September 20, 2004

The Great Depression

Jonathan Rothenberg at Blogs for Bush points out that the economy doesn't look a whole lot different in 2004 than in 1996. Older readers will recall that, in that election, voters chose the war hero William Jefferson Clinton over the Vietnam-evading Senate Minority Leader, Bob Dole, by double digits.

Roll those numbers, Ted:

  • Percent of Americans without health insurance: Bush (15.6%), Clinton (15.6%)

  • Debt as percentage of economy: Bush (37.5%), Clinton (48.5%)

  • Number of workers not in the labor force but who want a job now: Bush (5.1 million), Clinton( 5.7 million)

  • Average GDP over most recent 4 quarters: Bush (4.7%), Clinton (4.0%)

  • Home ownership rate in latest quarter: Bush (69.2%), Clinton (65.1%)

  • Inflation-adjusted average hourly earnings growth during first term: Bush (2.5%), Clinton (0.4%)

  • Inflation-adjusted income growth for average American: Bush ($1,444), Clinton ($1,256)

  • Average monthly inflation during first term: Bush (2.3%), Clinton (2.8%)

  • Unemployment rate for Hispanics during first term: Bush (7.2%), Clinton (9.7%)

  • Unemployment rate for Blacks during first term: Bush (9.9%), Clinton (11.3%)

  • Percent of high school graduates who enroll in college: Bush (64%), Clinton (62%)

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Housing and Urban Development, College Board

Posted by jk at September 20, 2004 09:55 AM

Also speaking of dirty hippies:

In fairness I believe that a military draft is immoral. Military service must be voluntary, but it should also come with a greater reward than VA benefits and the GI bill. I like Robert Anson Heinlein's arrangement (in 'Starship Troopers) where everyone is expected, though not compelled, to serve, but those who choose service earn the right to vote while those who don't, don't.

Lastly, what's with this "[offending term removed] as a percentage of economy: Bush 37.5% Clinton 48.5%" claim. What about the vaunted "Clinton Surplus??" More research is warranted.

Posted by: johngalt at September 20, 2004 10:04 AM

Private (lower in '04) + Public (higher in '04)?

Posted by: jk at September 20, 2004 10:17 AM

johngalt. I am uncomfortable with the notion that only military veterans should earn the right to vote.
Such a nation would eventually become militaristic, and the line between government and miltary would be indistinguishable. At that point, pushing a nation into a military dictatorship is not hard. Who's to stop them?
As much as dirty hippies get on my nerves, they do have a voice, and in the marketplace of ideas, they should at least get a table.
As their product is smelly and unhealthy, they will not have any buyers, but they should be able to sell.
I do agree that service should be voluntary, and the rewards for said service should be on par with say, the median income, not poverty level.

Posted by: AlexC at September 20, 2004 11:58 AM

As militaristic as, say America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? While not a requirement to vote, only men voted and virtually all men served in the militia/national guard.

Be careful about evaluating this idea in a vacuum. Consider the transformation of the military in this scenario. It would certainly become a more representative snapshot of our citizenry as a whole than it is now. The smelly hippies like to claim that nobody hates war more than a vet. Well when only vets vote and we end up going to war you can be pretty sure there's no other alternative.

Those dirty hippies you speak of would be just as free to take over our universities and public schools (well, we should do something about that too) as they are now but they'd have to convince people who knew what mortal combat was all about, at least in principle.

Look at the alternative: What if everybody EXCEPT vets were given the vote? What we have now is some combination of this scenario with Heinlein's. Some voters know what it means to go into combat and some don't. A vet is more likely to understand that "war is evil, but it is often the lesser evil." -George Orwell This would lead to more wisdom in deciding which to fight and which to butt out of.

Posted by: johngalt at September 20, 2004 03:10 PM

P.S. I hope you don't misinterpret my reply as combative. I'd love to debate this subject further. As a contemporary idea it sure beats the hell out of reinstitution of the draft!

