September 09, 2004

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? (Another Special Cheney Edition)

Unbelievable. Cheney needs a better staff:

ABC 7 News - Cheney: Economic Stats Miss EBay Sales: CINCINNATI (AP) - Indicators measure the nation's unemployment rate, consumer spending and other economic milestones, but Vice President Dick Cheney (website - news - bio) says it misses the hundreds of thousands who make money selling on eBay. "That's a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago," Cheney told an audience in Ohio. "Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay."

Cheney needs a staff who will tell him that the $2.0 billion or so in eBay's domestic revenues are already included in the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis's estimates of GDP.

Posted by DeLong at September 9, 2004 07:52 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Maybe the upcoming "October Surprise" will be 10,000's of new layoff announcements in the face of weak 3Q04 results, (against the big money you can make selling on eBay!)

"Stuart, we're going to have to lay you off, but not to worry, we've set up a PayPal account on eBay for you, and IT will be training you how to sell all your household possessions online!"

Posted by: Tante Aime at September 9, 2004 08:04 PM

Yeah, I remember Newt Gingrich introducing the guys who popularized beach volleyball as paragons of the American can-do spirit: they invented an Olympic sport without bureaucrats, without policy wonks -- they just made it happen.

http://slate.msn.com/id/1880/

and we can't forget Bush pére and the grocery scanner . . . . these are people I trust to make decisions about everyday life.

Posted by: paul at September 9, 2004 08:27 PM

Isn't this kind of like Donald Rumsfeld suggesting that tourism could help us pay for Iraq or Mankiw suggesting that fast food jobs count as manufacturing jobs? Oh well.

Tonight, I was told that presidents really don't affect the economy, from a microeconomist. I've always thought this was true in a general sense, but I can't bring myself to agree with it specifically. Sure, employment is basically an issue for the Fed, as is the rest of monetary policy. But can't the president jack up or lower tariffs and quotas, influence regulations, and put in place certain tax rates? And while they may not have a huge effect, as in massively pumping the market up or down, don't they do something to it?

I've got to ask a few more certified economists tomorrow, but man, this is bothering me.

Posted by: Brian at September 9, 2004 08:28 PM

DeLong needs a staff who will tell him that people who make a living trading on eBay do not appear in BLS employment reports.

Posted by: am at September 9, 2004 08:34 PM

am- that depends on how they respond on the household survey, I think. I know a guy who makes about 1k$ a month doing the ebay thing, it's a lot of work (he's converted part of his basement into a packing shop). If he handled 3-4 times the volume, he could make a living at it, but it'd be a full-time occupation.
My guess is that such an individual would report themselves as "self-employed" as opposed to "unemployed". So, people who make a living on ebay would be counted no different than folks who make a living at other self-employed jobs.
That is to say, this is just a resurrection of the 'payroll survey misses the unemployed, so it's probably off by millions' canard.

otoh, Cheney's remark is even more asinine than that. I've made *dozens* of dollars trading on ebay, so Im in the 400,000- but Im not exactly quitting my day job over it. How many people make a full-time living at ebaying? (brain-stem guess) at most 1% of those 400k? Not exactly forcing anyone to revise their unemployment forecast.

Score: DeLong-1 Cheney-0

Wu

Posted by: Carleton Wu at September 9, 2004 08:41 PM

>>DeLong needs a staff who will tell him that people who make a living trading on eBay do not appear in BLS employment reports.
>>

Fair enough. If this is true, then one can perhaps add a thousand or so folks to the annual employment totals. I would love to see figures on how many people actually make a living on eBay and similar places that are not tracked by the BLS. At the risk of making an anecdotal argument, I know SCORES of people who make a few bucks selling things on eBay. None of them do it for a living, and all of them get insurance and their primary source of income from elsewhere.

Cheney's argument is a big stretch.

Posted by: Abhishiktananda at September 9, 2004 08:42 PM

Brad, as usual, gives the Bush administration too much credit.

