Bad News for Bush?

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While George W. Bush's approval rating hovers around the make-or-break point of 50 percent and an increasing number of Americans fret that the country is heading down the crapper, here's more potential bad news for the son of a one-term prez.

First up is this Cox News story that announces, "Job losses in key states a threat to Bush." A snippet:

WASHINGTON—In his bid for re-election, President Bush is facing an economic minefield in 17 battleground states…where nearly three-fourths of the counties he carried four years ago have lost jobs since he won the White House.

A Cox News Service analysis found that 72.5 percent of the counties in these key states that voted for Bush in 2000 have seen their jobless rates rise during his presidency, some by as much as 6 percent.

Second up is this Knight Ridder piece, "Poll: U.S. Faces Suspicion in Terror War." According to an international polls done in nine countries by the folks at Pew Research Center before the Spanish bombings,

The surveys found considerable cynicism and anger among the Muslim-majority countries a year after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. And they found a growing desire among European countries for a balance of power.

"Europeans want to check our power," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. "There's considerable support for making the European Union as powerful as the United States."

People in the surveyed Muslim countries remain angry about U.S. policies—and are even supportive of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi terrorist who took credit for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The good news for Bush, of course, is that he's running against John Kerry. It is, of course, way too early to tell what the hell is going to happen in November, but I suspect that much of the anti-Bush animus in the country is actually an inchoate reaction to undivided government. Clinton's first couple of years in office, when the Dems cotrolled Congress and the White House, were pretty much an unmitigated disaster; once the GOP gained some Congressional control in the '94 elections, things got much better for everyone. I think American voters are missing that sort of power-sharing–which is not quite the same as gridlock, even as it produced any number of positive outcomes.

NEXT: Crafty Spaniards

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  1. O’thoreau: Why the cap “O”, but never a cap “T”?

    BTW, since we know joe is from Massachusetts (Boston?), the Irish is assumed.

  2. Americans need a shorter election period. 🙂

  3. “the 10% range” is the cherry picking I’m talking about. And my point is not to discount the economic suckiness of the 70s, just to point out that overall unemployment figures between then and now are not an apples-to-apples comparison for today’s potential undecided voter.

    Not sure about the incarceration theory – first, there were plenty of black people in prison back then, and second, jailing large numbers of working aged men from certain communities has economic impacts on those communities beyond tightening the labor market.

    thoreau, Josh, Democrats did not argue that Bush was illegitimate because he lost the popular vote and won the electoral college. Remember Florida? Absent the purging of legal voters, ballot confusion, and Supreme Court interference, Bush loses BOTH the EC and the popular vote, but was still installed in office. Now THAT’s illegitimate.

  4. Good point on the capitalization. I’ve changed it.

  5. Don’t worry Joe. In the next election the Dems will make an even greater effort to register felons, illegal aliens, and the insane (“homeless”), while tossing out as many military votes (also insane) as they can get away with.

    The 2000 election shenanigans were a two-way street. STFU already!

  6. Joe,
    Didn’t various media outlets count all the votes aftwerward and determine that no matter which method was used, Dubya got more votes than Gore in Florida?

  7. Mel Gibson apparently now has doubts about the war with Iraq.

  8. Here are the American policies the muslim states disapprove of:

    1. No, you can’t kill all the jews.
    2. No, you can’t “push them into the sea.”
    3. No, you can’t blow up anyone who doesn’t believe in your religion.

    And if you agree with the above policies, you are Anti-Islam.

    I agree with the poster that said, “The second that muslim states agree with US policy is the second we should change it.

    E

  9. Eric, the media recouts demonstrated that Bush came out ahead using the method supported in Bush’s court filings, and the method supported by Gore’s court filings, both of which suck. A statewide recount exercise by a consortium of universities, looking at all ballots rejected as undervotes and overvotes, (the right method, in my opinion, but not the one suggested by Gore) concluded that Gore would have won.

    All of which is rendered irrelevant, to my lights, by the purging of voter rolls and the mis-marking of Palm Beach ballots.

    And with that, I am taking O’Slacker’s advice, and Essing Tee Eff You.

  10. Even if unemployment was worse in the 70s, back then we had a social safety net for those who were struggling. But that doesn’t matter as far as Bush’s re-election chances are concerned.

    Consider: in politics, reality is not always an issue; PERCEPTION truly is reality when running for office. The point I originally tried to make in my first post at 10:58 is that some poor guy who is running scared because he lost his job and his unemployment benefits ran out and he’s truly worried about how he’ll survive is NOT going to be reassured by Bush saying “No, really, the economy’s been getting better lately.” This guy is going to get ticked off, and a ticked-off American is not likely to vote an incumbent back into office.

