Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mitt Romney's Misery Index

Today in The Raw Story there is an article titled:  Romney says he'll 'hang' Obama at GOP group dinner. Of course the title is worded to create the impression- especially to liberals who are primed by recent events - that Mitt was spotted saying something that betrays an underlying racism.The white man wants to hang the black man, and he's going to do in front of eager witnesses at a GOP dinner! (Ok, that last bit is silly, but then so is the title.) Conservatives might have a different response to the title; something along the lines of preparing to defend against "liberal accusations of racism". For starters. But here is what we learn when we read about what poor Mitt said: 
Referring to Ronald Reagan's "misery index" that he wanted to "hang around Jimmy Carter's neck" in the 1980 presidential election, Romney said of Obama, "Well, we’re going to have to hang the ‘Obama Misery Index’ around his neck.
There is nothing racist in that comment that I can see. He is suggesting that Obama should be blamed for the economic misery; wear the mantle of blame. But then,

Romney continued, "We’re going to hang him..." before pausing, Politico reported, then continuing and clarifying. So to speak metaphorically. You have to be careful.
This changes the metaphor. The "Obama Misery Index" is now a noose from which to hang the president. Giving Mitt the benefit of the doubt, I did a little Googling. I reasoned that if Reagan had made some reference to "hanging" Carter with this metaphorical mantle, I would attribute Romney's gaffe to political insensitivity.

I found the inspiration behind Romney's words in his own March 8, 2011 opinion article at Boston In this article, the mantle does not become a noose. What Mitt Romney did, in front of his GOP audience, was to creatively add to his own initial metaphor in a dog-whistle to the base. I don't believe that Mitt Romney is "a racist", but he is a politician who knows what appeals to Obama haters who fill his would-be base by at least half. I believe he sincerely regrets the gaffe and especially having been called out for making it.

The story doesn't end here. In fact, the gaffe pales in comparison to his outright bullshit on the "Obama Misery Index". The the corporate media are now dancing with the clowns and the ponies, instead of fact-checking his malicious misrepresentation of the Misery Index (MI) in the Boston Herald opinion piece and likely in his speech at the GOP dinner.

Wonk alert, 3 paragraphs:  

Carter's MI was at a record high of 21.98% in June of 1980.When Reagan took office in 1981, the Misery Index was 19.33%. Skipping then to the Clinton years, one can see that the MI was 10.56 at the start and went to a term low of 5.74 in April, 1998. (Note:  This terrific MI and a backlash against Republicans for Clinton's impeachment was not sufficient to change the Republican majority status in 1998.)

The MI was up to 7.93 when GW Bush took office. By August of 2008, just before the real estate bubble burst and the markets crashed, the MI had gone up to 11.47. In December, 2008, as Bush left office, the US was in a near economic depression. The MI was 7.29, reflecting 2 - 4 points of deflation.

By December, 2009 - 11 months into Obama's presidency, unemployment was at peak and we actually had some inflation coming back. The MI was 12.72. Data for March 2011 yield an MI of 11.48.

So, let's summarize:  After the worst recession since the Great Depression, the MI is the same as it was in September, 2008, when McCain proudly proclaimed that "The fundamentals of the economy are sound".

The economy is recovering slowly. Unemployment isn't getting much better due to many factors, including Viagra-like attention to the supply-side and a progressive starvation on the demand side of the economic equation.

Mitt Romney tells porkies about the economy because he banks on the fact that Republicans won't fact check anything he says. Not only that, but the Heritage Foundation can always be called upon for fancy accounting tricks that will justify almost anything Republicans want to propose. Which is, almost 100% of the time, deficit splurging tax cuts for billionaires and corporations who are shipping our jobs overseas.

Mitt, you are right about one thing:  people are miserable. But maybe you should attend some of the town halls. Sacrificing Grandma's health care so that GE and BofA can enjoy a negative tax rate isn't playing very well out where the miserable people are.

Thinking people:  Expect Republicans to use the Misery Index throughout the next 18 months, but be smart when you listen to their rhetoric. The numbers between Bush's term and Obama's term are misleading due to deflation.

Democrats:   Use the index. Look how happy we were during the Clinton years. Repeal those Bush tax cuts and let's get some revenue flowing back where it belongs:  To the good people of the USA;  98% of us.


  1. Great first post. Well done. I am glad you acknowledge the intended meaning of Romney's comment was not racist (there is a Youtube video that deliberately omits the last few words of his speech and I hate this sort of misrepresentation from ANYONE). However, you are spot on with your observation that he is a politician and, damn it, he should KNOW better. He is guilty of either deliberate rabble-rousing, almost unforgivable insensitivity, or just utter stupidity.
    Again, well done!

  2. grumbleweed, thank you for your generous review! Like you, it took me a few years and a lot of politics to get a blog launched. Cheers.

  3. Great post. I cannot stand Mitt, he is not very bright.

  4. Great post, first or otherwise.

    As for Mittens, the worst thing I usually have to say about him is that he is the biggest empty suit I've ever seen in 40+ years of following Republican politics. He has no principles other than what he thinks is best for Mitt Romney, hence his well-deserved reputation for pandering. What you described shows that he still panders to whoever he believes will do him the most good at the time, which in the long run will hurt him.

    Also, good catch about his misrepresenting the Misery Index. Most people were so busy reacting to the dog whistle that they ignored the factual error--but that takes research, not emotion.