If Cheney had a competent staff, he'd utter fewer falsehoods and make better policy. But that's not their goal. The Bush administration's goal is to get good press and get re-elected. So what does Cheney need a competent economist on his staff for?

Posted by: Ragout at September 9, 2004 09:04 PM

Speaking of the new economy, why did Dickie-boy leave out all the people who make a living selling street drugs, filing the serial numbers off automatic weapons, and exchanging bribes with Halliburton employees?

Posted by: larre at September 9, 2004 09:06 PM

Hey, Ragout! I remember you. You were the guy who helped debunk some nonsense from John Seater and Don Luskin about Larry Summers and Paul Krugman.

Anyway, part of me agrees with what you are saying, but in some way, it needs to be modified. I haven't finished it yet, but "Neoconomy" by Daniel Altman describes how the Bush administration and other conservatives are trying to take us to a point where only wages are taxed, not investment or anything like that. Witness HSAs, for instance. So perhaps we can say they see the world only through one particular lense and their decisions all revolve around meeting one particular goal.

Posted by: Brian at September 9, 2004 09:12 PM

I give Cheney credit for admitting -for a change- that there is (evidence of) a problem. Now, he must find a better excuse: this one sounds a bit like "my homework fell in the gutter".

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns at September 9, 2004 09:25 PM

Let's see if I understand this.

If we ALL sell our junk to each other, the economy will really boom.

Ka-boom.

Posted by: vote no on (almost) all CA propositions at September 9, 2004 09:26 PM

The link that I followed from the post said that Cheney was commenting on "Indicators" that "measure the nation's unemployment rate, consumer spending and other economic milestones" but "it" misses profits e-Bay. Its hard to tell what he was referring to, but clearly "it" included more than the unemployment rate and consumer spending. What was the word "other" referring to? Everything? Who knows. Anyway, if people make money off of selling things on e-Bay, and they do something with that money, spend it or buy stocks, or real estate, it will show up in some stat. And the household survey should record that as self-employment if the person makes enough from it and is included in the household survey. So what is the problem?

Posted by: jml at September 9, 2004 09:31 PM

"If we ALL sell our junk to each other, the economy will really boom."

Exactly, we need to update our macro-textbooks. Now, sales of already produced goods apparently add to GDP.

To be fair and balanced, sellers on Ebay provide a service to buyers that may or may not appear in statistics, but to pretend that this is something material to the US GDP...

Sadly, I think Ragout has got it right. We now live in a political environment where relevance is immaterial in the public discourse. Suffices to say that a bunch of Iraqi schools have been repainted and everyone has to swallow that Iraqis have just made a historical leap forward etc. Good night, American media, sleep well...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns at September 9, 2004 09:36 PM

I think CL FReeman was wrong and misrepresented what was on the link. And mean and nasty and self-righteous.

But I think that the Prof should not remove comments unless there is a better reason than that they stink or are silly. There are lots of good commenters here who can take care of comments like that.

Posted by: jml at September 9, 2004 09:45 PM

But can't Cheney's contention be proved empirically? Wouldn't Ebay know the number of people selling? What is the increase? Wouldn't Ebay know the value of traded goods? They get a fee or a percentage, don't they (I've never ever even looked at Ebay so I don't know how it works)? What is the average sale? If the number of sellers hasn't moved or has increased only a bit (or better, decreased), then Cheney is shown to be wrong. If the the number of sellers is up substantially, but the amount of sales hasn't gone up or is up only modestly, then these people can't be making any money. I assume what Cheney said is shit. If it can be shown to be shit, then Cheney can be made to eat shit. There has to be a good Democrat a Ebay who can disprove Cheney.

Posted by: Cal at September 9, 2004 10:15 PM

The more I think about it, his whole concept is crap. But the numbers would be fun to ridicule him all the more.

Posted by: Cal at September 9, 2004 10:29 PM

Prof:
"eBay's domestic revenues are already included in the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis's estimates of GDP."