    If Bush had three IQ digits, rather than two, he would abandon his “The economy is improving!” mantra and say something to reassure the unemployed folks who have good reason to worry. Instead, Bush seems determined to add insult to injury by saying, in effect, “You suffering people must be imagining all your grief, because everything’s fine.”

    On the other hand, I am just cynical enough to think it doesn’t matter how many votes Bush does or does not get; he WILL be re-appointed President this November. The Supreme Court and the paperless electronic voting machines owned by a Republican company will see to that.

  11. “looking at all ballots rejected as undervotes and overvotes”
    If they didn’t vote for anyone, count it for Gore. If they voted for both Gore and Bush, count it for Gore. Yeah, I can definitively see how Gore would win that one.

  12. STFU already! If you feel disenfranchised by the 2000 circus, just vote twice next time…I am.

  13. What kind of social safety net, Jennifer (that we don’t have now)? Your only safety net in the late seventies, if you, say, lost your job at the paint store like John Rivolto did, is catch that night-fever, start disco dancing, and hope for the best. I’m afraid not all of us had that opportunity (or knew how to dance any better than Elaine Benice).

    Sorry, that was funny if you saw the movie. Hey, maybe that’s my problem. It wasn’t the double-digit inflation and unemployment that got me down. Deep inside it was all because I couldn’t dance to disco.

    “The Supreme Court and the paperless electronic voting machines owned by a Republican company will see to that.”

    OK, who’s wearing the aluminum foil, now??? Yes, it’s cheaper than actual tin foil and conforms better around one’s pointy head.

  14. O’J,

    Well, presumably overvotes would include cases where there was a wholly punched out hole, as well as holes where there are chads hanging. To be blunt, the use of cards is far more error prone than optical readers; Florida could have saved itself a great deal of misery by adopting optical readers for all areas a decade before the 2000 election.

  15. Indeed, the real culprit in these matters are the entities in the state of Florida which failed to update their methods of conducting elections, and thus disenfranchised large numbers of voters that would not have been disenfranchised under a more technically sound technology. Hopefully the 2000 election embarressment did at least some good in redressing that issue.

  16. Joe said: “A statewide recount exercise by a consortium of universities, looking at all ballots rejected as undervotes and overvotes”

    I’m a little confused about the undervotes. Are these the ballots where an indentation was made but the paper wasn’t punched through all the way, or where the chad was hanging? With overvotes, I don’t remember the details of the ballots, but how could you at all reliably decide which of two punched out (or partially punched out) holes was the real vote?
    Maybe Gore’s team didn’t suggest counting these ballots because they knew that count would be bogus.

  17. Jean Bart-
    You hope the 2000 election will do some good in regards to the way the US runs its elections? Wow; of all the stereotypes I’ve heard associated with the French, “naivete” was never one of them.

    You know the big drive nowadays is for computerized “touch-screen” voting, which leaves no verifiable paper trail. Worse, it’s already been demonstrated that they are horribly unreliable and very easy to hack into; there have been elections where the nuber of votes cast was three times that of the number of voters, and other amusing examples.

    Which is why I realize I was wrong in saying our next President would be George Bush. Thanks to the “hack”-neyed efforts of a lonely Star Trek geek, our next president is going to be either William Shatner or the guy who played Jean-Luc Picard.

    As far as the social safety net, well, back before Welfare Reform it was easier for people in real trouble to qualify for certain types of assistance (dare I say welfare?). Homeless people didn’t used to be a big-city fact of life (though that’s more de-institutionalization that Bush, I’ll concede). For a lot of reasons, some more tangible than others, it just seems as though it is harder for the average person nowadays to maintain a basic standard of living than it used to be.

    [I’ll go on a tangent just long enough to say I think the biggest impediment to making a living nowadays isn’t so much lack of a safety net or even lack of full-time employment, but the fact that housing prices are so incredibly high compared to income. All other everyday expenses are cheaper nowadays than ever before].

    I woonder if fourth-century Romans had similar musings amongst themselves? “Wow, this decline and fall of an empire is really somethin’ to see, huh?”

  18. I second Jean Bart’s comments about Florida Election Commission’s (or whatever their title is) culpability. Not just with still using punch card ballots, but apparently with not testing them at all (or not testing them well) for clarity. There’s no way Pat Buchanan got all those votes in Palm Beach County, and I certainly assume Gore would have won Florida if the voting had been run by a more competent group, like a bunch of chimps. But once all the undervoting and overvoting and hanging chads started there was no way to get a truly fair and accurate count.

  19. Jennifer,
    Dubya could reassure the jobless if he had the intelligence to get Arthur Laffer out there selling the “curve.”
    Of all the things I find repulsive about Dubya, worst is his inherited fear of “voodoo” economics.

  20. … and about high housing prices, would you plump for ending the mortgage interest expense deduction?
    Talk about the “third rail”!

