Vilifying the Poor Part II – Facts About the GOP, Poverty and Unemployment

Daniel Patrick Moynihan is attributed with saying, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Many of my friends who are members of the GOP and proudly call themselves conservative – or at least would say they are way right of me – seem to cling to Reagan’s belief in trickle-down economics. A recent email from one such friend said that his opinion was that “…the war on poverty and the Great Society are abysmal failures…”

My response was, “You can have your own opinions, but you don’t get to have your own facts.” The rest of this post offers some facts about the relationship between which party controls the White House and the affects on poverty rates and unemployment in America.

Here are a few sources of data – facts – that should offer a clear picture of reality if only one takes some time to look.

Census Bureau Poverty Data, 1959 – 2007
http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/poverty07/pov07fig03.pdf (from http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/trends.html)

A Visual Guide: The Balance of Power Between Congress and the Presidency, 1945-2010
http://uspolitics.about.com/od/usgovernment/l/bl_party_division_2.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment status of the civilian non institutional population, 1940-2008
http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat1.pdf

Here’s how I interpret the facts presented in these documents…..

1. Poverty rates declined dramatically in this country from 1960 to 1970, after which they remained pretty much flat before rising again in 1979
Unemployment in America, BTW, had risen from 2.9% in 1953, Eisenhower’s first full year after taking the reigns from Truman, to 5.5% in 1960, his last year in office.

2. JFK and LBJ held the White House from 1961 to 1969
Unemployment drops from 6.7% during JFK’s first year in office in 1961 to 3.6% by 1968, LBJ’s last full year in office.

3. Democrats controlled both houses of Congress from 1955 to 1979
Unemployment ranged from a low of 3.5% in 1969 to a high of 8.5% in 1975 (the heart of Ford’s administration).

4. A Democratically-controlled Congress seemed to somehow overcome what can only be characterized as the failed presidency of Nixon and the stagnant presidency of Ford from the years 1969 to 1977, at least as far as poverty was concerned.
Unemployment, however, rises during the Nixon and Ford administrations reaching a high of 8.5% in 1975 and falling back to 7.7% in Ford’s last full year in office in 1976.

5. The second half of Carter’s presidency was marked primarily by inflation from rising oil prices thanks to our “friends” in OPEC and the image of weakness over the Iranian embassy.
Poverty begins to rise as his presidency comes to an end.
Unemployment had fallen during his first two years in office and was back up to 7.1% for his last full year in office, 1980.

6. Reagan’s platform of smaller government and Reaganomics helped him to win the 1980 election.
Admittedly, he came into a bad economic situation but his cure seemed to be worse than the disease. Reagan succeeded only in introducing us for the first time ever to the word “trillion” as part of the national debt.

“By buying into the supply-side notion that the U.S. could cut income taxes while simultaneously paying for massive increases in defense and certain highly popular domestic programs, Reagan may be justly dubbed the Father of the 12-Digit Deficit.”
The Federal Deficit, Time. June 1992. p2. (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,975829-2,00.html)

Prophetic in many ways considering W did exactly the same thing 20 years later – cut taxes and increase spending. We never learn….

7. Reagan’s election helps the Republicans to take back the Senate but not the House.

8. Poverty skyrockets in Reagan’s first term and begins a modest downward trend in his second term
Unemployment continued to rise – in fact, leapt – hitting highs of 9.7% and 9.6% in 1982 and 1983, rates that hadn’t been seen in 40+ years.
Unemployment begins to decline in 1984 (how could it not?), hitting 5.5% his last year in office, 1988, perhaps thanks in part to the fact that Americans returned control of the Senate, and thereby Congress, to Democrats in 1987.

9. Bush 41 is elected in 1988 and poverty skyrockets again.
Unemployment is back up to 7.5% by 1992, GHWB’s last full year at the helm.

10. Clinton is elected in 1992 and takes office in 1993.
Poverty drops dramatically from the start of and throughout his presidency until…..you guessed it….W takes office
Unemployment drops immediately in Clinton’s first year in office, going from 7.5% in 1992 to 6.9% in 1993
Unemployment continues to fall during the Clinton administration, hitting a low of 4.0% in 2000, Clinton’s last full year in office

(GOP took back the Congress in 1995 and held both Houses essentially for the next 10 years until the 2007 elections. Republicans have W to thank for that.)

11. W is elected in 2000
Poverty skyrockets again during his presidency
Unemployment didn’t climb dramatically, but it did go up to a high of 6.0% in 2003 and was at 5.8% in 2008

CONCLUSIONS
The number of people living in poverty has generally trended upward and unemployment tends to rise whenever there’s a Republican in the White House. This is especially true since the Reagan years but can be traced back to Eisenhower at least as far as the affect on unemployment.

I really don’t see how or why the poor keep getting blamed. This question of the affects the poor have on the economy is really a pretty sad and tired red herring of the Right.

So, it’s perfectly fine to have an opinion about whether or not J-Lo has too much junk in her trunk (haven’t seen her lately, but I say no), or whether or not you like Ted Nugent’s music regardless of his politics (I love his music and now no longer believe he never did drugs because he’s clearly brain-damaged!) but you don’t get to have your own facts.

If you want to debate cause and effect, that’s ok. But what you cannot debate is whether or not poverty and unemployment go up when Republicans have been in the White House at least over the last almost 60 years. This is quite evident from the data presented here.

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