NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 23, 2004

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry claims the American middle class has been faring miserably under President Bush's stewardship of the economy.

Kerry's downbeat economic talk may be inevitable for a candidate challenging an incumbent's record in the wake of a recession. But as the economy blooms, his "middle-class misery index's" credibility is wilting, says USA Today.

Moreover, say observers, Kerry's index paints a partial inflation picture, it ignores the economic recovery and it overstates the nation's "misery":

  • It plots the rise in costs for health care, gasoline and college tuition, which have risen sharply during Bush's presidency, but it ignores falling or stable prices for other items - from cars to computers to clothing.
  • It also ignores the relatively low unemployment rate of 5.6 percent, record low interest rates and a stock market up 40 percent from its 2002 lows, despite recent doldrums.
  • Most measures of economic health, while below levels of the booming 1990s, have been heading upward; the economy has added an impressive 1.2 million jobs since January, inflation rose a modest 2 percent over the past year, and wages are picking up.
  • The traditional misery index is a respectable 7.8 percent so far this year and that compares with a high of 20.6 percent in 1980 and a low of 6.1 percent in 1998; it has averaged 7.7 percent under Bush, lower than in any presidential term in the past 30 years, except for Bill Clinton's second.

Exaggerating the nation's economic misery is not wise policy or politics. The nation is looking for an upbeat problem-solver, not a gloomy naysayer, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, "Kerry's gloomy notes about economy ring hollow," USA Today, June 23, 2004.

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