  21. I wanted to add I neither fashion hats out of foil nor blame the CIA for AIDS, but I think it’s sad that the current administration does stuff that used to exist only in the dreams of the delusional. “The president told lies in order to start a war for the purpose of avenging his daddy’s honor!” “The government is making it harder to travel from one part of the country to another without telling them who you are and where you’re going!” “The government tried to use terrorism as an excuse to set up a nationwide program of ‘citizen-spies!’

    The difference between me and a paranoiac is like the difference between science and religion–the latter both believe in things that CAN’T be proven.

  22. Just posted by Arianna Huffington in Salon, and on this very topic:

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/huffington/2004/03/17/gdp/index.html

  23. O’Ruthless,

    Most lower income people rent, at least in metropolitan areas. In reducing the supply of affordable housing, the home mortgage deduction comes in waaaaaaaayy behind snob zoning.

  24. joe,
    Without me knowing for sure, I’ll yield to your “snob” zoning trumping my mortgage interest expense deduction on the “bad scale.”
    Guess I’m just more focused on the federal level.
    Answer me this: If everyone home-schooled would it reduce the incentive for zoning?

  25. Jennifer, I completely agree on the housing price deal – – “housing prices are so incredibly high compared to income. All other everyday expenses are cheaper nowadays than ever before].”

    Sure, the deduction on taxes is arbitrary, but it’s not a major cause of people buying vs. renting. It’s just not that much unless you are making a ton. If more people rent, that demand increase will just raise rents anyway, as additionally, landlords have still go to pay the mortgage (along with tax on rental income).

    Now, anyone of you want to speculate on the real reason housing in metro. areas is so high? Maybe we (well, not I) should go back to the immigration debate and apologize to the LoneWacko, keeping in mind that BASICALLY ALL population increase in the US is due to immigration, mostly illegal (i.e. without immigration, US population would be coming down off the peak shortly).

    Anyone, anyone, Ferris?

  26. Also, Jennifer, I meant the AL-foil hat remark only in regard to your comment on the voting machines (being owned by Republicans or what now?) C’mon??

    But, on the Patriot act and that crap I completely agree, and I will glad to share aluminum or tin foil with anyone on that score.

    BTW, totally off the subject of the post (I think, I forgot what it was about ;-}, but, Jennifer, if you think our right to travel in privacy is gone, it’s worse than just the airline thing. Next time you stay at any chain motel, see what all information they put into a database on you – even if you pay cash and have no ccard, they will enter your driver’s licence. Go ahead, ask them why. Not all Bush’s fault, but he sure as shit ain’t helping.

  27. “If everyone home-schooled would it reduce the incentive for zoning?”

    In my state, schools are exempt from zoning, as are churches and day care centers. This is common nationwide. So my first impression is No.

    Jimmy, population growth is not to blame. There is plenty of land being developed to provide adequate housing. In my state, population increased by about 10% in the 1990s, while the footprint of human settlement increased by 70%. The problem is, most of the latter increase was in the form of single family homes on large lots, in areas where that is the only housing type allowed by zoning. This not only decreases the supply of new housing units, but also drives up the production cost of the units, because it is such an ineffecient use of land and materials (for example, you need a foundation for every unit). So I have to say snob zoning is the biggest factor. BTW, it also drives up the transportation costs of the residents, because they need multiple high-mileage cars per household.

    Other people blame building codes, but that’s much less of a factor. Meeting code when building a new home basically means using the techniques that responsible builders would use anyway. Building codes are primarily a problem for rehabilitating old structures for housing, and that is, sadly, a pretty small % of the overall housing market.

  28. Jennifer: Remember that the items in “the standard-of-living basket” are significantly better now than the 1970s. Maybe the bread is the same, but the car is better and the baby clothes far less flammable.

    Perhaps Bush is not pandering to the unemployed because he knows he’ll never get those votes anyway. The outmoded union types I used to know would still prefer FDR. And maybe there simply are not as many as the media/pundit world represents. A few million unemployed lifetime democrats are not worth Republican resources.

    Since I’m feeling a bit O’Ruthless today: Those who complain about affordable housing could learn some manners and find some roommates. The “standard of living” has been raised so we expect everyone older than infants to have their own bedroom with cable and PlayStation. My 750 sq.ft. house was built in 1950 for a family of four or five. Now it would be a hard sell to a couple with one child.

    Election time is when everybody whines louder hoping some candidate will hand them their dreams.

  29. I think it’s sad that the current administration does stuff that used to exist only in the dreams of the delusional. “The president told lies in order to start a war for the purpose of avenging his daddy’s honor!”

    Has it ever occured to you that the reason you’re chronically unemployed is that the demand for people with no grasp of reality whatsoever collapsed when dot-com companies went out of style?

