Jewish World Review April 8, 2004/ 17 Nissan, 5764

Wesley Pruden

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Enough to drive Democrats to drink

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Teddy Kennedy sounds like a man who needs a stiff drink.

Once the great white hope of the Democrats and having relegated himself to great white whale, Teddy is now the designated doofus for John Kerry, assigned to campaign for him in places where Monsieur Kerry can't, won't or shouldn't go.

The lot of a Democratic doofus is suddenly not a happy one. Only yesterday he could lapse easily into a lament for "the jobless economic recovery," the sad plight of the working man in East Gondola, the unemployed working mother in West Humperdink and the millions who go to bed hungry. "Jobless recovery" was the mantra that Democrats everywhere lived by. Life was about to be good, very good.

But then came the blowout job numbers. The "bad" news released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics makes mourning for the recovery as something irrelevant and relegates the mantra to the trash. Not only that, as soon as those millions give up the Atkins diet to enjoy a crust of good hot bread, they can go to bed satisfied.

Teddy went off to the Brookings Institution yesterday to sing sad songs among the choir, deploring how George W. Bush has cut unemployment benefits, failed to pay for schools for the tykes, tots and teenagers and, worst of all, is about to spend $134 billion more than expected on a prescription-drug plan for the elderly that Teddy himself helped put together.

"This president," he said, "has created the largest credibility gap since ..." He hesitated ever so slightly here, as if he was trying to decide whether to make the comparison to either Hitler or Attila the Hun. Then the phantom light bulb flashed on over his imaginary head. "... since Richard Nixon. He has broken the basic bond of trust with the American people."

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You can't help but feel a twinge of sympathy for the doofuses, who all winter had been getting a little help from their friends in the elite media in search of bits and pieces of bad news to produce an unvarying tone of gloomy mood music to go with a manufactured landscape of deep shade and dark shadow. Why wouldn't the public-opinion polls suggest that half the American public think the country is mired in recession?

The purveyors of melancholy certainly know better. The recession that began in the late months of the second Clinton administration actually ended just after September 11, and by the end of 2003, the economy was booming at a rate of more than 6 percent annually. You have to go back to the Reagan years to find numbers like that. The Club for Growth researched the so-called "misery index," determined by adding the inflation rate and the unemployment rate, to calculate a figure for the past six presidential election years.

Jimmy Carter, to no one's surprise, set a misery standard that is likely to stand until the Rockies crumble, Gibraltar falls and the Chicago Cubs win the National League pennant. The misery index stood at 20.6 percent in March 1980, which was all Ronald Reagan needed to send Mr. Jimmy home to his peanut patch. An unfavorable misery index preceded the defeat of Gerald Ford (13.5 percent) and George H.W. Bush (10.5 percent) as well.

But here's the surprise: The misery index for George W.'s administration is lowest of all six of those worthies. George W. inherited the Clinton misery index of 8.4 percent and has shaved it (so far) to 7.7 percent. You just wouldn't know it from the coverage of the economy. The Wall Street Journal calls it "the Rodney Dangerfield recovery" because, as Rodney might say, "it don't get no respect."

But that's only among the doofuses and the media elites. What has actually happened is that the economic markers have surpassed those set during the second Clinton term, which usually is presented as the greatest four years in the history of the republic. The stock markets, which went south with the pricking of the dot.com boom, have grown by a little more than a third since the peak set in 2000 and, taken together with surging home prices, have set a record for family net worth. The stunning jobs growth in March marks the seventh consecutive month of jobs gains, with 61 percent of American factories showing payroll expansion. This, too, is the highest percentage since July 2000.

Teddy had to abandon the mantra of "jobless recovery" in his remarks yesterday and lapsed into warmed-over antiwar jive talk from the Vietnam era. Soup as thin as that cries for a lot of strong drink.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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