- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Understandably, Bill Bradley and media fact-checkers have been having a field day blasting Al Gore for misleading voters about the vice president's record on abortion. But that wasn't even the biggest whopper Mr. Gore told during the debate in New Hampshire.

"You know, the Clinton-Gore administration has ended the deepest recession since the 1930s," Mr. Gore declared with a straight face. No, we don't know that to be true. And neither does Mr. Gore, who, along with President Clinton, has been repeating this lie ever since the 1992 Democratic National Convention. Not only isn't it true. It isn't even close to true.

Officially i.e., according to the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass., which is the final arbiter of business-cycle dating the current expansion, having commenced in April 1991, will begin its 10th year April 1. Unofficially, the current expansion dates to December 1982, following a 16-month recession that truly was "the deepest recession since the 1930s." Unemployment reached nearly 11 percent. That recession, as Mr. Gore surely remembers because he was a member of the House of Representatives when it occurred, was precipitated by the explosion of inflation during Jimmy Carter's final two years in office, a period when consumer prices soared more than 27 percent.

Separating the two lengthy expansions begun during the terms of Presidents Reagan and Bush was the eight-month recession from August 1990 through March 1991. Aggravated by the spiking of world oil prices after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the last recession nonetheless proved to be one of the briefest and most shallow recessions in U.S. history. It was a minor blip in what has proved to be a 17-year expansion, and it began one month before the onset of the third of Ronald Reagan's three-part supply-side tax cut. This historic 17-year expansion was bolstered in 1986 by Mr. Reagan's crowning economic achievement tax reform that further reduced the top tax rates from 50 percent to 28 percent. The next year, Mr. Reagan selected as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Alan Greenspan, who has rightly been acknowledged as the nation's most indispensable economic policy-maker for more than 12 years now. Indeed, Mr. Clinton has wisely renominated Mr. Reagan's appointee to two four-year terms.

Mr. Gore's economic advisers can surely confirm for him not only the shallowness of the August 1990-March 1991 recession. They can also confirm for him that the current expansion began in April 1991, or more than 20 months before Messrs. Clinton and Gore entered the White House in January 1993.

Those same advisers could also tell Mr. Gore that the economy President Bush bequeathed to the Clinton-Gore administration was in far better shape than the economy President Reagan inherited from President Carter. The 1992 inflation rate of 2.9 percent was nearly 10 percentage points less than the 1980 inflation rate. Economic growth during 1992, measured on a fourth-quarter-over-fourth-quarter basis, was 4.1 percent, compared to less than one-tenth of 1 percent in 1980, which included a six-month recession. Indeed, during the first three years of the Clinton-Gore administration, economic growth averaged less than 3 percent a year, a full percentage point below 1992's growth rate. Finally, the unemployment rate Mr. Reagan inherited was higher than the rate Mr. Bush bequeathed. And whereas unemployment was set to soar during Mr. Reagan's first two years, thanks to Mr. Carter's mismanagement, the Clinton-Gore administration inherited a falling unemployment rate that was set to decline further.

Mr. Gore undoubtedly already knows most of this history. The spin notwithstanding, the plain economic data refute the claim of Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore for credit due Ronald Reagan, the man history will surely record as the one most responsible for the ongoing, 17-year expansion.

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