    That belief STILL only exists in the dreams of the delusional.

  30. Has it ever occured to you that the reason you’re chronically unemployed is that the demand for people with no grasp of reality whatsoever collapsed when dot-com companies went out of style?

    Oh, that’s cold. Jennifer, you just gonna let him talk smack like that?

  31. Conservative: a liberal who’s been mugged

    Liberal: a conservative who’s been arrested

    To which I’d like to add

    Liberal: a libertoid who’s been laid off

  32. Thoreau-
    Gimme a minute, gimme a minute. I had to put some crap up for sale on ebay.

    Dan-first of all, I never was a dot-commer; I was a schoolteacher let go because I made a royal stink about being forced to give a passing grade to a functionally illiterate athlete who turned in less than half of his assigned work.
    Secondly, if you want to suggest that being out of work is an implicit admission of worthlessness, then there’s no point in my under-employed self to refute it, is there? Thirdly, President GW Bush did, in pre-Iraq times, talk about how he hated Hussein for “trying to kill my dad.” Even if we assume that your personal insults are true and I’m the most worthless, ignorant human being to ever post on the Net, this does not change the existence of many damning facts against our President.

    As far as Jimmy’s remark about the voting machines: that’s not a paranoid bit either. I don’t remember the exact name, but the company manufacturing most of the touch-screen is in fact owned by a vocal Bush supporter. However, even if Jesus Honest Christ came to Earth and bought out the company, I’d still distrust any voting technology that leaves no verifiable trail. Anyone who does is a fool.

    Mark mentioned how houses today are bigger than before. Yes, because of zoning. The problem isn’t that most couples would refuse to buy your parent’s 750-foot house; the problem is such houses are no longer being built or offered for sale.

  33. Jennifer,

    Diebold. The president of which sent a letter to Bush’s campaign, promising to deliver Ohio.

  34. Joe–
    How can you go around spouting paranoid facts like that? Get yo’ bad self fitted for a tinfoil hat.

  35. J & j: The developers around here insist that they’re not building small dwellings (I’ve asked) because 1] nobody wants them, and 2] it costs nearly the same to build 750 as 1400 feet, so they build the size that yields the best return. And this for urban infill and replacement, not suburban snob McMansions.

    Personally, I like my small house and have an efficient car. I’ve always been out of step with mainstream tastes.

    On voting machines, Jennifer is correct, Republicans control the manufacturer, and the election boards which install them. Why is this paper trail such big issue? People can alter/fake paper ballots just as is feared electronic votes will be tampered with. After I hand over my paper ballot, I get no confirmation that the optical reader scored it as I intended. An unscrupulous judge could alter my markings after the fact, or just slip the paper into a “invalid” pile. I’m sure Donald Duck is being cheated of my vote!

  36. “Mark mentioned how houses today are bigger than before. Yes, because of zoning. The problem isn’t that most couples would refuse to buy your parent’s 750-foot house; the problem is such houses are no longer being built or offered for sale.”

    In some places, yes. However, minimum housing sizes are pretty rare. A likelier culprit is that building a 1200 sq ft house costs a professional construction team only slightly more than building a 750 sq ft house, and a much higher % of the houses being built are built by developers.

    $10 sez Mark’s 750 square foot house was built by an independent contractor, or just a handy guy, so that he himself could live in it. For someone hammering together his own house, increases in size come with costs that are much higher than those imposed on developers. I bet Kevin Carson has something to say about that last point.

    Um, I think the original post was about neckties.

  37. “Diebold. The president of which [Diebold] sent a letter to Bush’s campaign, promising to deliver Ohio.” Not via the machines, Joe! I think he probably meant via contributions. Paranoia strikes deep in the heartland …

    Secondly, I don’t know if there are any left-wing types in engineering (real engineering, that is, not computers) from my close-up knowledge. It takes some engineering know-how to build such a device. What’s a voting district to do?

    Even so, I would trust one of those as much as I trust a video poker machine. Who knows what it’s really programmed to do, and you don’t see to get many good hands, so I never play.

  38. Joe-
    But zoning nowadays makes it a lot harder. Right now, even in my reduced circumstances, I could afford to buy a small plot of land (with access to utilities) and put a trailer on it, which would enable me to live rent- and mortgage-free whilst I saved up for something more substantial. But this is illegal in most places.

    Then, too, there are social pressures against it, too. For example, imagine what a field day folks like Dan would have if given the opportunity to call me ‘trailer trash!’ Ah do believe ah feel faint at the thought.

  39. Jennifer, I’m the one who blamed zoning to begin with!

    The problem you’d have with the mobile home is more likely to be a specific exclusion of mobile homes than a minimum built square footage regulation.

