December 21, 2005


Presidential Prosperity Games (Robert J. Samuelson, December 21, 2005, Washington Post)

The economy is strong, but Bush isn't the cause. Consider some standard economic statistics:

For the past three years, gross domestic product (the economy's output) has grown at an annual rate of nearly 4 percent -- almost as good as the late 1990s.

Payroll jobs have increased by nearly 4.5 million since May 2003.

The unemployment rate of 5 percent is lower than the average for the 1990s (5.7 percent).

Productivity -- output per hour worked -- has been rising at a 3.3 percent rate since early 2003, faster than even the 1995-2000 average of 2.7 percent.

Good stuff. The White House's bubbly appraisal isn't just fluff. Households' net worth -- what people own minus what they owe -- is a record $51 trillion. If today's economic performance continued forever, we'd all be blessed. The trouble (for the White House, at least) is that many Americans don't seem impressed. In November, the Conference Board's consumer confidence index stood at 98.9, where an index of 100 indicates confidence levels in 1985. In 1985 unemployment was 7.2 percent.

To his credit, Mr. Samuelson writes the same column when presidents are being blamed for sketchy economic conditions, but no one listens then either. This is W's boom, even if he owes it all to Reagan and Volcker.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 21, 2005 8:12 AM

Mr. Samuelson doesn't seem to understand that when the MSM is daily screaming Hooverville it can cause consumer confidence to be lower than the economic statistics would indicate.

Posted by: AWW at December 21, 2005 8:35 AM

There's a reason many Americans aren't impressed. The effects of the statistics you cite don't affect the majority of Americans, or if they do, the effects aren't necessarily beneficial.
A rise in the GDP and productivity is a good thing, of course. However, the overwhelming bulk of the benefit goes to the folks who are already doing quite well. The increase in jobs has barely kept up with the number of new workers entering the workforce, and outsourcing a $40,000 with benefits and replacing it with a $15,000 part-time service job without benefits isn't seen by most Americans as a net positive. CEO's pay has gone up astronomically over the last few years, but the average yearly wage of hourly workers has gone down. The number of people with health insurance keeps going down. Middle class incomes are stagnant or going down while college tuition is soaring.
Maybe that's why Americans aren't impressed.

Posted by: apc at December 21, 2005 12:06 PM

Not in IL, those making up to $100K will get HI from the state.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 21, 2005 12:09 PM

APC - I know I shouldn't respond to trolls who are just recycling Democratic press release talking points, but nlet's inject some actual facts into the discussion, shall we?

You said "the average yearly wage of hourly workers has gone down." Actual reality:

Civilian compensation:
12-Month % Change (NSA [i.e., not seasonally adjusted]): 3.1% in 3rd Qtr of 2005.

Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics,

I know you leftoids think that a "fact" means "whatever is politically convenient for leftists" but the rest of us in the reality-based community use a different standard.

Posted by: Tom at December 21, 2005 5:16 PM

If you'll go back to the bls website and hit the 10-year historical data icon for your very statistic, you'll see that there's a steady 5-year decline.

Posted by: apc at December 21, 2005 5:29 PM

apc: You need to learn to read a graph, dude. The "steady 5-year decline" that you claim is in the rate of increase in the 12-Month % change. Keep trying, though, you're doing great!

Posted by: b at December 21, 2005 6:45 PM


Here's an easy question: do you make less and have less saved than you did five years ago?

Posted by: oj at December 21, 2005 6:52 PM

b - Thanks. All. I'm on vacation and will have intermittent Net access. So I'm gone from this thread.

Posted by: Tom at December 23, 2005 9:14 AM