Saturday, September 8, 2012

Democratic Presidents Produce More Combat Deaths, Too


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Former President Bill Clinton's speech to the DNC this week was notable for several reasons.

It was notable for being such a lengthy catalog of lies and half truths, even after one considers the source.

It was notable for the skillful, earnest delivery of those lies, reminiscent of the way a younger Bill Clinton assured the American people that he did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. For those who want to believe him, he makes it easy.

It was perhaps most notable, though, for Clinton's observation that “Since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private- sector jobs. So what's the job score? Republicans: twenty-four million. Democrats: forty-two.”

This actually is not a lie, or even a half-truth. It is true that there have been many more jobs created under Democratic Presidents than under Republican Presidents, even though it is something Bill Clinton said. That's a bit like walking out into your backyard and finding a unicorn, so take a moment to savor it.

The meta-propagandists fact checkers at CNN quibble that the correct figures are actually 44.7 million for Democratic Presidents and 23.3 million for Republican Presidents, but presumably every sentient listener knew that there might be a thumb on the scale, or even 21.3 million of them.

I'm sure it was an honest mistake on Clinton's part. Maybe he just accidentally double-counted the half-million American jobs that President Johnson created in South Vietnam. Forty three times.  

Whether Democratic Presidents outpaced Republican Presidents in job creation by a factor of 2.8 or merely 1.9 isn't really the big problem. Either way, the basic point is true. It is just deeply misleading. As skilled as he is at it, Bill Clinton really only has one trick.

Ben Shapiro notes one problem with the methodology, namely the counting job creation from inauguration to inauguration. It assumes that Presidents take full control of the economy on the day they take office. Aside from not being true, this assumption is, as Shapiro notes, deeply damaging to Obama's claim to a second term. If everything that happened in the first quarter of 2009 is fully attributable to Barack Obama, re-election should not even be a possibility. Banishment would be a more appropriate outcome.

But the real problem with Clinton's sure-to-become-ubiquitous talking point is that it imputes to the President a level of power that he just doesn't have. Presidents don't get to wipe the slate clean and start the economy over from scratch; they must play the cards they are dealt. President Obama inherited a very bad hand indeed, with the bursting of the mortgage bubble. But he is far from alone in inheriting a bad hand.

His immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, inherited the bursting of the tech bubble that had helped make the late Clinton years seem so prosperous. George H.W. Bush inherited what was, at the time, the worst banking crisis since the Depression, courtesy of a real estate bubble that had left the country dotted with see-through office buildings that had been built on spec and never leased.

Ronald Reagan inherited stagflation from Jimmy Carter. Had Reagan been fixated on maximizing job creation in his first term, he never would have given political support to Paul Volcker's aggressive interest rate increases at the Federal Reserve, which succeeded in choking off inflation but at the cost of what was, at the time, the worst recession since the Depression.

Similarly, Richard Nixon inherited the inflation and various other distortions created by LBJ's guns-and-butter policies. Moreover, his elimination of those half million American jobs LBJ had created in South Vietnam was fairly popular, particularly among the men being displaced.

Actually, it makes sense that Clinton would ignore this, as the President who enjoyed probably the richest economic inheritance of the period in question. Our first Baby Boomer President inherited a remarkably robust economy, rode it as far as it would take him, and bequeathed Enron and Nortel to his successor. It's almost like some sort of metaphor.

Anyway, nobody in the MSM seems prepared to offer any such qualifications for Clinton's jobs factoid, so I will just offer a factoid of my own based on assumptions that are in no way more flawed than Clinton's:

In the past 100 years, 630,000 Americans were killed in foreign wars. So what's the body count? Republicans: 30,000. Democrats: 600,000.

A less charitable observer than myself might even argue that the grief of those 600,000 bereft mothers constitutes some sort of "war on women."

I'm rounding off the figures as Clinton did, but tweak them as you will, the ratio of dead servicemen produced by Democrats to those produced by Republicans will stay around 20:1. And even if you back out the two World Wars and use the time period Clinton used, the ratio is still 2.4:1. Even in Afghanistan, President Obama has presided over more than twice as many combat deaths as President Bush, in half the time.

Personally, I reject both factoids due to their shared reliance on an assumption of Presidential omnipotence. But I would challenge anyone accepting the jobs claim to offer logical grounds on which to reject the casualty claim.


  1. I believe that in the United States, only congress has the power to declare war, so war deaths should be attributed to congress.

    Ha ha! Just kidding! You and I both know that that little proviso of the constitution has long been ignored (along with the one that congress should print the money).

  2. Another factoid we could use. Which administrations left recessions, not yet in recovery, to their opposite party successors.
    1. LBJ left a recession to Nixon.
    2. Ford did not leave one to Carter.
    3. Carter left a recession to Reagan.
    4. Bush 1 did not leave one to Clinton (Clinton would claim otherwise, but analysis shows that recession under Bush 1 was already in strong recovery when clinton took over)
    5. Clinton left a recession to Bush.
    6. Bush left a recession to Obama.

    By my count, 3 dems left recessions to their repub successors, while only one repub left a recession to his successor. This might explain the slower job creation for repubs, they mostly inherited recessions, while dems mostly did not.

  3. It was notable for being such a lengthy catalog of lies and half truths, even after one considers the source.

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