  40. joe: Mine was the size being built postwar. Levittown, NY, full of the same sort of structure, was a big corporate project that used economy of scale and small size to make the buildings affordable for postwar families who wanted their own back yard. (You already knew that, I bet.) Then it was the what the market demanded and could afford. In a sense we could turn it backward and say that housing is costly because so many people can afford big houses; it makes the cost of small houses comparatively higher.

    If the damned city would let me, I’d let Jennifer park her trailer in my back yard. Her rent would pay my note, and we could both make fun of Dan’s shamrock necktie.

  41. Mark-
    If the damned city would let you, you could easily get rich. Get this:

    Where I live, even a 1-room slum apartment will cost you $600 a month; a minimum-decent 1-bedroom around $800-$1000.

    Meanwhile, if I’m willing to drive twenty miles I could buy an acre of land for about $25,000. I also see used camper-trailers of 20 feet or more available in the classifieds for $1,000-$5,000 each.

    You already have some land; what if you spent ten grand on five trailers, set them up in your backyard, and charged three hundred a month rent for what amounted to a small furnished apartment? You’d have your pick of tenants, you’d make $1,500 a month, and you’d be doing five people a favor and giving them a real break in rent.

    I would invest my entire savings into such a scheme, and go into debt, if zoning laws did not forbid me from doing so.

  42. Secondly, if you want to suggest that being out of work is an implicit admission of worthlessness, then there’s no point in my under-employed self to refute it, is there?

    I didn’t suggest that unemployment was a sign of worthlessness. I suggested that your weak grasp of reality explained your inability to find work.

    You believe that the second Gulf War was launched to avenge the honor of the President’s dad. This is not a belief that a sane and intelligent person can hold. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I like to think that schools screen their teachers for insanity and stupidity.

  43. Jennifer: If it weren’t for the state (or maybe this time, State), you and other entrepreneurs could set up such projects with added benefits like an extra trailer as daycare/homeschool and a used but functional van for jitney service. All this in the space of a few city lots, with pedestrian access to other amenities. joe, are you with us?

  44. You believe that the second Gulf War was launched to avenge the honor of the President’s dad. This is not a belief that a sane and intelligent person can hold.

    Alright, listen up everybody: No sane or rational person can possible believe that a politician might lie about war, or put his personal interests ahead of the public good.

    Glad we got that all sorted out.

    Next up: Politicians would never, ever, ever spend money wastefully. And regulations never produce bad results.

  45. Joe-
    On the social security thread you were 55 and insistent that social security not be tampered with since you had paid for it through all your years. Here you’re too young to remember the seventies? It doesn’t make much sense – What gives?

  46. Dan-
    All right, I capitulate. The Iraq comment was completely wrong. I made a throw-away comment; I took an actual statement the President made (about wanting to get back at Hussein because Hussein tried to kill the frist President Bush) and used it as one example among many in which the administration looks suspect; other people have pointed out that my other comments were accurate (about Republicans owning the touch-screen companies, or problems with the Patriot Act), and so you are continuing to either insist that I personally am deficient, while hammering my Iraq comment into the ground.

    Fine. I was wrong about Iraq, and for the sake of argument let’s say that I, personally, am a failure. Fine. I accept full responsibility for this. Ich bin ein loser, if you’d like.

    Now then–without pointing out any of my personal faults, can you please explain what is wrong with the various assertions (except Iraq) I have made and you belittled?

    In other words, please discuss the news, not the messenger.

  47. Dan: You had a good zinger/burn at Jennifer’s expense. Let it go.

    The ABBs “avenge daddy/secure the oil” arguments have faded into the background. Bush offers plenty of fresh fodder for them. Whatever the psychological motivation for invasion, the intelligence was crappy and whether or not it was intentional, Bush offered reasons not completely accurate. Yet, his simple principles have brought about a significant amount of good. He has 6 months to make the case that the good continues to outweigh the continuing costs.

    Rich: This is the net. We are not bound by the consistencies of flesh identity. Let’s go on a date. In real life I’m an order of magnitude more desirable than your wildest fantasy. I promise.

  48. o’thoreau: I thought today was St. Patrick’s, not April Fool’s.

  49. According to a recent Gallup poll, Kerry is beating Bush in every one of the 12 states that were closest in the last election, when 6 went for Bush and 6 went for Gore. In addition, Kerry is leading in three states – NH, Mo, and Fla – that Bush won, but Bush isn’t leading in any states that Gore won.

    If Kerry wins the electoral college but, thanks to Nader, comes in second in the popular vote, will the Republicans have the chutzpah to complain?

  50. Isn’t a bit early to be handicapping the race? If memory serves, didn’t Reagan trail Mondale at about this time and Papa Bush trail Dukakis?

