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Sep 7, 2012

Political Stats

So, I just finished reading the BGOV article which Clinton used as a reference in his speech for the DNC last night. I have to say I was a little stunned by the 42 million to 24 million ratio he quoted. It certainly defies my intuitive speculation.
I give the former President kudos for finding a report to substantiate his numbers. At least he points to someone else if the truth somehow doesn’t match the numbers – a sort of deniable plausibility tactic to state he was simply using the BGOV numbers, a method Clinton has employed well during his public service.
Nonetheless, he used statistical values, hard facts. President Obama may not fare well from his own speech once fact-checking is performed on his statements, especially when he forgets to “blame” Bush for his claimed victories – the war in Iraq, for example. The withdrawal of troops was an executive order, yes; but it was signed by Bush, not Obama. However, that's another topic.
However, to the point of the job growth in the private sector being stronger by Democrats than Republicans since 1961, I take no dispute with the numbers. Nonetheless, I think there are several ways to look at it. And as our Chief Executive has pointed out routinely, a sitting President inherits an awful lot from his predecessor, meaning the good things too. So, lining up job growth numbers from inauguration date to inauguration date might not be a fantastic representation of efficacy.
Another thought to consider is what we all (hopefully) learned in our high school Civics class, the three branches of government. Congress probably has more influence on the economy than the Executive branch. Some could argue, citing the power of mandate and other such things, but most political savants tend to state that the legislative branch affects our financial stability more so than the President.
When we realize that the eight Clinton years of the 1990s strong economy accounts for half of the private sector jobs claimed by Democrats in this comparison, we realize that Clinton patted himself on the back more than touted the philosophical partisanship. And well he should; the economy was strong during his administration. However, what we should consider also is that six of those eight Clinton years both the House and Senate were controlled by Republicans. This should be factored into his successful statistics.
I am not saying all is rosy with the Republicans. I admit I have had several reservations about the GOP in recent years. It seems they have lost much of their focus and purpose of the party affiliation. That said, I’m not quite certain that Clinton’s numbers (borrowed numbers, of course) really paint an accurate portrayal of economics under partisan rule. But the stripped down statistics do sound good in a Slick Willy speech. However, “spin” and cherry-picked stats are being used on both sides; that’s why we don’t trust politicians.
I think it is important to know facts and stats, but also to remember that facts and stats do not necessarily tell the whole story. To quote my father, “Figures may not lie, but liars figure.” Not to say that Clinton lied [insert impeachment joke here], nor to say the BGOV report is wrong, but there exists some well-crafted “spin” in what was said. In this case, I'm not sure whether it is what it is, as it probably depends on what is is.
In closing, to demonstrate the potential misrepresentation about facts and stats, let me use pure numbers from the very BGOV report used in last night’s speech. I believe most will remember the difference between the Carter years and the Reagan years, and if not, it’s not hard to find what the public opinion and economic growth comparisons are. Jimmy Carter’s administration outperformed Reagan’s numbers by 35,000 private-sector jobs per month on average. This translates to Carter's economic development being roughly 25 percent stronger...based on the pure statistics.
Think about that.

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