Many Americans are concerned about the shaky U.S. economy, and some economists say it may already be in a recession. The presumed Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, has been traveling in the US and talking to people about their economic problems. During an interview Thursday, a top advisor to McCain, former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, called the U.S. a "nation of whiners," criticizing Americans who complain about the economy. Deborah Block has more.
Many in the United States are concerned about the high prices of food and gasoline and the loss of almost a half million jobs. Senator McCain met with voters in parts of the Midwest. The region has been hit hard by the struggling economy.
"People are hurting,” McCain said. “People are hurting badly."
But one of McCain's top advisors, former Senator Phil Gramm, expressed a different point of view. "You've heard of mental depression? This is mental recession," Gramm said.
The former senator holds a doctorate in economics. He suggested to the Washington Times newspaper that hard economic times are a figment of people's imagination.
Gramm added,"You just hear this constant whining, complaining. We sort of became of nation of whiners," he said.
Senator McCain considered Gramm one of his top economic advisors.
"No one is more respected on the issue of economics than Phil Gramm,” McCain said.
But now he is distancing himself from Gramm. "Phil Gramm does not speak for me. I speak for me," McCain said.
The presumed Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama struck back at Gramm.
"We need someone to actually solve the economy,” Obama said. “It's not just a figment of your imagination."
Voters agreed. One voter says, "I think it's way more than just our imagination. It's in our face. We need help."
Another voter says, "What do I whine about? High grocery prices, the price of milk and eggs."
"It's real. It's not mental," a third voter said in agreement with others.
Senator McCain had mentioned Gramm as a possible treasury secretary in a McCain administration. But now he says..."I think that Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for Ambassador to Belarus, although I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that," McCain said.