Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 14, 2004
POLITICS: John Kerry Invents New Form of Misery

Gregg Easterbrook has some fun with the Kerry campaign's new "middle class misery index," which "seven indicators: median family income, personal bankruptcies, job growth in the private sector, home ownership rates, and the costs of gasoline, health care, and college." The index is, typically of Kerry, both too complicated to explain easily and so transparently slanted that it's counterproductive:

[I]n order to be manipulated such that George W. Bush has "the worst record of any president ever," indicators must be chosen that give a great economic rating to Jimmy Carter. Check the Kerry campaign's graph, halfway down the page. When were times best by this index? At the end of the Clinton administration, and in 1978. Can you find one single person in the United States who would want a time-machine ride to the economic conditions of 1978? That was the time of "stagflation," combined inflation and lack of growth. Unemployment was worse in 1978 than today, too.

But then the Kerry middle-class misery index has been doctored to remove inflation and unemployment as leading concerns, and there's a reason--both trends here are in a positive cycle. This brings us back to the standard, established misery index of inflation and unemployment. Inflation has been low for a little more than a decade, while unemployment has been low for a decade. (Construct the unemployment graph of your choice here.) The standard misery index for the postwar era averages about 9.5; in Clinton's first term, the number was 8.8; right now it's 7.6. This makes George W. Bush's misery index admirable, among recent presidents trailing only the end of the Clinton administration, at 6.7.

Of course, when you campaign on 'jobs, jobs, jobs' and can't put the unemployment rate in your 'misery' index, you have problems. But another thing I found particularly odd about Kerry's index is that it ignored interest rates. I mean, for the Party of Rubinomics, interest rates are everything; virtually the entire economic argument made by Democrats against the Bush tax cuts is a variant on the tax cuts=>deficits=>high interest rates meme. Which makes it all the more telling that nobody's complaining about high interest rates (another reason to scoff at an index that pines for the good old days of 1978).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:46 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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