- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2000

Vice President Al Gore really will say anything to get elected. Declaring in Cleveland recently that his economic plan is not based on "cross-your-fingers economics," Mr. Gore unveiled his long-term economic blueprint. Its most alluring feature undoubtedly was his commitment to raise family incomes by 33 percent over the next decade. Now, Mr. Gore has been part of the Clinton-Gore administration for more than seven years. So, he has compiled a record regarding changes in family income and wages.

Since he mentioned the phrase "middle-class" a dozen times in his Cleveland speech, Mr. Gore presumably has in mind raising the inflation-adjusted median family income. That is the level of family income precisely at the midpoint of the income-distribution stream: Half the families earn less than the median, and half earn more. Because of the compounding effect, increasing median family income by a 33 percent over 10 years would require achieving an average annual growth rate of 2.9 percent, not 3.3 percent.

Despite the vice president's fondness for asserting that the economy was in deep recession in January 1993, the economy the Clinton-Gore administration inherited had actually grown by 3.3 percent in 1992. Indeed, when Mr. Clinton was inaugurated, the U.S. economy was in the early stages of what would eventually prove to be the nation's longest period of uninterrupted growth in history. Moreover, the current year will be the fourth year in a row that the economy will have grown by more than 4 percent. Nevertheless, despite such favorable economic circumstances, the compounded annual growth rate of inflation-adjusted median family income from 1993 through 1998 the latest year for which data are available has been a less-than-spectacular 1.6 percent. In other words, Mr. Gore promised in Cleveland that under his stewardship median family income would grow at nearly double the rate it has expanded under the Clinton-Gore administration.

In fact, during the first six years of the Clinton-Gore administration, median family income increased by less than 10 percent, according to Census Bureau statistics compiled by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Indeed, it wasn't until 1997 that the median family income during the Clinton-Gore administration finally surpassed the level achieved in Ronald Reagan's final year in office. On what basis can Mr. Gore promise to raise that income level by 33 percent over 10 years?

The record of the Clinton-Gore administration in raising the incomes of production and nonsupervisory employees, who comprise 80 percent of the labor force, is even less encouraging. These are the sort of workers the vice president has in mind when his populist rhetoric is deployed on behalf of "working families." Their inflation-adjusted average hourly wage increased 6 percent during the seven years from 1993 through 1999. That represents an annual rate of increase of 0.8 percent, a rate of increase that is less than a third of the rate that would have to prevail for their incomes to rise by a third over the next 10 years.

Measured in 1999 dollars to account for inflation, the average weekly income of production and nonsupervisory employees increased from $440 in 1992 to $468 in 1999. That amounts to an an average of $4 a week per year, which represents an average hourly wage increase of about a dime each year.

So, the question bears repeating: On what basis does Mr. Gore make the claim, given the track record of the Clinton-Gore administration, that he can increase middle-class family income by 33 percent over the next decade? Not only is such a commitment based on "cross-your-fingers economics." It also surely represents a pie-in-the-sky promise, confirming yet again that Al Gore really will say anything, anywhere, anytime to get elected.

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