Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Wednesday, June 05, 2002
 
Andrew Sullivan, who still hasn't figured out how to do that permalink trick, has found another and more shocking way to surprise: he actually has something nice to say today about Bill Clinton.

Hey, don't look at me like that. It's really true! As soon as I finish posting, I'm headed down to Hell for the snowball fight.

Sullivan quotes and links to this Post article with figures showing the 90's boom did lift poorer Americans as well as the rich. He uses this to make the point that "These numbers should undermine the notion that free markets and free people cannot generate wealth without immiserating the poorest. Wealth really does trickle down and up - even when a country is absorbing unprecedented numbers of poor immigrants."

Sullivan is arguing against a straw man here: nobody that I know of argues that generating wealth automatically hurts the poor. Really, such a claim would be prima facie absurd. The question is whether it automatically helps them - even with a government like the current one that actively tries to redistibute wealth upwards and mostly ignores whether any is actually being created.

What the Clinton boom really proved is that policies that conservatives have long argued, and still argue, are always destructive are in fact quite consistent with nearly ideal economic conditions. Clinton raised marginal income tax rates, which Republicans loudly predicted that would cause a recession. Instead it caused a budget surplus and soaring employment. He tightened environmental enforcement and improved worker safety. The catastrophe that conservatives confidently predicted never arrived.

Well, actually, it did. But only after Clinton left office and all his 'class warfare' policies were replaced by 'pro-growth' policies.

In addition to permalinks, Andy has trouble with just plain links. Here is the Times story he tries unsuccessfully to link to. (Registration required.)

Andy's complaint that the Times story works extra hard to make the numbers sound bad is pretty valid. The headline is Gains of 90's Did Not Lift All, Census Shows, and the lead paragraph says:

Despite the surging economy of the 1990's that brought affluence to many Americans, the poor remained entrenched, the Census Bureau reported today. The bureau's statistics for the 50 states and the District of Columbia show that 9.2 percent of families were deemed poor in 2000, a slight improvement from 10 percent in 1989.

Other numbers further down in the story do show the substantial improvements that took place in the decade.

Since Sullivan is always and exclusively looking for and finding liberal spin, he never mentions the most obvious oddity about the stories: both the Times and Post managed to publish fairly lengthy stories analyzing the 90s boom with the same thing missing - neither story ever mentions Bill Clinton. Clinton's role in the boom is so plain that even Andrew Sullivan no longer entirely denies it, but the 'liberal' media still manages not to mention it.



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