Everyone else on this 757 is annoyed. Not me. I am . . . thrilled. We are at the gate, well past our departure time. The captain has explained that the truck that came to back us out of our gate somehow broke the tow-bar that pulls the plane. They are off searching for another tow bar, and a mechanic has been dispatched to inspect the nose wheel for damage. Things should be fine, but we now expect to arrive in New York an hour late.

I am so happy I can hardly stand it.

First, although I failed to get upgraded, there is no one sitting next to me in an otherwise packed plane. Pure bliss.

Second, we will now not land in New York State until after midnight – until the next day, technically speaking. I won’t go into the whole sordid tale, but let’s just say that the New York City Department of Finance and I have a longstanding, cordial but frosty relationship. I love New York, I pay lots of taxes to New York, but . . . well, someday, if you’ve been particularly bad, I will force you to hear the full story as your punishment.*

But third, and mainly, I take this as an omen (yes, it has come to this; I am now grasping at omens) . . . specifically, an omen that the much heralded Borealis-owned subsidiary that claims to have an electric motor that will allow pilots to drive their jets around the tarmac like golf carts – that will allow them to back up from their gates unassisted – just might prove out. Supposedly, this is the month the test will be performed. I assume the test will be postponed, delayed, or – somehow – inconclusive. Or just outright fail. Not to assume the worst is to set oneself up for terrible disappointment; for, as I have explained at great length, in case this company’s claims do pan out, even a little, I will no longer have to save soap slivers. I might even, on occasion, buy a first class ticket rather than hope for the upgrade. (Well, no I wouldn’t; but you get my drift.)

To be sure, ‘omens’ are nowhere covered in Graham & Dodd. No investor I know (or pharaoh, for that matter) has ever profited in any significant way from omens. But you’re not going to talk me down from this high. We will be landing in 45 minutes.

*Suffice it to say that New York requires me to prove each year how many days I spend there (or, more accurately, do not spend there). And if I come for dinner and leave on the 6am shuttle – a total of 12 hours – that counts as two full days.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS

Howard W.: ‘You have mentioned a few times how economic conditions tend to be better under Democrats. Michael Kinsley’s current column in the Los Angeles Times supports your assertion.’

Democratic Superiority, by the Numbers
By Michael Kinsley
Sunday, April 3, 2005; Page B07

It was the TV talker Chris Matthews, I believe, who first labeled Democrats and Republicans the “Mommy Party” and the “Daddy Party.” Archaic as these stereotypes may be, they do capture general attitudes about the two parties. But we live in the age of the one-parent family, and it is Mom more often than Dad who must play both roles.

It has not escaped notice that the Daddy Party has been fiscally misbehaving. But it hasn’t really sunk in how completely Republicans have abandoned allegedly Republican values — if in fact they ever really had such values.

Our text today is the statistical tables of the 2005 Economic Report of the President. I did this exercise a while back with the 2004 tables and couldn’t quite believe the results. But the 2005 data confirm it: The party with the best record of serving Republican economic values is the Democrats. It isn’t even close.

The Republican values I refer to are universal. We all want prosperity, oppose unemployment, dislike inflation, don’t enjoy paying taxes, etc. These values are Republican only in the sense that Republicans are supposed to treasure them more and to be more reluctant to sacrifice them for other goals such as equality and clean air.

Statistics back to 1959 make this clear. A consistent pattern over 45 years cannot be explained by shorter-term factors, such as war or who controls Congress. Maybe presidents can’t affect the economy much, but the assumption that they can and do is so prominent in Republican rhetoric that they are stuck with it. So consider:

Federal spending (aka “big government”): It has gone up an average of about $50 billion a year under presidents of both parties. But that breaks down as $35 billion a year under Democratic presidents and $60 billion under Republicans. If you assume that it takes a year for a president’s policies to take effect, Democrats have raised spending by $40 billion a year and Republicans by $55 billion.

Leaning over backward even farther, let’s start our measurement in 1981, the date when many Republicans believe that life as we know it began. The result: Democrats still have a better record at smaller government. Republican presidents added more government spending for each year they served, whether you credit them with the actual years they served or with the year that followed.

Federal revenue (aka taxes): You can’t take it away from them: Republicans do cut taxes. Or rather, tax revenue goes up under both parties but about half as fast under Republicans. It’s the only test of Republican economics that the Republicans win.

That is, they win if you consider lower federal revenue to be a victory. Sometimes Republicans say that cutting taxes will raise government revenue by stimulating the economy. And sometimes they say that lower revenue is good because it will lead (by some mysterious process) to lower spending.

The numbers in the Economic Report of the President undermine both theories. Spending goes up faster under Republican presidents than under Democratic ones. And the economy grows faster under Democrats than Republicans. What grows faster under Republicans is debt.

Under Republican presidents since 1960, the federal deficit has averaged $131 billion a year. Under Democrats, that figure is $30 billion. In an average Republican year, the deficit has grown by $36 billion. In the average Democratic year it has shrunk by $25 billion. The national debt has gone up more than $200 billion a year under Republican presidents and less than $100 billion a year under Democrats.

As for measures of general prosperity, each president inherits the economy. What counts is what happens next. Let’s take just two measures, although they all show the same thing: Democrats do better under every variation. From 1960 to 2005 the gross domestic product measured in year-2000 dollars rose an average of $165 billion a year under Republican presidents and $212 billion a year under Democrats. Measured from 1989, or measured with a one-year delay, or both, the results are similar. And how about this one? The average annual rise in real per capita income — that’s the statistic that puts money in your pocket. Democrats score about 30 percent higher.

Democratic presidents have a better record on inflation (averaging 3.13 percent compared with 3.89 percent for Republicans) and on unemployment (5.33 percent versus 6.38 percent). Unemployment went down in the average Democratic year, up in the average Republican one.

Almost forgot: If you start in 1981 and if you factor in a year’s delay, Republican presidents edge out Democratic ones on inflation, 4.57 to 4.36. Congratulations.

☞ Michael is missing the point. Things are much better under Republican administrations if you’re rich and powerful. Blessed are the mega-rich, who save $246,000 in taxes on every $1 million of dividends. Seen in that light – never mind this year’s $700 billion deficit – the Republican leadership has done the citizenry proud.

 

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