Stijns (sarcastically)
"Exactly, we need to update our macro-textbooks. Now, sales of already produced goods apparently add to GDP."

eBay's revenue would not include the auction price at which the auction goods are sold (at least I don't think so). If this is the case, then their revenues are some kind of distribution service, and part of GDP. But Stijns is correct, the price of the good sold at auction itself, if it has been previously sold, is not. Except for the part of the expected revenue that covers the time cost of of the offerer dragging it out of the closet, or wherever. How do they adjust for that anyway? Any seasonal adjustment? Birth/death thingee? Will a admin bigshot rush over to the statistic dept and get the figures released early, if they need a little push for November? Well, whatever...

So, right thinking economists 1, Cheney 0. that is my score.

Posted by: jml at September 9, 2004 11:15 PM

Well obviously the solution is to sell the deficit on eBay.

It should fetch a good price and the government would make a lot of money.

Posted by: d at September 10, 2004 12:12 AM

"I was told that presidents really don't affect the economy, from a microeconomist."

This debate polarized long ago, with opinions depending on which direction the economy's going and who's in charge at the time. The Prez is always either 0% or 100% responsible. Argh.

Personally, I think of the President as a passenger in a canoe without a paddle. They can't steer the boat, but yelling or rocking can make a helluva difference.

Posted by: Dragonchild at September 10, 2004 01:24 AM

Precedent: "Many people have left their jobs to persue the more lucretive occupation of selling apples." And Hoover was a SMART man.

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg at September 10, 2004 03:28 AM

Retail sales *are* part of GDP, so I don't see why eBay sales wouldn't be. You would subtract the value of inputs on a different line, but you have to put them in there or the production and consumption estimates (assuming most things bought off eBay are consumption goods) wouldn't add up.

Posted by: dsquared at September 10, 2004 04:13 AM

Bartlett and Steele, who wrote "America: what went wrong?" in 1992
http://www.politicalindex.com/wrong.htm
would argue that the government defines the rules of the game and is responsible for what they cause.

"You might think of what is happening in the economy-and thereby to you and your family-in terms of a professional hockey game, a sport renowned for its physical violence. Imagine how the game would be played if the old rules were repealed, if the referees were removed.

That, in essence, is what is happening to the American economy. Someone changed the rules. And there is no referee. Which means there is no one looking after the interests of the middle class."

Posted by: MarcinGomulka at September 10, 2004 04:31 AM

The Plame investigors, I hope, will soon give Cheney a chance to hire a different staff. And if not them, the American people.

Posted by: joe s at September 10, 2004 05:31 AM

Of course, none of this could have been possible if Al Gore hadn't invented the internet!

Posted by: Charles Kinbote at September 10, 2004 05:36 AM

What the Vice President is saying smacks of saying that economic growth figures in 1932 did not take account of people selling apples on the roads and streets, so the problems of the depressions were not really so severe. Sales on eBay are of course counted in economic growth and income accounts but such sales are not happily employing hundreds of thousands of people.

Posted by: anne at September 10, 2004 06:12 AM

I'm sorry, but DeLong’s comment on Cheney's quote is irrelevant. While eBay’s revenue is included in the GDP, the revenue of eBay’s members is not. Hypothetically, if eBay makes $2 billion, and charges a commission of 20%, how much revenue are eBay sellers making? How much of that income is reported and considered in GDP estimates? Do you understand how eBay works or do you consider all members of the eBay community to be employees?

I think what Cheney was trying to say is that there are ways that people are currently generating income that were not previously considered in GDP estimates. Therefore, unemployment isn't as bad as we're led to believe.

DeLong, you used an irrelevant fact to chastise the VP. I would hope an economics professor would have the intellectual honesty to refute the VP's point directly instead of sidestepping it. (The VP’s point is ridiculous; there is no need for dirty tactics.)

I would also hope a university professor (and disciples) would have the integrity to debate a differing opinion instead of simply deleting it. But, I'm expecting this post to last about 10 minutes.

