the fundamentals of the economy are strong.’ That’s what John said. He says that we’ve made great progress economically, in the Bush years. Ladies and gentlemen, I could walk from here to Lansing, and I wouldn’t run into a single person who thought our economy was doing well, unless I ran into John McCain.”

With the nation’s financial markets in shambles; the national unemployment rate at a five-year high; the foreclosure rate continuing to increase, and gas prices expected to rise again in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, one might wonder, what exactly these fundamentals are that McCain refers to? McCain offered some clarification at a town hall meeting in Orlando this afternoon:

“My opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals — the American worker, the innovation, the entrepreneurship, small business — those are the fundamentals of America, and I think they’re strong.”

McCain also said working Americans are not to blame for the crisis, but the fundamentals are “being threatened by greed and corruption that some are engaged in on Wall Street…because some on Wall Street have treated it like a casino.”

It nice for the McCain campaign to let the American worker off the hook. But nobody’s blaming working-class America for Wall Street’s problems, especially not the Obama campaign.

Neither campaign has yet released any specifics as to how they would address the problem, other than vague references to change and reform. Still, it is nice to see an actual issue driving the news cycle, for a change.

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