Misleading Going on at the Hill… and the National Review

Many folks have an odd way of dealing with economic issues and presenting shading facts. Case in point, here’s David Freddoso of the National Reviewpassing along a something by a “Hill staffer”.

Basically, its a table that shows a comparison of Key Labor Market Statistics in March 1996 and March 2008. I reproduced the first few lines:

(Note… I mislabeled the second column… its March 2008…. apologies!)

Makes GW look good relative to Clinton, right? Well, since March 1996 and March 2008 are 12 years apart, I extended the table to include March 1984:

Wow… if Clinton looked bad in the first graph, Reagan looks plain awful. My guess is neither the Hill staffer nor Freddoso who passed this piece of work along would say both GW and Clinton were much better than Reagan at employment issues, but then, that’s the prerogative of a shameless cherry-picker.

By the way, to make it easy, all the data comes from FRED. I put a question mark in the discouraged worker section ’cause I was in a hurry and it didn’t turn up quickly. Sorry about that.

So let’s take a look at Reagan, Clinton, and GW, as well as GHW since he’s in the middle there, in a more reasonable way. Let’s look how things changed from when they took office to when they left office…

As per the above graph, Reagan got better by every measure, GHW got worse by every measure, Clinton got better by every measure (and seems to outdo Reagan, I might add), and GW did worse by every measure.

Not at all like the conclusion one would draw from looking at what’s being passed around by Republican staffers on the Hill or David Freddoso, is it? This is the kind of thing that would make Sowell proud… the data presented is accurate but oh, so misleading.

Even fellow denizen of the National Review Ramesh Ponnuru is embarassed by this nonsense:

Boy, I hope Republicans and conservatives don’t take that line on the economy. Yes, it is true that on the cited measures we are not doing that poorly. It is true as well that people are used to better numbers on unemployment and inflation than prevailed from the early 1970s through the mid-1990s. But they are not wrong to judge the economy by the standards we have shown the contemporary economy can meet, and they are surely not wrong to pay attention to the direction in which those indicators are going.

And now consider this… the “analysis” at the top is being passed around by Hill staffers. This is how the folks who write the laws in this country think. Not a good sign at all.

Ah… since I mentioned Sowell, its worth mentioning the National Review had one of his pieces up this week too:

Among the many wise things said by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was that you are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. Yet an incredible number of people make up whatever “facts” are needed to support whatever they choose to believe.

Thomas Sowell, of all people, writes that.