Posted by: Kenimojo at September 10, 2004 06:40 AM

I work on the Monthly Retail Trade Survey at the Census Bureau. Our data is one of the main inputs into GDP. I can assure everyone out there that a certain large online auction house's sales are included in our data. Cheney is full of shit.

Posted by: Tim at September 10, 2004 06:48 AM

eBay sales for categories over $1 billion totalled $24 billion in 2003 (http://www.internetretailer.com/dailyNews.asp?id=11944)

Perhaps Brad is confusing eBay the company's revenue with the earnings of eBay users.

Posted by: dc at September 10, 2004 06:56 AM

Nice to know those old cameras I sold last year helped the economy along. One even went to a guy in Norway, so I was hard at work on the trade balance too.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov at September 10, 2004 07:02 AM

The point is that many people can scrape by when jobs are too few, but we should not be crowing about this. Selling apples on the streets of Chicago during the depression, was not being happily employed. We need faster economic growth from better fiscal policy, to generate more job creation.

Posted by: anne at September 10, 2004 07:24 AM

No, Kenimojo, Brad leaves dumb posts up for our pleasure. He's sort of like Andy Warhol. He enjoys watching people humiliate themselves.

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson at September 10, 2004 07:24 AM

Tim, are you including eBay's gross merchandise sales in your figures?

In any case, what Cheney seems to be saying is that unreported income is making up the slack from the official (and ever-declining) income numbers. So, is he saying that we *shouldn't* be reporting our eBay income? Is the GOP now the party of the gray market, too? And should I be out buying toasters as a hedge strategy?

Posted by: tWB at September 10, 2004 07:26 AM

FYI, eBay's Q2FY04 "gross merchandise sales" (or volume, as they're now calling it) were $8.0 billion. So, if eBay does $32 billion in GMV per year, and assuming that it's all person-to-person sales, then that's somewhere around .5% of American income.

However, a lot of eBay's volume is business-to-person or business-to-business, and so is going to be factored into the economic numbers, unlike gray-market transactions. (Right now, I'm looking at a Sun E10K 20-way server for $20,000. Probably not a person-to-person sale. Parenthetically, I bought a 64-way E10K a few years ago for $7 million. Signs o' the times.)

So Cheney, I think, is significantly off-base, but I suspect it's more from ignorance than malice. The numbers *are* big, as long as you don't realize that a lot of businesses are using eBay as a retail channel.

Posted by: tWB at September 10, 2004 07:35 AM

Gee "Maybe the upcoming "October Surprise" will be 10,000's of new layoff announcements in"

Tante, did you mean the 7,000 at Delta or the 20,000 at EDS?

There is another 27,000 Cheney entrepreneurs.

Posted by: me at September 10, 2004 07:36 AM

Some things which don't show up in GDP - used goods sales(they show up at original sale - resale isn't "production"). Private sales of goods already sold at retail. (they show up in GDP at the original retail sale - again, resale isn't "production".) Often, sales of privately produced goods - consider the person who buys supplies at Hobby Lobby, makes christmas ornaments, and sells them - the GDP accounting is at the "hobby Lobby" stage, the value add of the ornament creation and sale is lost - this is probably a legitimate "miss" in GDP accounting. (Illegal sales are also missed in GDP accounting - drug sales, for example. I suspect this has been stable over the course of the administration, but I have no data to support it.) EBay's fees "count", just like auctioneer fees always have - even if the item sold is old, the auctioning is a new "good or service" to be added to GDP.

First day of Econ lesson - GDP is sales of final goods and services produced in an economy during a given time period. If it is made, it should count - Inventory increases or decreases go into investment, intermediate goods either into inventory or into the final good or service they are used to produce. Old stuff resold - used books, used cars, collectibles like old stamps or coins - don't count in GDP because they weren't produced during the time period. They may be economic activity, but they aren't in GDP.

