Biden’s Blast from the Past – The Return of the Misery Index

What was once old eventually becomes new, from fashion and hair length to music and economics. As they say, history may not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Today we are seeing events that rhyme with events of a few decades ago. The rhyme is held together by the single commonality of which party is running the country.

This week has the distinct smell of Democrats in charge. We have gas lines again, more cars waiting to fill up their gas tanks than ever waiting to hear candidate Joe Biden speak at his sparsely attended campaign car rallies.

War is breaking out in the Middle East with Palestinian militants lobbing missiles at Israel, and Israel appropriately responding to attacks on its homeland. I wonder if Obama’s “pallets of cash” paid for any Hamas missiles? Or if the planned restoration of $235 million in US aid to the Palestinians has freed up cash for missiles?

Inflation and unemployment are both rising. It’s like traveling back in time to the late 1970s, dancing to the Bee Gees’ “Stayin Alive” under a mirror disco ball. But now it’s 2021 and we are dancing to Biden’s fiddle.

The rhyme these days is something older readers may remember, the “Misery Index”. One can hearken back to the days of President Jimmy Carter, the former peanut farmer turned US President, from 1976 to 1980, before Ronald Reagan taught America what conservatism was and could offer not only to America but the world.

YouTube screen grab

The “Misery Index” is an economic indicator created by economist Arthur Okun to provide a simple numeric measure of how the average Joe or Jane is doing economically. It is rather simple to calculate, without need of an advanced economics degree or proficiency in differential equations.

As a measure of overall hardship in the economy, or a way to quantitate discomfort, pain, or misery, depending on what the actual number is, it can be calculated quite easily.

It is the sum of the current seasonally adjusted unemployment plus the current inflation rate. One does not even need a calculator assuming one has a basic knowledge of arithmetic. Unless of course, one subscribes to CNN’s “Math is racist” premise, in which case Don Lemon or Brian Stelter will need to review the simple calculation, not for accuracy but for wokeness.

Jimmy Carter used the misery index in his 1976 presidential campaign against incumbent Gerald Ford since at the time there was no FISA court to authorize illegal spying on presidential candidates. In January 1975, almost two years before the election, the misery index was a whopping 19.9%.

It dropped below 15% ahead of the election, but still made for a great campaign issue for Carter to use against Ford. Carter won the election and instead of lowering the misery index, he allowed karma to bite him hard. Ford almost hit 20% during his administration, but Carter said, “Hold my beer” and jacked it up to almost 22% in June 1980, just months before Ronald Reagan sent Carter back to Georgia.

Since Reagan turned the economy and nation around, the misery index has been only of historic interest, ignored by the media. It hit a relative high in August 2011 during the Obama presidency reaching 12.7%. At the height of COVID, the index reached 15%, up from 5% a few months earlier, as America shifted from Trump’s roaring economy to Dr. Fauci’s lockdowns and business closures.

Now that President “80 million votes” Biden is at the helm, the misery index is on the rise, reaching 10.3% last month. Why is it on the rise?

One-half of the equation, inflation, is rising. This week the Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida shared the news,

The U.S. Labor Department on Wednesday reported that the consumer price index rose 4.2% in the 12 months through April. That was the largest gain since September 2008 and a number that Clarida said was “well above” what he had anticipated.

April seasonally adjusted civilian unemployment hit 6.1% according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Add those two numbers together and that’s the misery index, at 10.3%.

Is the above inflation number accurate? It all depends on how one calculates the number. Just like with COVID cases, if the PCR cycle threshold is set at 40, cases numbers will be much higher than if the threshold is set at a more reasonable 25. Just ask the New York Times.

Might the government play fast and loose with inflation numbers too? As a means of making the current Democrat president not look as bad as the former Democrat president who popularized the misery index? As Sarah Palin would say, “You betcha”.

During another past Democrat administration, that of Bill Clinton, the Boskin Commission rejiggered the inflation calculation to reduce the effect of food and fuel prices, conveniently keeping the inflation rate low during the Clinton years.

Imagine if those costs were more represented in the current inflation number. Here are some price increases over the past year per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Gasoline is up 51%, bacon 11%, fresh fruits 7%, used cars and trucks 22%, tobacco, and smoking products 7%, and airline fares 10%. Lumber prices are 130% more than a year ago.

Perhaps the real inflation rate is much higher than the government bean counters want to admit. Maybe they are using similar logic to explain why the seasonal flu is almost nonexistent this year. If inflation is artificially low, so is the misery index.

The Biden administration is doing nothing to mitigate either unemployment or inflation, instead pursuing an agenda that will only exacerbate both. It seems Biden wants to challenge Carter’s legacy as the worst US President in history.

Expect this blast from the past, the misery index, to resurface, although suppressed by big media. And don’t be surprised if mere mention of the “misery index” becomes an excuse to be canceled from social media and censored.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, is a physician and writer. He is on sabbatical from social media.

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.

Leave a Reply