June 23, 2008

McCain Tux Two weeks ago, Huffington Post reminded Americans that John McCain by his own admission doesn't know how to use a computer. Now, McCain campaign aide Mark Soohoo reassured voters that "John McCain is aware of the Internet" and "You don’t actually have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country."

No doubt, as with so much that for his public policy pronouncements, John McCain didn't let his ignorance get in the way of speaking out. As it turns out, back in April the self-described computer "illiterate" proclaimed eBay was the answer to poverty and recession in the United States.

Earlier this year, the Politico's Mike Allen (video here) asked the GOP presidential contenders whether they used a PC or Mac. In his response, McCain revealed that when it comes to high tech devices large (like private jets) or small (like personal computers), he is dependent on his beer heiress wife:

"Neither. I'm an illiterate that has to rely on my wife for all of the assistance I can get."

But just because John McCain doesn't know how to connect to eBay doesn't mean he doesn't have connections to eBay. As it turns out, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman is not only a senior adviser to John McCain, but plays ventriloquist with him when it comes to the economy.

During his now-forgotten "Forgotten Places" tour two months ago, McCain told an audience in Inez, Kentucky, "You have a right to expect us to show as much concern for helping you create more and better choices to make for yourselves as we show any other community in America." And one of those better choices, according to John McCain, is to become a seller on the auction site, eBay:

"Today, for example, 1.3 million people in the world make a living off eBay, most of those are in the United State of America."

Ebay's Whitman couldn't have put it better herself. In fact, she put it almost exactly the same on way on CBS 60 Minutes in March. As she told Lesley Stahl:

"We have about - around the world, about 1.3 million people make most, if not all, of their living selling on eBay."

That John McCain, who more than once admitted his limited knowledge of the economy, would parrot one of his most senior campaign aides is unsurprising. But that he would cite eBay as the way forward for a community where 37% live in poverty and 40% of the wage income comes from mining seems remarkably callous, even by McCain's standards. No doubt, tens of thousands off people make a good living as eBay sellers. As eBay's Whitman told CBS' Stahl, "people can supplement their income from several thousand dollars a month to...I think our top seller on eBay grosses $20 million." But for a country slipping into recession and facing the loss of thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs in a rapidly globalizing economy, a high-speed Internet connection and an eBay virtual storefront is hardly a substitute. As American workers confront increasing insecurity due to competition in China, India and elsewhere, John McCain apparently believes they should follow in the footsteps of Whitman's legions who earn their living selling "high tech electronic equipment, maybe it's audio equipment, maybe it's Barbie dolls, maybe it's collectibles, or a certain niche of collectibles, of coins, of china." Instead building products and offering services for the world, McCain's Americans should just sell stuff to each other. And when all else fails for distressed homeowners, McCain's Americans should just join the rapidly growing ranks of those:

"Doing what is necessary -- working a second job, skipping a vacation, and managing their budgets -- to make their payments on time."

Of course, John McCain isn't speaking from personal experience when it comes to either computers or financial hardship. (As it turns out, one of McCain's 8 homes - the one with "remote control window coverings" - is now up for sale.) Knowing even less than Ted Stevens ("series of tubes") or George W. Bush (who "clicks around" on "the Google"), John McCain nonetheless offered the Internet as the answer for Americans struggling to make ends meet.

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