Mourning In America

A New York Democrat on politics, journalism, and the Mets

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Bragging Rights? Kevin Drum at Political Animal points to the LA Times' editorial on the choice of John Edwards as the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. The paper didn't like it. Not one bit.

On the topic of Edwards' experience, they come up with this astounding series of sentences:

A tougher issue about Edwards' mad dash to greatness is whether he has garnered enough experience for the world's biggest job. A short answer to that is: No, but no one has. The job is unique.

The right question to ask about experience is not, "How much?" It's, "What kind?" Republicans will be right to note that neither Kerry nor Edwards has ever run anything bigger than a small law firm or a Senate office staff. In recent elections, voters have shown a clear and probably wise preference for governors over members of Congress.

Republicans can brag that their ticket not only has a former governor and current president on the top but has as No. 2 the former chief executive of a company (Halliburton) that could actually teach the government a thing or two about creative accounting.

Why is it that I don't think we'll see many Bush-Cheney Ads bragging about Halliburton's accounting?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Paul Krugman Does the Math so I Don't Have To! Paul Krugman's NY Times column has the historical unemployment data that supplies the context necessary to truly appreciate the absurdity of the Bush-Cheney campaign's claims that "1.5 million jobs created in the past 10 months" puts their economic record on equal footing with the Clinton administration's.

Over the 8-year Clinton administration, the nation created, on average, 2.36 million jobs every 10 months.

The details get better. Shamed by Mr. Krugman, I visited the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site and did a little math of my own to find the best and worst 10-month periods for job creation under that administration. Their employment report archives dates only to 1994, so it covers only 7 of Clinton's 8 years in office, but the trend is still pretty striking:

  • Only ONCE in those 7 years did the 10-month average of job creation dip below the Bush administration's vaunted 1.5 million level (1.36 million jobs created between March 1995 and April 1996) don't cover the entire Clinton administration.

  • The 10-month moving average of job creation dipped below 2 million in only 12 of 79 months.

  • The Clinton administration's best 10-month period was from February through December 1994, when 3.391 million jobs were created -- more than twice the Bush Administration's best showing.

  • Berkeley economist Brad Delong's nuanced post explains it well:

    Is George W. Bush responsible for the fact that the employment situation is lousy? No. The economy is an ocean liner, but the president is not its captain. Presidents influence the economy. They don't control it.

    But are he and his administration responsible for the fact that the employment situation is as lousy as it is? Yes. He sold his tax cuts as employment-generating stimulus programs, while in fact they got only about half as much employment bang for the deficit buck as a reasonable program would have ...

    Thus when the Bush administration says that without the Bush tax cuts employment would be 1.4 million lower, they are probably right. But what they are not saying is that employment would be another 1.4 million higher had Bush administration fiscal policy been designed with its primary focus on boosting employment rather than providing tax cuts for the $200,000+ a year crowd.

    The Bush campaign thinks attacking Kerry for economic "pessimism" is a winning argument, but as usual, they show a painful lack of understanding of the English language. Kerry's message isn't: "things will get worse," it's "we can do better." That's the definition of optimism, and that's why the challenger is gaining traction.