  51. Rich, as I said on that Social Security thread, I’m joe, not Joe.

    Mark, sounds pretty sweet to me. But, sorry to burst your bubble, if the laws forbidding it were repealed, you wouldn’t be the only one doing it, and the price (artificially high due to constricted supply) would fall.

  52. Which party gets the credit for exporting all our oilwell drilling, pipeline construction and refinery construction jobs?

  53. Nick,
    As a fellow resident of the “key” state of Ohio, perhaps you’d care to comment on how Gov. Boob Taft and his fellow tax-and-spend Repugnants could be a millstone around Dubya’s chances.

  54. Eric,

    Some things get settled early – remember 1996. It is possible that Kerry could knock Bush out in the next month, putting him deep enough in a hole that he’ll never recover.

    BTW, over the next month, 100 million Americans will discover that the check they got from Bush isn’t free money. I wonder how many people will see their tax return disappear, or turn into a bill? I know, I know, witholding blah blah blah, but it’s still a psychological blow for people who plan on getting a check from the Feds every spring.

  55. Do I hear the word “malaise”?

  56. Joe,
    Good point, though 1996 brings back bad memories of poor befuddled Bob Dole, and what a hopeless candidate he was. I remember during the primaries, columnist Charley Reese wrote that a debate between Clinton and Dole would look like one between Tigger and Eyeore.

  57. In what way are taxes going to be a nasty surprise? Tax rates are down across the board, so everybody should be paying lower taxes or getting a bigger refund. Or did I miss out on some free money?

    Also, the economy is doing surprisingly well. Especially when you consider the huge stock market bubble that burst and the terror attacks. The job market is the one thing that is slow, but unemployment is still in a normal range — the sluggishness is a result of the bursting of the jobs bubble. Jobs are always the last to recover, and they were already on a bubble.

    This seems a lot like during the first Bush presidency, except when Bush II took office the economy was already going into recession. I suspect that by the middle of November, it will become widely acknowledged that the recession ended THREE YEARS AGO.

  58. When people say the economy is doing well, I respond that there are two ways of looking at the economy. If you measure economic strength by how well businesses are doing, then we’re in fine shape. If you measure the economy by how many people have jobs, or how many of those jobs pay a livable wage, then we’re in the crapper. The majority of voters in this country are members of the working class (a.k.a. middle class), and so I’d say their first concern is jobs, not the stock market.

    I despise GW Bush, but if I were his adviser I wuld tell him to stop saying that strong stock values make a strong economy, because this does not reassure the families of the unemployed; it only infuriates them more.

  59. From Gillespie’s idea that there’s a distaste for undivided givernment: To the mass of non-pundits, Bush is a simple guy with simple views presented through stumbling language. He doesn’t appear to waffle as much as the average politician (I know you’ll give me all the examples anyway), so it is easier for people to decide to be opposed to him, and to stay opposed to his ideas. Bush is an undivided/polar candidate, moreso than any of his realistic challengers were.

    joe: Before they notice bigger bills (for local taxes, or what?) they’ll see a big check and buy a flat-panel TV. The bubble in spending should hit corporate earning reports in October, about the same time we see more better job news, as all those TV salespeople can’t be offshored.

  60. Jennifer,
    I don’t know, the unemployment rate is 5.6 percent, which is pretty close to full employment. In fact, the rate was identical in June 1996, when the “Clinton economy” was supposedly raging. At the time, CNN described that rate as “already low.”

  61. Bush is in real trouble. It sounds like he has already lost the vote in Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey, and he may not pick up many votes from France, Germany, or Russia either. The article didn’t mention it, but I’m guessing his polling numbers are pretty thin in North Korea and Cuba as well. If he doesn’t get a few American (United Statesian, that is) votes, he’s gonna lose for sure.

  62. Jennifer (or any ABBs): What are the facts supporting this popular notion that we’re a nation out of work? Unemployment of 6% is historically good for the US and stupendous for nearly all the world. And is our average wage suddenly below first-world standards, or even below any other nation?

    During the bubble, all those middle-class wage victims seemed pretty excited with their mutual fund and 401k reports. But, yes, they have to buy food today, so a job now is a bigger deal than stock values then.

  63. Eric–
    When you say that unemployment is only five-point-something, that only refers to those people who are currently receiving benefits and looking for work. It does not refer to those whose benefits have expired, or those who have given up after however many months or years. Nor does it count the underemployed; people like me, who lost their full-time jobs and now do part-time or temporary work that doesn’t come CLOSE to paying all the bills.

    I remember the say my unemployment benefits ran out. As I said to my friend, “I’m still out of work, but thank God, at least I’m not unemployed!”

    Mark Twain said it better: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  64. “I remember the say” is supposed to be “I remember the day.” Oops.

