April 21, 2004


Kerry's 'Misery Index' Is Just Sad (Amity Shlaes, April 19, 2004, LA Times)

The Kerry version tracks seven factors to evaluate the quality of middle-class life: Healthcare costs, gas prices, college tuition, median wage, homeownership rate, bankruptcy rate and private-sector job growth. Up is good. Down is bad. Under Bill Clinton things were up spectacularly; George W. Bush's rating shows him erasing Clinton's gains. [...]

As the nonpartisan website fact check.org points out, today the original misery index stands at 7.4, less than half of what it was in Carter's last year in office. The measure is only a smidgen worse than where it stood during Clinton's second term. This despite a recession and 9/11. [...]

The last problem with the Kerry index is more subtle. The old 1970s index had only two components. They were, arguably, about freedom and individual responsibility: the freedom to work and to trade in a relatively stable currency. Gas prices, for example, were not included, even though they were the great shock of the decade. Kerry's seven-category index represents a proliferation of wants. It says, essentially, that it used to take two things to make me happy, but now it takes seven.

It also suggests that government should have a role in satisfying those wants. What's more, many of the items in the Kerry index are about affordability — the right to, say, cheap healthcare — which is not the same as an outright entitlement but is close to it.

In short, the new JFK is saying government owes the people more. "Ask not what your country can do for you," indeed.

The only misery index that anyone from Boston should be concerned about stands at -.5

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 21, 2004 11:10 AM

What's "-.5" refer to?

Posted by: Mike Morley at April 21, 2004 1:43 PM

The number of games the Red Sox will finish behind the Yankees in the fall.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at April 21, 2004 2:09 PM

HD - actually, the -.5 represents how many outs/strikes the Red Sox will be from a World Series win before blowing it yet again.

Posted by: AWW at April 21, 2004 2:24 PM

Leno eviscerated Kerry's Misery index in his monologue within days of its appearance, when Leno responded to Kerry's statement that it was at the worst level in history by saying something to the effect of "of course it's at record low levels, it's just been introduced." Man, if Kerry can't survive a "debate" with a comedian, how's he going to handle an actual debate with a candidate prepped by Karl Rove and Karen Hughes?

Posted by: MarkD at April 21, 2004 9:05 PM