These are, at best, tiny numbers - eBay's revenues are 2 billion, and the average fee on a sale runs between 5 and 10 percent, which brackets total sales as between 20 and 40 billion. That is in line with the 24 billion for larger categories cited above by dc. I'd say that would support maybe a quarter million jobs. I'd guesstimate 75% of sales is caught in GDP (original manufacture of goods/raw material or sales by incorporated retailers) and 99% of jobs are caught in the household surveys - a lot of sellers are "real businesses", who would self-report as self-employed, and of course the folks who made the thread used in the ornament, and the folks at hobby lobby, are caught in both surveys. Maybe 90% would be caught in the firm survey - the firm survey isn't designed to catch entrepreneurial activity, only work-for-hire. I think we are talking a "miss" of maybe one week's job creation in the firm survey, at most 1 days' in the household survey, and a net loss over the last 4 years of maybe 20% of one month's job creation. Not enough to worry about.

Posted by: rvman at September 10, 2004 07:41 AM

eBay is hardly an inconce source to all the sellers

For many sellers it's merely an online pawn shop. The economic woes force them to sell off their posessions to pay their bills. I know I've done this myself on a few occasions.

Go "Cheney" yourself, Cheney!

Posted by: jr at September 10, 2004 07:50 AM

The business employment survey contains an estimate factor meant to pick up small business employment that might be so overlooked. We have a job creation problem and a problem generating wage and benefit gains that reflect our high productivity. Counting eBay transactions the better is of no account.

Posted by: anne at September 10, 2004 07:54 AM

Ebay apparently has 400,000 power sellers. Meg Whitman has been quoted on some of the get-rich-fast websites as saying that this number of people make a living on eBay, although the only number I could find credited to her from in a reputable source was 150,000 (her interview with Fool.com).

Either figure is, of course, ridiculously inflated hype. But it says something that Cheney believes this stuff over the many well-informed people in government who could have told him otherwise.

Posted by: Dan Ryan at September 10, 2004 07:58 AM

Dick Cheney's economic reading material -
http://www.silentsalesmachine.com/

"Along with 400,000* other excited eBay fanatics I now make a living using the Internet and eBay. I can go days without ever speaking to a single customer, but I have a world wide customer base. My online business runs like a well oiled machine with a part-time effort!

*400,000 people make a living from eBay according to Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay"

Posted by: Dan Ryan at September 10, 2004 08:05 AM

And ketchup is a vegetable.

Everyone I've seen in blogland this morning is going nuts over IBM Selectrics and alleged fraud. I'm glad to see the next story has do with Cheney and EBay. With any luck, Cheney memorabilia will hit a new low on EBay soon after November, once he's in federal prison.

The Reps are beginning to suffer from that lovely stench of desperation and flop-sweat.

Brad's integrity remains whole.

Posted by: Bean at September 10, 2004 08:10 AM

I remember reading a quote saying that what we have in America is free market capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich. Sounds about right.

Posted by: LA at September 10, 2004 08:12 AM

The VPs comment was ridiculous, but Kenimojo's right. The issue is not Ebay's revenues, but that of its sellers. Let's get real here though. I hardly think the number of full time Ebay sellers would severely affect the unemployment rate. Dick Cheney needs to spend less time worrying about electronic garage sales and more time figuring out what to do about the 1.6 million jobs lost on his and George Bush's watch.

Posted by: jg at September 10, 2004 09:08 AM

Cheney is right. eBay is an important development as fewer and fewer Americans will be able to afford garages to have old-fashioned garage sales.

Posted by: NewMexiKen at September 10, 2004 09:32 AM

Many people have left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples.

Posted by: Herbert Hoover at September 10, 2004 09:40 AM

So, I will sell crap from the garage, take the money and buy a DESERT camo body armor vest off Ebay for my wife to use when she heads to Iraq in a few months. That would save the Pentagon money, since they are handing out DARK GREEN CAMO VEST! They could then sell the green ones to scared citizens who live in a deciduous forest area, where dark green is not akin to a freaking target from 200 yards! Cheney, like the Lord, works in mysterious ways.

