Monday, April 12, 2004

It's the Math, Stupid

This one is from James Taranto at The Best of the Web:

In the 1970s, economist Robert Barro came up with the misery index--the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates. As The Wall Street Journal noted in an editorial last week, with inflation at 2% and unemployment at 5.7%, the current misery index of 7.7 is the lowest in a presidential re-election year in recent times. John Kerry can't very well run against this record, so he's come up with a new "misery index" of his own, the "middle-class misery index":

The Middle-class Misery Index combines seven different indicators: median family income, college tuition, health costs, gasoline cost, bankruptcies, the home ownership rate, and private-sector job growth.

This is a confusing mess. A press release from Kerry's office says the MCMI has declined during the Bush years, just as the normal misery index has--but that turns out to be a bad thing: "Unlike the original Misery Index, a higher index indicates that people are better off."

"Six of the seven indicators included in the Middle-class Misery Index deteriorated between 2000 and 2003," notes the press release; the exception is the home ownership rate. How did the Kerry campaign come up with these particular indicators? One can't help but suspect they were chosen specifically to make President Bush look bad, with one improving number thrown in so the deck doesn't look completely stacked.

But how useful is the MCMI as a gauge of a president's economic performance? The Kerry campaign provides historical data that show the index improved by six points during Jimmy Carter's presidency and dropped by five points during Ronald Reagan's. So if you think Carter's economic stewardship was better than Reagan's, you ought to vote for John Kerry.

Ed. Note: If you scroll down I have a piece on Why Do Smart People Do Dumb Things....geez, Kerry is making being a prescient pundit waaay too easy.

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