Two Fine Columns
Two of my favorite columnists have been in fine form recently. Here's Michael Kinsley, in the Washington Post, proving what should be obvious to anyone who thinks seriously about these things: that Democrats do a better job of running the country than Republicans do:
It turns out that Democratic presidents have a much better record than Republicans. They win a head-to-head comparison in almost every category. Real growth averaged 4.09 percent in Democratic years, 2.75 percent in Republican years. Unemployment was 6.44 percent on average under Republican presidents and 5.33 percent under Democrats. The federal government spent more under Republicans than Democrats (20.87 percent of gross domestic product, compared with 19.58 percent), and that remains true even if you exclude defense (13.76 for the Democrats; 14.97 for the Republicans).
What else? Inflation was lower under Democratic presidents (3.81 percent on average, compared with 4.85 percent). And annual deficits took more than twice as much of GDP under Republicans as under Democrats (2.74 percent versus 1.21 percent). Republicans won by a nose on government revenue (i.e., taxes), taking 18.12 percent of GDP compared with 18.39 percent. That, of course, is why they lost on the size of the deficit. Personal income per capita was also a bit higher in Republican years ($16,061) than in Democratic ones ($15,565). But that is because more of the Republican years came later, when the country was more prosperous already.
And here's Paul Krugman, of The New York Times, stating the obvious with his usual eloquence: that the major television news outlets are basically worthless.
Somewhere along the line, TV news stopped reporting on candidates' policies, and turned instead to trivia that supposedly reveal their personalities. We hear about Mr. Kerry's haircuts, not his health care proposals. We hear about George Bush's brush-cutting, not his environmental policies.
Even on its own terms, such reporting often gets it wrong, because journalists aren't especially good at judging character. (“He is, above all, a moralist,” wrote George Will about Jack Ryan, the Illinois Senate candidate who dropped out after embarrassing sex-club questions.) And the character issues that dominate today's reporting have historically had no bearing on leadership qualities. While planning D-Day, Dwight Eisenhower had a close, though possibly platonic, relationship with his female driver. Should that have barred him from the White House?