Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Misery Index All Over Again

Misery Index All Over Again

During the Dark Days of the Carter Administration, through the bleak haze of stagflation (for the under 50 crowd stagflation is: a period of slow economic growth and high unemployment (stagnation) while prices rise (inflation)--sound familiar?) we were told America's best days were past. Not that Jimmy Carter's message was that direct. He was dignified as a Presidenct should be; he used subtle language; he set a good example.

When oil prices shot through the roof, Carter was a picture of calm, addressing the nation before the comforting flame of the presidential fireplace, dressed in a cardigan sweater exhorting his fellow citizens to mind the thermostat levels and put on a sweater. Just like he did. When the prime rate hit 21.5% he maintained his composure. After all who really needs a mortgage? It's not like it's a right or anything. When the Soviet's invaded Afghanistan, he didn't take the bait, he remained focused on our thermostats and was careful not to lust in his heart anymore like he did before he was President. When our diplomatic personnel in Iran (you know, the same Iran we are not worried about having a nuclear bomb today) were held hostage for 444 days he maintained his commitment to peace, not lifting a military finger on their behalf. That work was left to the efforts of private citizens like Ross Perot and eventually, President Reagan.

Jimmy Carter was known for many things: Billy, his brother and promoter of Billy Beer; peanuts, (aw shucks); Miss Lillian, his mother; Amy's tree house on the White House lawn and...oh yes, the Misery Index--the economic index established by Arthur Okun to measure the combination of unemployment and inflation but made famous by Carter as a result of his failed economic policies. When he left office the index measured 20.76%. When he took office it stood at 13.57%.

Elected as a president of change by a country wearied from the Watergate scandals (oh to deal with such straightforward corruptness again), by the time he left office America's reputation abroad was a laughingstock, our spirit at home was crushed and our military was depleted.

I don't know about you but I am getting that deja vu feeling all over again.

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