Sunday, April 11, 2004

Kerry Mystery Theater - Origami Economics

Remember when Reagan nailed Carter with the "Misery Index"? It was plain, simple, easy to understand - add unemployment and inflation. More people were unemployed and the cost of living was going up. Clear. Easy to add. 7.1% unemployment + 12.5% inflation = a Misery Index of 19.6.

Kerry tried pounding W on unemployment. Then March numbers came out. 308,000 added jobs. OK, nevermind.

Now, he has a new misery index. We'll call it the "OMI," (pronounced, "oh, my!") for Origami Misery Index. The miserable part is trying to calculate it and make sense of your answer. Kerry's website is no help - doesn't mention it. It begs the question: Is this another trial balloon?

Let's return to the first linked article for clues. The variables are reported to be "a combination of soaring college and health care costs and stagnant incomes."

First issue: college tuition. Dual system of public and private schools. In our capitalistic society, we do not tell private institutions of any kind what they can charge for their product (with the obvious exception of regulated industries). Prices are set by supply and demand. If Stanford wants to price itself out of the market, that is up to them.

Fox News has an article from September 2003 that is instructive and worth the read. An excerpt: " ... the average yearly 9.6 percent jump in state school tuition comes to just $356 more per year. And even with the increases, the average tuition for a four-year public college is $4,081." State colleges have wonderful teachers, dedicated teachers. I know. I am one.

Second issue: health-care costs. I bristle whenever the dems bring up this issue. It introduces comparisons to the high taxes and poorly run systems in Canada and England. Universal health care is universally bad. Why does England have private hospitals? Why do Canadians come to the US? But let's bite for a moment. No, wait, I refuse. America has the best quality of health care in the world. Everyone comes here to be treated. There may be problems, but there isn't a better system out there. You can only control prices by regulating the industry. Take you socialist ideas and run for office in Europe - we don't want it here.

Third issue: stagnant incomes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics allows you to create your own table of historical data. I checked "Total Private" in the first column, then went to the bottom of the page and selected "Retreive Data." Maybe I'm silly or not too bright, maybe I shouldn't rely on my Economics undergrad so much, but I don't see flat earnings. I do see relatively flat inflation.

So Kerry's Origami Misery Index isn't highlighting some critical, grossly unfair, burdensome situation. It is, yet again, his nuanced mind finding something to talk about.

Maybe it's because he likes the phrase ... Misery Index ... sorta rolls off the sophisticated palate like so much goose liver pate. The problem for Kerry is that when Reagan said it, we looked away from him for someone who fit the bill - and we found the tired-looking Carter; when Kerry says it, our eyes remain fixed.

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