Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Do You Measure Yourself Against Other Presidents? By Height.

Hugh Hewitt records the surface data of the American economy on this past election day to begin his assault on the President-Elect:

When Barack Obama was elected:

The inflation rate was 3.7%
Unemployment was 6.5%
The prime was at 4%
The Dow closed at 9,625
The NASDAQ closed at 1,780
The S&P closed at 1,005
Oil was $60 a barrel.
U.S. monthly domestic oil production: appx 155 million barrels
U.S. proven oil reserves: 21.3 billion barrels
U.S. offshore proven reserves: 3.9 billion barrels

Hewitt proclaims these are the proper numbers to measure Obama's success. Of course, Hugh Hewitt is wrong, but at least he's dumb.

For starters, assuming there is an accurate, universally accepted empiric to measure the success of a President's policies as applied to the economy, wouldn't you begin your assessment period when the individual actually takes office on January 20 and can actually put these policies in place? Of course not. Why would you? The numbers could be worse on that day and make it much easier for Obama to improve on Hewitt's statistical window-dressing.

How about the stock market? It has always been more skittish than Howard Hughes sitting first row at a Gallagher show during the watermelon smash (non sequitur - how can you possibly live with yourself after paying money to go to a Gallagher show? Suicide isn't selfish, despite what people tell you.). The stock market clumsily measures overall investor confidence, not necessarily the fundamentals of the economy (which "are strong" as John McCain assuaged us during the campaign). But I'll play along. Here's a number: 10,609 - the Dow's closing average on the day George W. Bush took office. We'll check back on January 19, 2009 using Hugh's metric.

And the oil numbers? More right-wing obfuscation of the real problem with the current Republican administration's (lest we forget Bush still reigns) energy policy and the cavalier attitude of the American consumer. It's the numerical representation of the woefully dim GOP mantra "drill, baby, drill," despite endorsement by our nation's foremost energy expert, Sarah Palin.

At the end of Obama's first term, I will measure success by the proportion of domestic production/consumption of renewable, clean energy sources versus fossil fuels and petro-products. By the end of his second term, Obama's legacy will be measured by whether we can see our society free and clear of Middle Eastern oil and within two years of total energy independence (or pretty damn close). I will hold our new President to his Kennedy-esque pronouncement of realizing energy independence within 10 years. Jack's vision got us to the moon. Barack's vision should get us to the moon again using a spaceship powered by solar sails and a hydrogen fuel cell.

Hugh, let's cut away the rhetorical excess, shall we, and get down to brass tacks. One number - the Unemployment Rate - for the whole shebang. The Potatoe will record it on January 20, 2009 and wager . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . ONE EURO . . . that the number will be lower at the inception of Obama's second term, January 20, 2013.

Look, I know the stakes aren't that high, but we're in a rough patch here just like the rest of you. Hugh, be thankful it wasn't one dollar.

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