Posted by: johngalt at September 20, 2004 03:14 PM

It is an interesting concept. I have long believed that a 2 year mandatory military stint after high school would be a good thing, provides for the country and teaches it citizens about responsibility to that country. Historicaly side note on 18th and 19th century miliary service - it was legal and accepted for those with financial means to hire someone to serve for them. I have an interesting contractual document from about 1860 from a great-great-uncle (if memory serves) who hired a man to fight in his stead in the Civil War.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at September 20, 2004 04:59 PM

Don't worry. Didn't take it as combative.
While I know that only men voted, I'm surprised to read that the service rate was that high.
Maybe I'm just a self-loathing dirty hippy, but I think we are in a better position as a nation if suffrage is more universal, as compared to the 19th century.
It forces a greater representation of the nation. (Yes, it's redundant). A greater diversity of opinions, yadda yadda.

It's my country. I want a stake in running it. I do not d!scount the sacrifice of soldiers, I celebrate it. But we share this country.
If I were a woman, or black or if I were 18 (and could fight and die for it) in 1954, I'd want a stake in it too.
I'm not a student, nor have a child in school, yet I have a stake in the school board. They take my money. At least I could fool myself into thinking I can impact how that money is spent.
Same thing; just on a national level.

Posted by: AlexC at September 20, 2004 11:04 PM

It's a good topic that warrants further debate. I was blind sided by it last week in another forum and said "Nobody thinks that way!". Guess I was wrong.

I think that miltary or civic service for 1 year (perhaps between HS & College) would be a great idea, but not if it's mandatory.
Compelling someone to do thing always leads to shirkage or disinterest. Look at taxes. Or any communist/socialist nation.

Posted by: AlexC at September 20, 2004 11:07 PM

Alex, if you do not make military service mandatory and you want better participation then you will have to make it financially attractive. This means higher taxes to pay for a more expensive military, because unless you re-institute the pillage and plunder model a stong military is not a profit making enterprise. I look at it as more of an option to pay in time by serving rather than just in money. Look at it as working off your 12 years of free education.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at September 21, 2004 09:50 AM

I'm all for making it more financially attractive. One of my ideas was raising their income. How about excluding them from federal taxes for 20 years? It's "free" (well free-er) that way.
And my 12 years of free education is paid for by my property tax-paying parents for the 12 years I was there, plus the taxes they've been paying before I got there, and after I left, and will continue to pay.
And if I went to a private school? That my parents kick in... it wouldn't be fair to say that the "priviledged kids" who went to private school are somehow exempt from mandatory conscription, now would it?

Posted by: AlexC at September 21, 2004 10:44 AM

Alex and Silence have made excellent cases for not making military service mandatory nor jacking up the wage scale.

Alex said, "It's my country. I want a stake in running it." Well, that would be a simple choice for you to make then wouldn't it? If the model I proposed had been in place when I graduated high school I'd like to think it would have been enough to push me over the edge to sign up (I contemplated it but was dissuaded by my father, kind of like in Heinlein's story) but I didn't have a girlfriend joining up or a 'History and Moral Philosophy' teacher like Mr. Dubois.

From 'Starship Troopers:'

He sighed, "Another year, another class - and, for me, another failure. One can lead a child to knowledge but one CANNOT make him think." Suddenly he pointed his stump at me. "You. What is the moral difference, if any, between the soldier and the civilian?"

"The difference," I answered carefully, "lies in the field of civic virtue. A soldier accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life. The civilian does not."

"The exact words of the book," he said scornfully. "But do you understand it? Do you BELIEVE it?"

"Uh, I don't know sir."

"Of course you don't! I doubt if any of you here would recognize 'civic virtue' if it came up and barked in your face!" He glanced at his watch. "And that is all, a final all. Perhaps we shall meet again under happier circumstances. Dismissed."

It really is an excellent book, as exciting and imaginative science fiction and for its philosophical content. If you haven't seen the movie, or ESPECIALLY if you HAVE, I highly recommend it.

Finally, I neglected to specify up front that soldiers only earn the right of suffrage AFTER their service ends, and they are HONORABLY discharged. This is an important detail for guarding against a military coup.

Posted by: johngalt at September 21, 2004 10:55 AM

I still have not followed your wise counsel, Johngalt, and read Heinlein (I read "Stranger In a Strange Land" and "For US the Living" in my younger days).

I am uncomfortable with reducing the "citizen control of the military" but otherwise like anything that reduces universal suffrage and voter fraud.

I am much more comfortable allowing the military to choose my representatives than I am having felons, aliens (that's other countries' citizens -- not Heinlienian antagonists), and those who cannot speak English choose for me.

Posted by: jk at September 21, 2004 01:20 PM
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