Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Soapbox

The Sky Is Falling, the Sky Is Falling”
By Joe Shehan

In the age old story and now major animated film, Chicken Little is the spritely chick who proclaims to the world that the sky is falling. Much like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, Chicken Little’s community and family begin to not believe his proclaimations. Well, now we have the Democratic Party, and their cohorts the news media, helping to perpetuate another claim of celestial decent. But this time it is not the “sky”, but the economy that is doomed.

In 1992, then Governor Bill Clinton was able to orchestrate a come-from-behind win of the presidency with one simple motto, “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” This motto, along with the media’s depiction of an economy in recession and a third party challenger led to the defeat of President George H.W. Bush (#41 for the politically illiterate). Now, the Democratic Party is hoping to pull off yet another such victory for yet another Clinton, and also a victory for House and Senate Democrats. Frustrated with the political stalemate that exists in the current make-up of Congress, the Democrats, under the leadership of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois), are already seeking a new strategy for this next year’s Congressional campaigns, and it is going to involve the economy.

Fueled by the recent dramatic drop in the Dow, the ever present housing crisis, and let’s not forget skyrocketing energy costs, the Democrats, according to The Hill, are devising a way to take political advantage of the declining consumer confidence index. Rep. Emanuel was quoted as saying, “The executive branch gets credit for a good economy and a bad economy. That’s how it works.”

Well, if the words of the distinguished “gentleman” from Illinois are true, then this president deserves the praise for one of the best economies on record. According to the Government Accounting Office (GAO) October 2007 marks the 50th straight month of job growth, with 8.31 million jobs created since August 2003. This is the single greatest creation of jobs in our county's history. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at strong 3.9 percent in the third quarter of 2007. After-tax personal income rose per capita by 12.7 percent, at an average of over $3,800 per person since 2001. Wages grew 1.2 percent over the last 12 months. Despite the rise in energy costs and the falling housing market, consumers still were able to increase the nation’s economy by 3.9%. With numbers like these you have to wonder where the media and the Democrats are getting this idea of a recession, and a downward economy.

Looking back at the 1992 Presidential Race, political science professors at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas did a study of the impact of the media on the election. Their data revealed a wealth of information on how that the media, by controlling the perception of the economy, were able to subvert the efforts of then President Bush to proclaim an actual robust economy. Sound familiar? Many of the numbers for the economy in 1992 are the same as today’s numbers, and yet the media perpetuated the myth that the economy was in a free fall.

The Dallas Morning News is no different in its attempts to forward this myth, yet did a fairly decent job in portraying both sides today. In an article titled, “Holiday shoppers plan to spend despite economy”, the DMN reported the superficial and temporary woes of the economy, but offset it with the fact that shoppers are going to do their job to help the economy. So, if the economy was in such dire straights, how then could consumers still afford to buy gifts? According to the article, the consumers can afford to spend because of good old fashioned budgeting and scrimping. Yet, it also bears notice that many of these people who are adversely effected by the increase in energy costs and the housing woes, were also the recipient of a robust economy where higher costs are offset by hire earnings (despite what you might hear on Lou Dobbs)

Now, I am not ignoring the fact that there are some very negative aspects of our economy today, but many of these problems can be fixed by better, more comprehensive energy policies and more restraint by the mortgage companies to not give mortgages to individuals who cannot afford them. In philosophy 101 you learn that perception is not reality, but this is not necessarily true in politics. If the Democrats want to give the perception that our economy is bad and they have the answer, then those who are not informed will believe them, and the media will be happy to feed the story. But it is up to those of us who know different to get the message out there before they have a chance.

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