Mark Twain once observed that there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics” and John Kerry is proving that statement true with his miserable “misery index”, a compilation of economic factors that’s supposed to show that George W. Bush has created “the worst economy in 30 years.”
Except Kerry’s “misery index” is an exercise in misleading statistics.
First, Kerry deliberately underplays the effect of the Bush tax cuts on real wages. The Kerry “misery index” also deliberately selects statistics that make the economy look worse than it actually is. It’s a selective use of evidence that offers no substantive economic claims and instead is little more than an exercise in partisanship.
Second, Kerry’s misery index includes factors such as gas prices that are highly variable. The cost of gas has huge regional differences – for example, I filled up at my local station for $1.65/gallon, while if I were living on the Left Coast of California I’d be paying close to double that. Furthermore, the price of gas could fall at any time if OPEC realizes that starving their economies of money by lowering oil production isn’t a sustainable strategy. Furthermore, the price of state university tuitions doesn’t have anything to do with Bush Administration policy – those are due to the way in which states spent like drunken sailors during the boom without a consideration of what would happen when they got stuck with the check.
The real misery index is a combination of unemployment rate and inflation, and is a proven economic measurement rather than a selective use of statistics. There’s a reason why Kerry isn’t using the real misery index and is inventing his own: the misery index for the first term of Bill Clinton was about 8.75.
It’s clear that Kerry is engaging in an effort to paint the economy in the worst possible light – another sign of the increasing desperation of the Kerry campaign. After weeks of bad news for the Bush Administration, the best Kerry can do is tie with Bush. If the situation in Iraq dies down and the economy continues to improve, Kerry’s political misery index is likely to dramatically increase come November.
UPDATE: Powerline finds an Annenberg Center report that illustrates why Kerry’s “misery index” is just more bad math.