  65. Mark, they bought the TV two years ago, when they got the IRS check and the nice letter about how President Bush is providing tax relief. Over the next month, they’re going to file their 2003 tax return, and discover that they have to pay for that money now – a little fact that wasn’t mentioned in the capaign litera-er, vitally important communication from the federal government, and which is likely to be a nasty surprise for people who don’t follow these things as closely as you or me.

    Eric, “Clinton’s” 5.6 in 1996 was considerably lower than the rate had been in the years before. “Bush’s” 5-6% is higher than unemployment had been in the past few years.

  66. Ammonium, Eric, and Mr. Fox have the right idea. This “bad economy” bidness is complete media Bullshit. 5.6% is a really decent unemployment rate, and inflation is still way low. If you were around and aware in the late ’70’s and into the early ’80’s you would know of what I write here. Inflation and unemployment rates below 8% were considered good.
    You were lucky to get a home mortgage at below 13-14% (do the math on that and see what your house payments would be – it SUCKS!)

    It took a few years of Reagan (then later the ’94 Republican congressional take-over) to convince business that the Feds were not going to make any more really big programs to dick-up the economy – this allowed interest rates to slowly come down over a long period (mid-80’s to early 00′, someone correct me if I’m wrong here).

    Jennifer, I disagree. The unemployment numbers do not reflect a lot of stuff, but who’s to say just now that’s the case. In fact, some maintain that currently small (possibly under-the-table stuff, like computer start ups) are making the new employment numbers look way low.

  67. Jennifer,
    It also doesn’t count who opened their own business, or who now work for very small companies. But it’s the only objective number we have, so we have to go with it.

    Joe,
    It all depends on the baseline. For example, unemployment in 2001 was 4.8 percent, then grew to 6.4 percent by June 2003. Now it’s down to 5.6 percent. But “low” still means “low” regardless of what it was before.

  68. My understanding is that, indeed, the unemployment figures reflect those currently receiving benefits. The measure of the rate of increase or decrease of joblessness is the number of new unemployment claims each month.

    These figures have never represented those who, for whatever reason, either do not file for or are not eligible for unemployment, those in the underground economy both criminal and noncriminal, or those of us who don’t show up as employed because of some flavor of self-employment that doesn’t get reported.

    Those of us who operate one-man sole proprietorships and have a part time job on the side are often misreported as “unemployed” or “underemployed.” Take these factors all into account, and its nearly impossible to tell whether we’re in better or worse shape, employment-wise, than we know.

  69. Joe says: “Eric, “Clinton’s” 5.6 in 1996 was considerably lower than the rate had been in the years before. “Bush’s” 5-6% is higher than unemployment had been in the past few years.”

    Sure, Joe, late ’98 through mid-2000 were boom times, no doubt. It wasn’t due to Bill Clinton, except if you count that his Republican-initiated, Clinton implemented welfare reform really boosted people’s confidence.

    But, the stock market wasn’t gonna stay like that (at least I knew that and didn’t lose my ass, how bout y’all??? ;-} Many jobs were in companies that never made a cent in revenue, much less in profits. So, some of those geeks and others were just employed by speculation stockholders. When the big $$ from said bubble went away, so did the jobs.

    To say the economy is bad now is showing that you have no long-term memory or else you are under 30 and take everything from the media straight-up. The 1970’s were pretty lame and make today’s economy look fantastic. Also, there were polyester leisure suit which would start to stink after you wore them one night, and don’t even get me started on disco. Not exactly the good ole days, Joseph, do you remember??

  70. Ruthless
    As a fellow resident of the “key” state of Ohio, perhaps you’d care to comment on how Gov. Boob Taft and his fellow tax-and-spend Repugnants could be a millstone around Dubya’s chances.

    …and does this change if Blackwell manages to get the 1% sales tax rollback on the ballot?

  71. “If Kerry wins the electoral college but, thanks to Nader, comes in second in the popular vote, will the Republicans have the chutzpah to complain?”

    I think the real question is, will Democrats have the consistency to demand Kerry step aside from his clearly illegitimate presidency?

  72. Kids, in 1983 unemployment was at 12%, so I’m getting tired of all the whining as it hovers around 6%. (Reagan got re-elected because the rate had dropped to 8% by 1984.)

    As far as the Muslim countries, the second they’re happy with U.S. policies is the second we have to change them.

  73. From real-flesh and overheard conversations, it seems many people in my world are geeting money back this year, too. I don’t think I hang out with “the rich”, at least not exclusively. From the same sources, there is difficulty finding work that pays as well as it did in 2000. Statistically and historically, the economy is doing well. From popular perspective, not so much. The state is measured by statistics against history, so I think to an economist, Bush (and the Dems who voted for his legislation 😉 ) is making an acceptable muddle of things. To a voter animating that popular perspective, Bush might be in trouble today. There’s a long time to make his case, and as Gillespie pointed out, the competition is not too inspiring.

