WASHINGTON — Recently I have been making my own scholarly contribution to political scientists’ understanding of the 2004 election by identifying a rising new constituency within the electorate, the moron vote. Those who compose it are the angry, the fearful, and the unaccountably neurotic. When they beheld Dr. Howard Dean hollering in public about how very angry he was, they thought of Abraham Lincoln. Now they behold Senator John Pierre Kerry boasting of all the hair he has on his chest, the medals on his wall, and his grim plans for President George W. Bush and they think of John F. Kennedy or maybe Robespierre — Kerry is still very French-looking, n’est-ce pas?
Yet Senator Kerry has to cast his net more widely if he is to give the Bush of his tirades the promised heave-ho. Thus he now goes beyond anger and personal braggadocio to speak of economics and foreign policy. In doing so he is not merely addressing our country’s morons. He is addressing the understandably confused. For whatever reason in addressing them he merely adds to their confusion. Possibly he too is understandably confused. He sees hostilities in Iraq that have gone on beyond four months and cannot understand why our troops are not en route home. Certainly his experience in war lasted only four months and then it was homeward bound. He sees an economy that is growing at a brisk 4% or more and sees economic despair. He is the perfect candidate for the understandably confused.
Yet elections are not supposed to spread confusion. Those of us who relish democracy always hope that an election is an opportunity for debate and for spreading the truth. Once the Massachusetts Braggart has quieted down, allow me to file two caveats against his lamentations. First, in Iraq we have won the war and seem to be winning the peace. Though it would be imprudent for our government to mention it, our casualties have dropped dramatically this past month. The Iraqis may soon be governing themselves with minimum involvement from us or our heroic allies, the French and the Germans.
As for the economy, its robust growth suggests that job growth must be strong also. Yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes data declaring job growth is low, only 21,000 new jobs in February as opposed to the forecasted 125,000. Are these statistics sound? Senator Kerry does not ask that question, but some economists are asking it. One, Brian Wesbury, a man distinguished for his reading of economic trends and business achievement, has looked carefully at the economy and found job growth where others have failed to look.
Wesbury claims that in the New Economy, invigorated as it is by developments in soft-ware and technology that make founding small businesses more feasible, job creation is missed by the old way of measuring it. The old way was through the job survey called the Establishment Survey. The new way is through the survey called the Household Survey. The Establishment Survey takes into account business establishments nationwide by measuring payroll employment. “But,” writes Wesbury in the April issue of The American Spectator, “payrolls are not where the action is today. The real growth is entrepreneurial. Self-employment and Limited Liability Corporations (LLC) are growing like weeds, and these types of employment do not fit into the normal payroll.” They do fit into the Household Survey.
Whereas the Establishment Survey tells us that since the end of the recession in November 2001 payroll jobs have declined by 718,000, the Household Survey indicates 1.9 million jobs have been created. Naturally, Senator Kerry, the candidate of confusion, relies on the Establishment Survey. I doubt he has ever paid any attention to the Household Survey.
Wesbury believes that he should. It not only calculates job growth more accurately than the other survey it also has tracked a trend. For two decades self-employment has represented an ever larger percentage of post-recession job growth. In the months following the 1982 recession self-employment accounted for 5.4% of job growth. In the months following the 1991 recession it accounted for 9.3% of job growth. “Since the recession ended in November 2001,” Wesbury writes, “total household employment has climbed 2.1 million and self-employment has grown by 644,000….31.1% of all job growth in the Household Survey.”
Is it possible to have the healthy growth we now have and a decline in jobs? The understandably confused are confused by this as well they should be. If Wesbury is right, the confusion is caused by economic statisticians’ failure to keep up with our dynamic economy. The economy is growing and so is the job market.
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