Politicizing of Clint Eastwood Super Bowl ad is despicable
Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 23:02
During this year's Super Bowl, Chrysler ran a commercial featuring film actor Clint Eastwood. Referencing the gradual recovery of the American automotive industry, Eastwood proclaims that though the country is struggling through difficult economic times, it will rise again. He concludes by forcefully asserting, "This country can't be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again, and when we do the world is going to hear the roar of our engines." To me, the ad is an inspirational call for the American people to work hard to overcome the recession. One would think that a desire for the United States to prosper would be uncontroversial. Sadly, this is not the case, as some have cynically exploited the ad's optimistic message for political purposes.
Karl Rove, a former advisor to President George W. Bush, insinuated that by praising Detroit's resilience and recovery, Eastwood was endorsing the federal government's bailout of Chrysler. On Fox News, he bizarrely suggested that the administration of President Barack Obama was behind the ad, stating, "The President of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using tax dollars to buy corporate advertising and the best-wishes of the management, which is benefitted by getting a bunch of our money that they'll never pay back." With all due respect, I would like to know what evidence Rove has for his allegation.
Now, don't get me wrong. I strongly opposed the bailouts in 2008 and 2009, and I would do so again. I believe that bailouts are horrifically immoral. They undermine our market system by giving businesspeople the sense that if they make bad judgments, they can simply count on the Federal Reserve to bail them out and thereby pass their losses onto the rest of society.
Furthermore, government bailouts are based on an economic fallacy. As the Austrian School of Economics teaches us, when a central bank sets interest rates below their free market levels, businesspeople are led to believe that consumers want to save more money than they actually do. Consequently, businesses invest more money on capital goods, such as manufacturing equipment and raw materials, and less money on consumer goods (finished products). When consumers do not, in fact, increase their savings, businesses find that they have invested too much money on capital goods and not enough money on consumer goods. A depression is the painful but necessary phase in which these malinvestments are liquidated, allowing the economy to return to a sound footing. When a central bank attempts to avert a depression via additional inflationary policies such as bailouts, it prevents the liquidation of the malinvestments and, in the words of the great economist Murray Rothbard, "prolong[s] the agony and convert[s] a sharp and quick depression phase into a lingering and chronic disease."
If you doubt the truth of this logic, contrast the U.S. government's response to the 1920-1921 depression (it merely cut taxes and allowed bad investments to be liquidated) with the U.S. government's decidedly more activist response to the depression of 1929 (which was caused by unsound monetary policy). The former depression ended so quickly that few people today know it ever happened, while the latter depression dragged on for over a decade.
That said, there is no changing the fact that the bailouts of the automotive industry have already occurred. At this point, I hope our government never again rewards bad behavior, but I wish Chrysler and General Motors nothing but the very best going forward. Why hold a grudge? At some point, you have to move on. What's the point of forever associating Chrysler with the bailouts? Rove's comment almost makes it seem as if he does not want the auto industry to recover. And, for the record, Eastwood is a staunch opponent of the government bailouts.
Rove, however, is not the only one who is guilty of politicizing Eastwood's ad. Commenting on the ad, White House press secretary Jay Carney noted, "[Obama] was not willing to allow – did not believe it was necessary to allow – the American automobile industry to collapse and disappear." Economic arguments aside, I find Carney's remark distasteful because the ad has nothing to do with the bailouts. Like Rove, Carney twisted Eastwood's words to try to score political points.
In short, Rove and Carney's comments are in extremely poor taste. We as a society ought to know better than to take advantage of an apolitical message so as to advance a particular political agenda.