Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What is the Truth about the Economy?

This morning I was listening to a former intelligence analyst on KPFA's Morning Show. He was explaining how the National Intelligence Estimate works and why its results were so valuable. This led to the inevitable question having to do with Bush's comment yesterday that he had only known the results for a week. The analyst invoked a verb I seldom hear on any of the mass media. He said that the President had "prevaricated" in making that statement. Without going into the semantic subtleties of whether there is a difference of either denotation or connotation between "prevaricate" and "lie" or whether the former is effectively a euphemism for the latter, this was a pretty serious charge, particularly, as one reporter tried to point out, in regard to the credibility of the United States in the global community.

Without trying to trivialize this matter, I still hold to the claim I made yesterday: When it comes to the opinion of our general public (which I avidly hope will also be our voting public), making up stories about an impending Third World War in the face of strong evidence to the contrary is still not as important as the desire of every American for a sense of economic well being. Bearing this in mind, we should examine the lead from last night's Reuters report, which covered this aspect of the President's press conference:

U.S. President George W. Bush said on Tuesday the country's economic fundamentals were strong despite "headwinds" from a weaker housing market, and he voiced confidence in a plan to ease the subprime mortgage crisis.

"The basics in the economy are good," Bush told a news conference, citing low inflation, low interest rates, a solid labor market and rising exports as grounds for optimism, although he acknowledged there were also challenges.

In light of the charge of prevarication over the results of intelligence analysis, one has to wonder whether or not the name of the reporter who filed this story, Alister Bull, was actually an effort on Reuters' part to encrypt editorial opinion in the form of a nom de plume. Put more bluntly, if the global community can no longer take our President as a credible source on matters of nuclear proliferation and Iran, can the national community take him as a credible source on the state of our economy? The little unscientific experiment I performed yesterday would seem to indicate that at least some chunk of the San Francisco portion of that national community is more inclined to associate anything the President says about the economy with the last name of that Reuters reporter. There may even be some voters who remember, either from direct experience or from a history lesson, a previous Republican President who tried to tell our country, "Prosperity is just around the corner" (back in the days when political discourse was far too dignified to use phrases like, "It's the economy stupid!").

Are things as bad as they were when Herbert Hoover was hit by the locomotive of the Great Depression? There are too many dimensional factors to this question to give it a simple yes-or-no answer. (This, by the way, is why Ronald Reagan's question, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?," made for great rhetoric but was thoroughly specious on logical grounds. The Carter team, unfortunately, made the classic mistake of assuming that they could beat down rhetoric with strong logic.) Even though logic need not be involved, the real question is, "What portion of the American population is seriously concerned about their economic situation?" This is an entirely subjective criterion, but the future of our government may depend on how it is answered and how that answer is confronted.

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