McCain himself has said "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should," and made similar assertions on many occasions. This makes it particularly important who he's listening to for economic policy advice. Here are his economic advisers who have been mentioned in the press:
Phil Gramm source
Gramm is a lobbyist who was vice president of one of the investment houses most heavily implicated in the mortage industry scandal. He has described the United States as a "nation of whiners" and said that we are in a "mental recession." As a senator he pushed for the banking deregulation that led to the current crisis. Here is an excerpt from a very good article describing his role:
Who's to blame for the biggest financial catastrophe of our time? There are plenty of culprits, but one candidate for lead perp is former Sen. Phil Gramm. Eight years ago, as part of a decades-long anti-regulatory crusade, Gramm pulled a sly legislative maneuver that greased the way to the multibillion-dollar subprime meltdown.Kevin Hassett source
The [Commodity Futures Modernization Act], he declared, would ensure that neither the sec nor the Commodity Futures Trading Commission got into the business of regulating newfangled financial products called swaps—and would thus "protect financial institutions from overregulation" and "position our financial services industries to be world leaders into the new century."
Because of the swap-related provisions of Gramm's bill ... a $62 trillion market (nearly four times the size of the entire US stock market) remained utterly unregulated, meaning no one made sure the banks and hedge funds had the assets to cover the losses they guaranteed.
Banks and hedge funds, notes Michael Greenberger, who directed the cftc's division of trading and markets in the late 1990s, "were betting the subprimes would pay off and they would not need the capital to support their bets. "These unregulated swaps have been at "the heart of the subprime meltdown," says Greenberger.
Gramm's record as a reckless deregulator has not affected his rating as a Republican economic expert. Sen. John McCain has relied on him for policy advice, especially, according to the campaign, on housing matters. Media accounts have identified Gramm as a contender for the top slot at the Treasury Department if McCain reaches the White House. "If McCain gets in," frets Lynn Turner, a former chief SEC accountant, "we'll have more of the same deregulatory mess. I like John McCain, but given what I know about Phil Gramm, I wouldn't vote for McCain."
Hassett has been widely ridiculed for writing the book Dow 36000: The New Strategy for Profiting from the Coming Rise in the Stock Market in 1999, predicting that the Dow would hit 36,000 within five years, if not sooner.
Carly Fiorina source
Fiorina was spectacularly fired from her previous job as CEO of HP. Regarding Fiorina, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the senior associate dean for executive programs at the Yale School of Management, says "What a blind spot this is in the McCain campaign to have elevated her stature and centrality in this way. You couldn’t pick a worse, non-imprisoned C.E.O. to be your standard-bearer.” According to the Times,
... Republicans say Ms. Fiorina is using the McCain campaign to rebuild her image after her explosive tenure at Hewlett-Packard. They also say it is hard to see why a woman widely criticized for mismanaging one of Silicon Valley’s legendary companies is advising and representing a candidate who acknowledged last year that he did not understand the economy as well as he should.Nancy Pfotenhauer source
Pfotenhauer is a pure distilled product of Koch Industries, an oil company which funds much of the right wing message machine. See here for details.
Donald Luskin source
Luskin has been repeatedly criticized by many observers for his shoddy analysis. He is not an economist and according to his own online bio is a college dropout. He recently wrote in a Washington Post column that "we're on the brink not of recession, but of accelerating prosperity." Here is a discussion of that column with links to some of his previous mispredictions. I can attest based on my own interaction with him a few years back that in addition to being not the sharpest tack in the box, he is also an extremely unpleasant person.
Doug Holtz-Eakin source
Holtz-Eakin is a formerly respected academic and government economist who has been reduced to making distortionary arguments to paper over the massive deficit black hole McCain's tax cuts would create.
Arthur Laffer source
Laffer is the originator of the Laffer curve, the fringe view that claims government revenue increases when tax rates are lowered. There is zero empirical evidence this is true at current tax rates. McCain has repeatedly said that he believes this foolishness, but Holtz-Eakin has said (also repeatedly) that McCain does not.
Compare this list to the list of Obama's economists here.