  74. Oh yeah: My defense of the current economy aside, there’s no way I’m voting for Bush. He has wimped out on gun rights, smaller government and immigration. He will lose many voters on these issues – most of those will not vote period, which is too bad.

    I’ll be voting libertarian, as always.

  75. Scott,
    Blackwell won’t get squat because everyone knows this is just part of his publicity for a run at Governor.

    Others:
    With regard to various economic issues swirling here: everything happens at the margin, but the margin is so elusive, even paid economists have great difficulty finding it. The terrorists seem to have found its “sweet spot,” however.

    Here at Hit and Run, we’ve found a “margin,” but not an economic one.

  76. One more “marginal” comment:
    The Dubya economy must be lousy or I wouldn’t have the time to be posting here.

  77. Eric,

    Eight years ago, the unemployment rate was still going down, which means there was probably a net movement of discouraged workers back into the labor market–just the opposite of what’s happening now.

    And there’s also the question of what *kind* of jobs the other 94.4 were working at then, as compared to now. How many good-paying manufacturing jobs are there now, after eight years? 80% of downsized manufacturing workers get worse paying jobs; that’s a lot of people, and their friends and families don’t care about a number from the Bureau of Statistics that tells them the jobs situation is just as good as in 1996.

  78. O’Ruthless (nice): I’ve become so freakin’ productive at collecting cost-plus war profits that I can afford to post all day!

  79. No, Jimmy, too young. But the topic here is voter perception and behavior, which rarely involves historical comparisons going back 25 years. Much more salient is, are you better off than you were four years ago? We’re 3 million jobs in the hole. Same with the “Clinton did it, no the Republican Congress did it” line. The buck stops here, know what I mean?

    But as far as the comparisons to the 70s go, noise is noise, but a major part of the decline in the unemployment figures since then is the dramatic drop in minority unemployment during the 1990s. That drastic change obscures the fact that there hasn’t been much of a change for white workers. (This is the part where someone cherry picks a 1979 quarter and the first quarter of 2001, and claims to prove me wrong.)

  80. Why the obsession with “manufacturing” jobs? Quit whining and take some (state-paid?) training to learn how to design robots to do your old job, or learn to manage Cambodians who can do your job for a tenth the cost. It is easier to be a victim, eh?

    Jefferson was 18th century, Hamilton 19th. Get with the 21st, baby!

  81. You drawing from your vast personal experience with having your manufacturing job downsized, Mark?

    Didn’t think so.

  82. Smartypants (joe): My old job replaced manufacturing jobs. In graphic arts, the old-line union strippers didn’t want to learn how to assemble for print using computers; they loved their knives. So I took their candy while listening to their whining. I made more per hour while increasing the corporations’ earnings. The only losers were those who had some fantasy that the world never changes.

    In real life, I know that it is hard on the people who lose a job. I’ve lost more than one. I adapted. I expect the same from my fellow Americans.

  83. Joe asks,
    “are you better off than you were four years ago?”

    Yes, I am. I make more money than I did, drive a nicer car, and have made improvements to my house. I know not everyone can say the same, but I’m also not the only one who is better off than I was four years ago. That argument will only go so far.

    It must be said that I neither blame/credit Dubya for this.

  84. No, Joe, a drop in minority employment is a good thing but cannot nearly account for a drop in total American unemployment from the 10% range to 5-6%. Do the math, or let me know if you need me to. BTW, I wonder if most of the decrease in black unemployment is due to how many black males are in jail and employed very well at license-tag making and cornholio due to the “drug war”. (might be a point of agreement, Joe?)

    Yeah, observing current economic data without any reference to recent history does work for the media and gullible voters (usually under 30 or Joe’s age ;-} I don’t thing everyone is that easily fooled though.

    If you weren’t there (in the 70’s, that is) don’t go correcting me, as I was, and it did indeed suck economically, fabric-wise, and disco-wise.

  85. Joe-

    If Kerry wins the electoral vote but loses the popular vote, I suspect that right-wingers will demand that Democrats be consistent, asking Democrats to declare Kerry illegitimate. Some will probably also go so far as to declare him illegitimate for losing the popular vote, completely oblivious to the fact that the same happened to Bush in 2000.

    Finally, on the fringes, we’ll probably be told that the only reason Kerry won the electoral vote is that he engaged in massive voter fraud in swing states.

  86. Oops, forgot to change my name to O’thoreau

  87. Thoreau,
    This right-winger wouldn’t claim any of that. If Kerry won the electoral but lost the popular, then he’s the legit president. Period.

    It would be tempting to press Dems about their consistency issue, which some right-wingers probably wouldn’t resist, but only to highlight Dem hypocrisy.

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