Posted by: S0C7 at September 10, 2004 11:55 AM

Why is it counted in GDP? Haven't most eBay items been purchased already? These items have already been counted in the GDP once. (For example, someone selling an old house is not counted in GDP. Only new houses are counted)

Posted by: ESO at September 10, 2004 12:09 PM

Though what cheney said may not have been the most intelligent of things, the original reply to that is even less so in that it isn't ebay's reported earnings, but rather the reported earnings of the people trading over ebay. I'm not even a professor of economics and *I* can spot that. It's simple: you wouldn't expect the guy who paved my driveway to report the income I made off a garage sale last year, would you?

Let me get this striaght. Bush a) cleans out a bunch of cronyism that democrats love to engage in (worldcom, et al) and b)inherits a problem that predates him (terrorism, of which there was plenty under Clinton's watch as well as some before even him) which comes to a head and stikes a major blow to people's faith in the system.

Regardless, even after all this mess, the unemployment rate is dropping again, more people are employed and the situation only looks to improve, yet you guys can't acknowledge it?

"Evil Bush", eh? He can do no right, and I expect you to believe Clinton could do no wrong. Am I correct?

*sigh* Sometimes I wonder at the state of the union when once again people not showing a modicum of sense, intelligence and rationality smacks me in the face.

Posted by: Narses at September 10, 2004 12:11 PM

Narses,
Please stop smacking yourself in the face.

Wu

Posted by: Carleton Wu at September 10, 2004 12:33 PM

"more people are employed"

Narses are you serious? Explain yourself. Are you saying more people are employed than when bush took office?

Oops, after smacking yourself in the face you have lost all credibility.

Posted by: me at September 10, 2004 12:50 PM

So what if there's Ebay? We had Ebay during the nineties' boom too. And why stop there? Lots of other activities don't get included in GDP - housework is a big one. People growing their own food, making their own clothes. Homeschooling (although it duplicates public schooling). Cheney is just finding this out apparently.

Posted by: Lisa at September 10, 2004 12:52 PM

What about the recent boom of consignment shops (resulting in the fact that I can no longer find a consignment shop that will take our outdated clothing):
http://mcraig.blogspot.com/2004_09_01_mcraig_archive.html#109424235608755910

Posted by: Maureen at September 10, 2004 01:06 PM

You are referring to eBay's $2.1B in net revenues (which isn't all domestic, BTW - check their SEC filing). Cheney is referring to eBay's $24B in gross merchandise sales.

Posted by: Daniel at September 10, 2004 04:16 PM

How about all the money bloggers make from GoogleAds? This is all money that is earned doing what would otherwise be unpaid money.

Posted by: Chui at September 10, 2004 06:51 PM

>>a) cleans out a bunch of cronyism that democrats love to engage in (worldcom, et al)
>>
"et al," as in the GOP sugardaddy and Bush family friend Enron?

How exactly is Bush responsible for any cleanup? It was GOP lobbying and legislating that stonewalled attempts to hold CEOs more accountable, to prevent CPA firms' engaging in conflict of interest, and for protecting the rights of the Enrons to manipulate energy markets. Come on man.

Posted by: Abhishiktananda at September 10, 2004 07:34 PM

People do not "make a living on eBay." They might make a living "with" eBay. eBay is the successful survivor of what at one time might have been called "Internet storefronts." The idea of the "personal auction" that made eBay such a tremendous success initially is now morphing into the use of eBay as the buying and selling storefront for enterprising people. Some companies use eBay as this vehicle: a distribution channel. Such companies by and large are small, with a few number of employees. Do those smaller companies offer affordable medical insurance to their employees? I have no statistics to back up the claim that they dont, no more than Cheney has any to back up his implication that they do.

"Employment" in this country does not mean the same thing as garage sales, flea markets, auctions, or Internet storefronts.

Posted by: Alex at September 11, 2004 11:04 PM

Sorry,

I would have replied earlier, but my internet was down all weekend. As far as online auction houses (I can't comment on any specific company by name.. just how we treat companies in general) we account for their royalties and other fees on a monthly basis. These are considered retail sales and would fall under the NAICS code 4541 in our publications.

