“What does it all mean, Daddy?” “We’re not very smart son.”
Last week both the president and the GOP presidential hopefuls echoed the now well memorized mantra that would have everyone in the country believe everything is just wonderful. “The basic economy is still strong, inflation is low, and the unemployment rate remains near record lows.”
Everyone has heard the saw, “there are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics.” That’s sort of a kill-the-messenger, ad homonym attack on those using statistical data in an argument by those who would suggest that the mere effort is without merit.
But everything in and about life is subject to statistical analysis and fairly accurate prediction; the number of times you’ll likely brush your teeth in a year, your odds at crossing the street safely, how long you’ll live, the likelihood you’ll spend more in a grocery store under conditions specifically designed to help you mindlessly swipe your debit or credit card through the checkout counter device.
Look, marketers and insurance companies didn’t convert the US population into one of rabid consumers by dint of ignorant serendipitous luck.
Currently there are 47 million who have no health insurance, and untold millions more who are seriously underinsured. According to the Department of Labor, every week, employers as a group determine that they can no longer afford to provide 50,000 Americans with health coverage of any kind. Thousands more employees are being confronted weekly with the need to contribute more while their employers contribute less, for less and less protection. Governor Hucklebee’s says the solution is for more folks to begin jogging. Senator McCain claims the situation can be turned around by providing consumers with more choices. Mitt Romney just says “What, me worry?”
As I’ve been involved in hawking health and life insurance since 1995, I still have some old premium rate charts around. The premiums for both family coverage and individuals since 2001 have nearly doubled!
Not to worry, though; we’ve all been reminded by the Republican spin machine how inflation is under control and how everyone is working. Only the malingerers are out of work. All that said, it just sort of reminds me of the Groucho Marx response to his wife who caught him in bed with another woman, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lying eyes.”
And from those Republicans who acknowledge there appear to be some economic storm clouds off the horizon we get the melody that “Now is the time when the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire, now is the time to cut taxes farther.” If you listen only to the GOP talking points, tax cuts increase revenue. That logically ridiculous proposition suggests the federal government would be an infinite multiple of trillions of dollars ahead if taxes were eliminated altogether. It also begs the question of Senator McCain: if as you claimed, you opposed the cuts in the first part of the Bush presidency because they weren’t offset with spending cuts, why would something that “enhanced revenue” need an offset?
(Toward the pursuit of integrity of my little piece here, I’ve got to insert the fact that two highly placed and respected Republicans did not go along with the silliness. Douglas Holt-Eakin, formerly head of the Congressional Budget Office, and David Walker, Comptroller General/Head of the Government Accountability Office testified repeatedly before congressional and senate committees that it was the tax cuts that were overwhelmingly responsible for the annual budget deficits, and that no amount of cutting would have been significantly ameliorative of an economic circumstance that would eventually prove dire.)
But I digress. My objective is to insert fact into a discussion that can wonder from the least factual.
When Ronald Reagan, in his 1980 run for the office, suggested everyone ask him- or herself “Are you better off today than you were?” I recommend America repeat the assignment. To help, with attribution, I’ve included just a few pieces of statistical data; statistical, because they’re average, and “average, by definition is a statistical construct.
According to http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/2000.html
the following were extant national averages at the end of 2000:
Average Cost of new house $134,150.00
Average Income per year $40,343.00
Cost of a gallon of Gas $1.26Cost of a gallon of milk $2.99
Average cost of new car $24,750.00
US Postage Stamp 33 cents
1 LB of Bacon $2.97
Loaf of Bread $1.72
Dozen Eggs 89 cents
(I crosschecked the preceding consumer prices at the Department of Agriculture website, usda.gov. Be my guest if you’re sufficiently skeptical or are a cynic.)