06 April 2004

The recession that began in the late months of the second Clinton administration actually ended just after September 11, and by the end of 2003, the economy was booming at a rate of more than 6 percent annually. You have to go back to the Reagan years to find numbers like that. The Club for Growth researched the so-called "misery index," determined by adding the inflation rate and the unemployment rate, to calculate a figure for the past six presidential election years. Jimmy Carter, to no one's surprise, set a misery standard that is likely to stand until the Rockies crumble, Gibraltar falls and the Chicago Cubs win the National League pennant. The misery index stood at 20.6 percent in March 1980, which was all Ronald Reagan needed to send Mr. Jimmy home to his peanut patch. An unfavorable misery index preceded the defeat of Gerald Ford (13.5 percent) and George H.W. Bush (10.5 percent) as well. But here's the surprise: The misery index for George W.'s administration is lowest of all six of those worthies. George W. inherited the Clinton misery index of 8.4 percent and has shaved it (so far) to 7.7 percent. You just wouldn't know it from the coverage of the economy. The Wall Street Journal calls it "the Rodney Dangerfield recovery" because, as Rodney might say, "it don't get no respect."

-Wes Pruden

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