As far employers who sell items on online auction houses.. as long as they have employees, they would be subject to our sampling process and could be selected for the monthly retail trade survey.

As far as single people who sell items on online auction houses.. they would NOT be subject to our sampling for the monthly retail trade survey. However, they ARE required to report to our annual survey. Therefore, their sales ARE represented in our annual retail sales statistics. Our monthly survey is benchmarked to our annual survey each year. Therefore, the sales that these single employee entities generate do not show up in our monthly statistics. But they eventually are reflected in our monthly statistics after we benchmark to the annual survey. Single employee entities account for about 2-3% of total sales. The single people selling items on online auction houses is a subset of this number.

For monthly retail trade statistics.. go here: http://www.census.gov/mrts/www/mrts.html

For info on how we benchmark to the annual retail trade survey.. go here: http://www.census.gov/mrts/www/summary.html

For more info on how we sample for the monthly retail trade survey, go here: http://www.census.gov/mrts/www/ndesign.html

- Tim

Posted by: Tim at September 13, 2004 05:48 AM

Good morning. My attention was directed to this blog by a thread on the Straight Dope Message Board (http://207.97.195.229/sdmb/showthread.php?t=275476), the online presence of syndicated columnist Cecil Adams (with whom I'm not affiliated, for the record).

Unfortunately, Professor, you've erred by trusting the Associated Press to report accurately what the Vice President said. He wasn't talking about GDP, consumer spending or "other economic milestones." He was referring specifically to the difference between the BLS household and establishment surveys of unemployment. His factual point, which was correct, was that the household survey includes self-employed people and that the establishment survey does not. His political point, which I happen to disagree with, is that he believes the household survey is more useful for capturing new jobs in a changing economy and he used ebay as an example, nothing more, of the kind of thing that crops up in differences among various measures. (As you know, the Republicans discovered the existence of the household survey and learned to love it when it turned up 400,000 or so more jobs than the better-regarded establishment survey.)

If you're willing to download Realplayer (Don't do it! Get a student to take the fall and live with the spyware! ;) ), you can catch the Vice President's remarks here: http://www.wcpo.com/news/2004/local/09/09/cheney.html. Click on the link that says "RAW Video: Cheney Town Meeting;" the question which led to his remarks on the subject at hand begin at 37:30 of the stream.

As I said, I disagree with his contention about the reliability of the household survey v. the establishment survey. However, given the large recent divergence in the two measures and the mismatch between economic growth and employment growth (is it really all productivity and profits?), I'd be curious to see you comment on the substance of his remarks rather than on AP's cheap-shot regurgitation of them.

Agree or disagree, I think Cheney's comments are the good, meaty stuff of reasonable political discourse and a welcome change from the tit-for-tat headline of the day stuff that both sides of most political races (including, to be sure, Bush-Cheney 2004) have been engaged in for quite some time. I'd submit that if we want to see more of this kind of thing, we'd do well to respond seriously to it when it occurs.

Best regards.

Posted by: manhattan at September 13, 2004 06:23 AM

You know, every election year the Republicans start complaining that the Democrats are always running against Herbert Hoover. I don't blame the Republicans for wanting to forget what happened to this country under the Hoover administration, but I can't resist telling you about the latest bit of Republican history that has come to my attention.

Mr. Hoover has published his autobiography, and in the latest volume, on page 195, he tells about the apple-selling that went on during the great depression of his administration.

Now listen--according to Mr. Hoover, people weren't selling apples because they were broke and jobless--not at all. They were selling apples because the apple business was booming. He says that some apple growers' association got the bright idea--I am quoting out of his book--now this is what he says, "... and set up a system of selling apples on the street corners in many cities, thus selling their crop and raising their prices. Many persons left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples." And there were only 14 million people out of jobs at that time !

Source: Harry Truman

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/viewpapers.php?pid=2269


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