April 9, 2007

GOOD QUESTION: “Under Bush, unemployment dropped to numbers seldom seen — far below the Clinton years. Clinton’s people counter with well, the stock market took off when he was prez. Wait a second, aren’t Republicans supposed to be the Wall Street guys while Democrats are the blue collar guys?”

UPDATE: Meg Kreikemeier emails:

Just to clarify the Washington Examiner piece about the unemployment numbers during the Bush and Clinton adminstrations. The White House was quoted comparing the unemployment rates at similar points of expansion. The Clinton Adminstration did have lower unemployment rates than the current low of 4.4% for the Bush Administration as this data shows from the BLS.

That said, the current economy is strong despite a cataclysmic terrorist attack, a devastating hurricane, high gas prices and incessant, negative reporting. As I’m sure you can imagine, chronic negative reporting does affect the public’s opinion even when the facts belie the media’s and politicians’ misrepresentations.

The media and naysayers will always try to find something negative to focus on like the increase in wages last year, which they complained didn’t exist until long after the labor numbers supported the trend, and which are now channeled into inflation worries.

Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Related thoughts from Jonathan Gewirtz:

The stock market didn’t take off until 1997, after the Republicans won a House majority and passed a capital-gains tax-rate cut that Clinton, to his credit, signed. But like welfare reform, another popular initiative that Clinton had no choice but to go along with, it was an essentially Republican idea that Congressional Democrats blocked as long as they could. And now that we are again enjoying a strong economy and stock market, in part because of Bush’s 2003 capital-gains tax-rate reduction, Democrats who want to raise taxes by canceling that tax reduction want us to believe that Clinton was solely responsible for the late-’90s boom.

I think that this gives Clinton — and Bob Rubin and Gene Sperling — too little credit. Clinton’s economic policies were quite good, and if the Clinton Administration rode the tech bubble a bit too long and hard, well, so did a lot of other people who should have known better. In particular, the Clinton Administration’s pursuit of free trade, against considerable opposition from people on the left, was both brave and correct.

MORE: Note Gewirtz’s update, though he says it doesn’t affect his point.

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