Maybe Bill should stick to obsessing about Hillary instead

We have to give Bill Safire credit. It’s not too often that someone can manage to suck at so many things. Whether it’s predictions about Hillary’s run for the White House, hunches about what the US will find in Iraq, or the speculations of Richard Nixon’s corpse, few have given the world so much. So what’s new today? Safire is back, intent on being the poor conservative’s Paul Krugman.

How does he manage? Safire starts with a story about a woman who can only afford to buy cheap shoes, so isn’t it great that there are cheap shoes for her to buy?

Free trade is helping that lady make ends meet because her hard-earned dollar now has more buying power. If those fast-talking protectionists had their way, the high cost of living would deny her boy those shoes.

Never mind, of course, that the Bush White House’s free trade credentials are about as real as Iraq’s WMD. Bill is getting ready to unleash his keen understanding of economics, circa 1895:

You want proof? Back in 2000, the last Clinton year, inflation jumped up toward 4 percent. Those higher prices sent real average weekly wages down by half a percent, first time in years. Her “higher” earnings bought less.

Given that Safire’s a language expert, one assumes there has to be a reason as to why the construction “jumped up toward 4 percent” (as opposed to the actual number,) was used. Presumably, jumped up looks just a tad scarier than the actual number, 3.38%. Real average weekly wages went up 3.0% in 2000, making the average decline not half a percent, but 0.4 percent.*** [see below] And Safire continues his slow descent to the bottom of the barrel:

But today, inflation is way down. Why? Because workers have better tools and software to help them produce more in the same time, and because cheap clothes from overseas help keep prices down.

You see, before mid-2001 (the inflation rate was 3.39 for the first six months of that year) workers didn’t have better tools and software. They didn’t have any of these things in the 1990s either. They are only here now because George W. bush is our all powerful president (or something like that.) There were no cheap clothes from overseas either before the year 2000. All these things are new (and exciting.) Thank you Mr. President!

Fearmongers want you to believe that unemployment is getting worse. Just the opposite is true: We’ve come down from over 6 percent to five and a half, but the troubadours of trouble have changed the rules about what is good news. Whenever the unemployment rate drops, gloomy-Gus politicians insist “it’s because people have given up hope and stopped looking for jobs.”

Safire resumes his creative rounding above. The unemployment rate is 5.6%, not five and a half. Safire won’t tell you, but we’ve gone from 6.3% to 5.6%, which remains the worst post-recession performance ever. Is this Bush’s fault? We don’t know, and at this point it matters little. Safire trumpeting Bush’s economic record is the kind of fact-free and faith based cheerleading one would expect from TownHall.

Safire likes to pretend that only the nattering nabobs of negativity point to a decline in the labor force as one source of lower unemployment, yet this particular nugget of information is right there in the press releases of the Labor Department:

The civilian labor force fell by 309,000 in December to 146.9 million; the labor force participation rate decreased over the month to 66.0 percent. Over the year, the participation rate declined by 0.4 percentage point.

Bill continues:

But back when unemployment was going up, did you ever hear “it’s because people are hopeful and more are out looking for jobs”? Never.

Well, we heard that in our Economics 101 class actually. What classes did you take in college Bill?

But let’s ask the pessimists: When did the job boom of the 90’s begin to turn around? Who was in charge when that new measuring stick, “job creation,” started to show the news turning bad? It was in the year 2000, when unemployment was low and the stock market bubble was bursting. At the end of Clinton’s last year, there were 380,000 fewer new jobs created than had been created at the end of 1999.

Well it’s a good thing Bill only compares these two years, otherwise you would notice just how out of his depth he is. In 1999, the economy created 2.8 million new jobs. In 2000, the number was 2.08 million. [We don’t know where Safire found his numbers, we’re using data from the Labor Department. PDF] Fewer jobs were created in 2000, but then again at that point there were basically no potential employees left. Nothing short of a massive influx of workers could have kept job growth on its late 1990s pace. January 2003 showed the highest number of new jobs in a single month under Bush: 112,000. Or less than the average number of jobs ((173,000) created in 2000 (you know, the last year of Clinton’s presidency.)

Indeed, if Safire’s brain or honesty hadn’t died years ago, he would acknowledge that sub-4% unemployment is a pretty good guarantee of increasing inflation. When the unemployment rate declined to 3.8% in April 2000, it was the first time since January 1970 it was under 4%.

Assuming you haven’t noticed that happy days are here again, maybe Safire can put in a good work for you at his nails salon. They’re looking for a manicurist.

*** Jesus (well, that’s what he wrote) points out that real wages already take inflation into account, which makes our paragraph only slightly less dumb than Safire’s. According to the article linked to above:

But higher inflation in 2000, up 3.7% ? compared with 2.7% in 1999 ? meant that workers’ real hourly wages (adjusted for inflation) advanced by a mere 0.8%.

Average weekly earnings were up 3.0% in 2000, down from 3.2% in 1999. But higher prices sent real average weekly wages into negative territory (down 0.4%) for first time again since 1995. (Note: these figures are based on a comparison of Dec. 1999 with Dec. 2000.)

The picture, we would argue, isn’t quite as clear as Safire would like us to believe.


Comments: 2


Fearmongers want you to believe that unemployment is getting worse

So if we add Safire to the unemployment numbers let’s see how long the rose-colored glasses stay on.

If Safire met Sullivan there would only be one working brain in the room if one more person was there with them.


Presumably, jumped up looks just a tad scarier than the actual number, 3.38%. Real average weekly wages went up 3.0% in 2000, making the average decline not half a percent, but 0.4 percent

real wafes would have already taken inflation into account


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