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PIMCO’s El-Erian Defends Eastwood in Ad Controversy

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While he isn’t exactly Clyde from “Every Which Way but Loose,” PIMCO’s Mohamed El-Erian is sticking by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood and the controversy surrounding Eastwood’s “Halftime in America” Super Bowl advertisement.

“Viewed as a standalone, the controversy generated by the Clint Eastwood Super Bowl commercial is really silly,” El-Erian writes in a piece for Huffington Post. “Yet it points to something profound that has and, if left unaddressed, will continue to undermine America’s ability to regain economic dynamism, create ample jobs, and deal with growing inequalities.”

Eastwood’s commercial aired on NBC at half time on Super Bowl Sunday. Yes, America has stumbled, Eastwood notes, with people out of work, hurting and scared. But, by pulling together and acting as one, Americans will come from behind and win. “That’s what we do.”

“This country can’t be knocked out by one punch,” Eastwood concludes. “We get right back up; and when we do, the world will hear the roar of our engines.”

Conservative critics saw it as an endorsement of President Barack Obama’s economic policies, and the auto company bailouts he championed in particular. Much of the outcry stemmed from the fact that Eastwood has long been thought to have conservative political leanings.

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PIMCO's Mohamed El-Erian. (Photo: AP)“Coming on the heels of a series of favorable economic data releases–which will hopefully persist though this is far from certain unfortunately–the ad spoke to the hope that America is recovering and that our economy is building encouraging momentum,” El-Erian (left) writes. “You would think that this feel good message would be a unifying one for our political class. Far from it.”

He adds that the controversy is “yet another illustration of the deep political dysfunctionality that continuously undermines [Washington, D.C.'s] willingness and ability to move forward with the much-needed revitalization of the economy. The longer this continues, the greater the costs and the harder the solutions.”

The result in the short-term, he argues, is that the cyclical economic bounce of the last few months–powered by large injections of global central bank liquidity and a once-for-all decline in the personnel savings rate–would end up suffering the same fate as in early 2010 and 2011: fizzling out rather than handing off to durable engines of investment, growth and jobs. In the longer-term, he notes, America would find it even more challenging to overcome structural impediments that, each day, are getting more deeply embedded in the construct of our economy.

“For the sake of both current and future generations, let us hope that Clint Eastwood’s ‘Half Time in America’ commercial will be remembered for more than just igniting yet another round of political bickering and finger pointing,” he says.