The Corner

Bush’s Economic Record

In Salon, Vincent Rossmeir and Gabriel Winant write:

Until not too long ago, President Bush’s supporters could be heard to argue that the economy was the unheralded success story of his administration. In 2006, Larry Kudlow called it “The Greatest Story Never Told.” While praising Bush, Ramesh Ponnuru decried the unfairness of it all. “It seems to happen every week: Some new piece of good economic news comes out, and Republicans sink a little deeper in the polls.”

I can see how Rossmeir and Winant get that impression from the headline and the opening paragraphs of the story that our site provides to non-subscribers. But the observation they quote was not presented as an injustice to bemoan but a puzzle to understand. I ran through several theories, ending up with this one: While some economic statistics indeed looked good, others did not.

One measure of the wages of 80 percent of the workforce (those in non-supervisory positions) is “average hourly earnings.” When you adjust for inflation, including the rise in gas prices, those earnings have gone down 0.5 percent over the last two years. . . . [F]or now, people do have something real to gripe about.

If I were doing the article over with the benefit of hindsight, I would hit that theme harder–and I wouldn’t say some of the other things I said in that article at all. But I don’t think Salon characterizes the article accurately.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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