"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he told the newspaper. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he added. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a boom in exports.
"Misery sells newspapers," said Gramm, who argues the U.S. has never been more dominant. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."
The economy is the number one issue for U.S. voters, and most have a dark assessment of the present situation. In an April CBS News poll, 78 percent of respondents said things are worse now than they were five years ago - the highest percentage since CBS News began asking the question in 1986. Sixty-six percent of those polled said the country is in a recession.
The Times writes that Gramm noted that "growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices."
The newspaper added that the McCain advisor "expects Mr. McCain to inherit a sluggish economy if he wins the presidency, weighed down above all by the conviction of many Americans that economic conditions are the worst in two or three decades and that America is in decline."
UPDATE: The McCain campaign has released a statement distancing itself from the comments.
"Phil Gramm's comments are not representative of John McCain's views. John McCain travels the country every day talking to Americans who are hurting, feeling pain at the pump and worrying about how they'll pay their mortgage. That's why he has a realistic plan to deliver immediate relief at the gas pump, grow our economy and put Americans back to work."