Just Above Sunset
April 18, 2004 - Economic Data and Dyslexia

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Misery Loves Company: Economic data for most of us in the middle…



This week in CNN Money
Not so bad, not so good
Household income is little changed since 2000 - not the message sent by either Kerry or Bush.
April 12, 2004: 2:39 PM EDT

I read it.  It confused me. 

But I liked this summary from Kevin Drum -


Kerry says middle class families are worse off and the rich are better off under George Bush. 

- George Bush says that's not so: average income has gone up 5.9% in the past three years.  Not bad!

- Oops, wait a second.  That's "average" income.  The right measure is "median" income, since the average is skewed upward by.... the rich being better off. 

- Median household income has decreased 3.3% since 2000. 

- But wait!  If you take into account tax cuts and increased entitlement income, median household income has.... declined 0.6%. 

Even flat income for three straight years is disastrous, of course, something the writer of the article seems not to understand.  So no matter how you measure it, middle class families are worse off and the rich are better off under George Bush.  Just like Kerry said. 

It's worth noting that the article is non-bylined.  I can understand why.


Well, this week the Kerry campaign came out with its “Misery Index” – some sort of thing that’s supposed to let folks know why things seem so bad, and how they got to be so bad, and then allow them to rag on Bush’s methods for improving life here, at least economically.  I would have preferred the thing be called the “Hard Times Index” as that sounds much more Woody Guthrie populist and thus much more appealing, in a “common man” sort of way. 

On the other hand, when I lived in the far upper left corner of New York, almost where New York meets Canada at Niagara Falls, the radio station at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Brockport broadcast its daily “Dismality Index” – temperature and precipitation and cloud-cover and humidity and snow-cover and what-not all balanced against each other.  That was amusing, and made us all laugh as we looked out the window at the crap in the sky. 

Maybe the economic “Misery Index” is okay. 

Reading is Fundamental, or Not



Three amusing paragraphs from London – well, from Clinton’s former advisor writing from America and published in London.

See Hear no evil, read no evil, speak drivel
Bush's press conference shows just how ill-informed he is about Iraq
Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian (UK), Thursday April 15, 2004

Buried in the middle -


Bush, in fact, does not read his President's Daily Briefs, but has them orally summarised every morning by the CIA director, George Tenet.  President Clinton, by contrast, read them closely and alone, preventing any aides from interpreting what he wanted to know first-hand.  He extensively marked up his PDBs, demanding action on this or that, which is almost certainly the likely reason the Bush administration withheld his memoranda from the 9/11 commission. 

"I know he doesn't read," one former Bush national security council staffer told me.  Several other former NSC staffers corroborated this.  It seems highly unlikely that he read the national intelligence estimate on WMD before the Iraq war that consigned contrary evidence and caveats that undermined the case to footnotes and fine print.  Nor is there any evidence that he read the state department's 17-volume report, The Future of Iraq, warning of nearly all the postwar pitfalls, that was shelved by the neocons in the Pentagon and Vice-President Cheney's office.


And this:


… As the iconic image of the "war president" has tattered, another picture has emerged.  Bush appears as a passive manager who enjoys sitting atop a hierarchical structure, unwilling and unable to do the hard work a real manager has to do to run the largest enterprise in the world.  He does not seem to absorb data unless it is presented to him in simple, clear fashion by people whose judgment he trusts.  He is receptive to information that agrees with his point of view rather than information that challenges it.  This leads to enormous power on the part of the trusted interlocutors, who know and bolster his predilections. 


Well, I guess this all is amusing.  Or not. 


My friend in Paris, Ric Erickson, often cited here, has met all sorts of Americans at his weekly MetropoleParis meeting who chat about whether Bush is dyslexic or even functionally illiterate and all that other stuff that been rumored since the campaign for the 2000 election.


It doesn’t matter.  He’s where he is.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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