Monday, August 08, 2005

More on employment and the common weal

SOMEWHERE there exists research that reduces the unemployment rate to a straightforward algorithm for predicting the consequences: n points of additional unemployment produces x and y of so much other results.

I think I learned this in that distant age before the Internets, so I'm not turning it up quickly when I Google around for it. (Either that, or I simply lack the google fu to turn it up.) So instead of actually looking up the real research -- which MUST be out there -- I instead turn to a handy back-of-the-envelope for some quick calculations.

Take the recession under Bush the Greater - the overall mortality rate jumped from 8.5/1000 to 8.8/thousand, for about 3 years. (Yes, most of this persisted into the Clinton years; but I think it's likely that the death rate lags the economic circumstances, in both directions. People don't usually drop dead immediately after being laid off: they cut corners on their prescriptions, skip doctor's appointments, etc. The changes in the mortality rates must come a year or two later.)

Anyway, cranking this through, deaths were running around 2.1m/year, in a pop. of 275?m, so a change of 0.3/1000 must be about 65,000 additional deaths above the EV. Three years of this must easily go 200,000. Then factor in the fact that the EV for the death rate would reasonably have been expected to continue its historic decline (instead of the increase we actually got...).

Think of that: even a downturn as mild as the First Bush Recession may be said to have caused something like a quarter-million excess American deaths.

Why wasn't that on a "Clinton '92 " bumper sticker?

I'm almost afraid to run the numbers on the Reagan Depression.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

At last, a political post. (It even has NUMBERS!)

Good numbers in today's employment news.

A co-worker listens to talk radio so that I don't have to. He notes that two different callers to one of the national talk shows excused Bush's five-week wartime vacation by noting that, after all, Clinton let his family ride AF One.

Which got me reflecting on the differences between presidents, between the parties. And why so many people don't see them. (Talk-radio listeners who will excuse anything of Bush because Clinton Once Told a Lie; co-workers who don't recognize a difference between JFK and the current fool; my conservative friend who can canonize RR, because he was literally at sea during the worst years of the Reagan Depression.)

I was browsing through the unemployment stats, and it's quite remarkable just how bad Republicans are for the nation.
[Methodological note: transitional months are counted for the outgoing administrations (Januarys, August '74...).]

Every time the GOP sneaks back into power, millions of Americans directly suffer. Besides the direct consequences of joblessness (poverty!), unemployment also means more health problems, more crime, more domestic violence, more divorce, more abortions, lower rates of home ownership, etc. Every bad index goes up when the jobless rate goes up.

I'm coming up on 50, I've seen exactly 20 years of Dems, 30 years of Rs. Over my lifetime, the unemployment rate has moved between a low of 3.4% (at the end of the 1960s) to a high of 10.8% (under what the propagandists try to convince us were the "boom years" of Reagan).

In the last 50 years, 600 months:

unemployment was under 4% for 58 months -- 18 months under Rs, 40 months under Ds. Most of the Good Times were under LBJ, some under Clinton. (And, to quibble, 12 of those 18 'R' months were the first year of Nixon's term, the other 6 were back under Ike... basically, in my post-toddler lifetime, ALL the good times have been under Democratic presidents.)

unemployment was under 5% for a total of 148 months -- 54 months under Rs, 94 months under Ds.
[Note that, if this were random, the EVs would be just about reversed. (~89/59) Or, to put it another way, when measured by low unemployment, Democratic presidents are about twice as good for American workers.]

When, in my lifetime, has unemployment ever been over 10%?
- ONLY during one ten-month depression, under Reagan.
Prior to Reagan, unemployment had not been over 10% since before Pearl Harbor. The Reagan administration deliberately induced the worst economic times since the Great Depression. The Reagan Years were the worst of the entire second half of the Twentieth Century.

When was unemployment ever over 9%?
- 20 months, almost all under Reagan, but also including one month under Ford.

When was unemployment ever over 8%?
- 39 months, all under Reagan and Ford.

When was unemployment ever over 7%?
- a total of 122 months, 99 months under Republican presidents, 23 months under Democrats (Again: to quibble, five of those 23 months were the start of Clinton's first term, as he started undoing the damage of 12 years of Reagan-Bush. The big surprise of this look at the numbers was how HIGH unemployment was in Camelot.)

Unemployment went over 4% in January 1970, and did not return to under 4% until April 2000: 30 straight years, most of my life to date. (When you take the long view like this, it's interesting to note that I got hired for my first real job in the depths of the Reagan Depression - the hardest times since before the war.)

To summarize:
1) In the post-war era, the only times when the official unemployment rate has EVER gone over 8% have been under Republican - and ONLY under Republicans. With all the human suffering that implies.
2) Even as bad as he was, the Clinton administration was simply the best era we have had in the post-war era. (He trumps Truman and LBJ: best economy, and without thousands of American casualties.)

So how can anyone who works for a living ever pull the lever for the Republicans?
Or: how do you get this information onto a bumper sticker?

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