THERE SURE ARE A LOT OF WHINERS out here in the San Fernando Valley. Driving down Ventura Boulevard early Tuesday morning, I saw about a hundred or so of them not only moaning and whimpering but also pushing, shoving and jostling each other outside the doors of the Encino branch of IndyMac. The cops had to wade in and warn these crybabies to settle down, not panic and to rest assured that they would be able to withdraw their money — even though the bank was more or less down the tubes.

Where’s Phil Gramm when you need him?

“We have sort of become a nation of whiners,” he told a newspaper editorial board last week. These whining, self-entitled gringos, he added, are the same ones now imagining a “mental recession.”

They must also be dyslexic, reading those gas station signs backwards. Premium grade, according to Phil’s logic, is topping out at a thrifty $1.64 a gallon, not $4.61.

Nothing more edifying than watching a fat, comfortable millionaire senator-turned-lobbyist married to a Reaganite millionairess and former Enron board member telling the American people what selfish ninnies they be.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I call Phil Gramm fat? My bad. It was actually Dr. Gramm — he somehow hustled a Ph.D. in economics — who was quoted during his first run for the Senate, saying: “Has anyone ever noticed that we live in the only country in the world where all the poor people are fat?” Wikipedia raises some doubt about the authenticity of that particular quote, but what’s certain is that there seems to be a surfeit of rich people, like Dr. Gramm, who are fatheads.

Poor John McCain went streaking away as far as he could from the former Texas senator, who only a few months ago had been described by Fortune magazine as no less than the GOP candidate’s “Econ Brain.” After Gramm’s startlingly stupid remarks the other day, the old Arizona Straight Talker nervously joked that Gramm — apparently no longer in the running to be McCain’s Treasury Secretary — might be better suited to serve as “ambassador to Belarus.” (Fair enough. At least Belarus still exists as a real country — unlike “Czechoslovakia,” which McCain twice referred to in speeches this week.)

All joking aside, Gramm (and for that matter McCain, and George W. Bush as well) would fit in quite neatly with the nomenklatura of some faded, former Soviet republic. They have a lot in common. Namely, an ideologically driven view of the economy, a perspective rigidly immune to any alteration by reality. If you’ve ever wondered how a pack of Soviet bureaucrats could preside over 11 time zones of economic ruin and declare it to be near-perfection, wonder no longer. Simply listen to the stream of euphemisms, denial and delusion currently pouring forth from Gramm-McCain-Bush and you’ll immediately get it.

IN SPITE OF McCAIN’S distancing act last week, Gramm is indeed the GOP candidate’s longtime guru on economics, and his comments should stand as stark warning as to where the sentiments of a McCain administration would really reside. It’s Gramm who helped McCain write his recent nonspeech on the mentally based mortgage crisis. Gramm even helped McCain impose economic austerity on his own campaign staff last year, when his presidential primary bid was leaking oil.

The tight Gramm-McCain partnership dates back to the early ’90s, when they teamed up in the Senate and on the hustings to defeat the Clinton health-care plan, making some 150 joint appearances at medical centers and hospitals to warn against encroaching socialized medicine. Even McCain’s current ill-named health-care plan is directly inspired by Gramm. Put simply, it’s a free-market scheme in which tax deductions for health benefits provided by employers are replaced by cash rebates, and the consumer — or better said, the patient — is left to go out and “shop” for the best available insurance coverage.

Now, isn’t that attractive? Deplete your kid’s college fund to fill your gas tank, floor it over to the bank to close your account before the bank itself closes, mail your house keys back to your mortgage lender (if he’s not already in jail or hiding in the Caymans) and then, calmly, go out and buy yourself and your family some of your own thrifty, discounted private health insurance. Uh-huh.

And remember, no whining allowed.

LA Weekly