The Economic Education of Joe Scarborough

I really don’t think it’s possible to believe that Joe Scarborough is stupid. The man has a law degree. Scarborough served four terms with distinction in the U.S. House of Representatives as a “New Federalist” Congressman from Florida, earning a 95 percent conservative lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union and received a “Friend of the Taxpayer” award from Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform, and signed the Contract with America. Scarborough was also one of the 228 Republicans who voted to impeach Bill Clinton.

Today Scarborough is co-host of MS-NBC’s Morning Joe with his third wife, Mika Brzezinski. However, this man of many talents also authored three published books and played with his band Dixon Mills on their album Calling on Robert E. Lee (nice race-baiting title, right?). More recently Scarborough produced what might be the worst music video available on YouTube, New Age garbage titled  Mystified.  Be forewarned before clicking the link: it’s five minutes and twenty-three seconds of your life you can never get back. I took one for the team, just so you wouldn’t have to watch it yourself. While watching it myself I was reminded of Opus the penguin’s classic review of Benji Saves the Universe in the comic strip Bloom County, a movie he described as “simply bad beyond all dimensions of possible badness.” For whatever reason, the words “We are not men. We are Devo” ran through my brain.

Joe Scarborough has an estimated net worth of approximately $25 million dollars and makes $8 million dollars a year, in spite of having two ex-wives and six children to support.  It’s really surprising to think that Scarborough might be economically illiterate, but the alternative would be that this former conservative Republican congressman sold his soul for the almighty dollar when he transitioned from serving our nation to servicing his personal bank account. Yet that seems to be the most reasonable explanation for him to make such a stupid claim as to say that Trump’s economy is worse than Jimmy Carter’s infamous “year of malaise” in 1979 or Bill Clinton’s GDP of 2.7 percent in 1995. Of course the numbers are accurate (Scarborough isn’t that stupid) but anyone who has taken an introductory course to economics (that would be me) can tell you that a snapshot in time is useless, and cherrypicked numbers can be very misleading, especially if that is the intention of the analyst.

Seriously, only a low-information voter or a fan of Morning Joe might get fooled by such sophomoric thinking. All it takes is digging into the numbers just a little deeper and noting the trends. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to remember events from a historical perspective. Shall we?

Okay, let’s start with Jimmy Carter. Yes, it is absolutely true that U.S. GDP in Carter’s final year was 3.2 percent with total annual revenues of around $2.6 trillion dollars. However, GDP per capita (Gross Domestic Product divided by total population) was only $11,700 per person. Radical Iranian terrorists invaded the U.S. embassy and had been holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days causing gas shortages and rationing. Carter gave a speech imploring Americans to adjust their thermostats to endure hotter homes during the summer and to wear sweaters during the winter. America was in a funk because Jimmy Carter was a weak president, and that’s why he lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980. For a complete and accurate picture of the economy as a whole, employment numbers should be looked at as well, but I’m reticent to bombard the reader with too many numbers and statistics at once… when it happens to me and the numbers start to bore me, my eyes tend to glaze over and I get sleepy. But I encourage the reader to evaluate the employment trends over these same periods that are being discussed in regard to GDP.

But Carter’s failure was not limited to foreign policy… any economist worth his salt (this would exclude Paul Krugman) will concede that economies should be seen as trends and an analogy is often used of turning a battleship; it doesn’t happen on a dime. Economic policies implemented today will often not be felt for several years. The real damage of Jimmy Carter can be seen in the first few years of Ronald Reagan’s first term. Annual GDP growth for 1980 was -0.3 percent. In 1981 it slightly improved to 2.5 percent and then dropped again to -1.8 percent in 1982. In 1983 we finally saw decent improvement in the GDP jump up to 4.6 percent. But with three out of Reagan’s first four years being dismal compared to Carter’s final year, how come Reagan won reelection in a landslide in 1984 while Carter had suffered humiliating defeat only four years earlier with a much better economy than Reagan seemed to have had?

Well, it’s because voters aren’t stupid. Reagan cut taxes and slashed regulations, and the economy was booming long before GDP numbers reflected it. Reagan won in a landslide because even a stupid teenager like me at the time could see the difference between high unemployment and lines to buy more expensive gas and a prosperous economy. Reagan won, and from 1984 to 1988 the GDP grew at 7.4%, 4.2%, 3.5% and 3.5%. At the same time, GDP per capita went from $11,700 in Carter’s final year in office up to $20,000 under Reagan. Voters gave George H.W. Bush credit for being Reagan’s vice president and gave him four years from 1988-1992, and the Reagan boom continued for two more years: 4.2 percent GDP in 1988 and 3.7 percent in 1989. Then what happened?

“Read my lips. No new taxes!” Bush promised America. Then he buckled to Democrats in Congress and passed new taxes. In 1990 GDP dropped to 1.9 percent, followed by -0.1 percent the following year, and Bush was toast. Democrats love to brag about the “Clinton economy” from 1992-2000 which saw solid if not spectacular annual GDP growth per year of 3.5, 2.8, 4.0, 2.7, 3.8, 4.4, 4.5, 4.8, and 4.1 percent. Clinton was lucky in several respects: he was up against a Republican Congress implementing the Contract With America (which Scarborough oddly enough seems to have completely forgotten even though he signed it) that kept him from screwing up the economy, Clinton was often pragmatic when it came to making a deal he thought would make him more popular, and most importantly, Hillary’s plan to implement her version of ObamaCare failed miserably, keeping approximately one-fifth of the economy safe from greedy Democrat politicians. If nothing else, Bill Clinton deserves credit for not screwing the economy up -- remember the famous catchphrase of that Louisiana lizard James Carville, who said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” The economy saved Clinton from impeachment and kept him relatively popular through his two terms, but voters were tired of his shenanigans by 2000.

Voters aren’t stupid. By every measurable standard, the economy has improved under Donald Trump since 2016. Yes, the unadjusted GDP growth rate for 2019 was only 2.3 percent, as Scarborough gleefully pointed out… but from 2016 to 2019 annual GDP rose from 18.7 to 21.4 trillion dollars per year, and GDP per capita grew from $57,900 to $65,460 as unemployment dropped to fifty year lows. Trump is drawing overflow crowds in traditional Democrat strongholds and freezing temperatures.

Well, at least we know what mystifies Joe Scarborough -- basic economics.

John Leonard writes novels, books, and occasional articles or blogs for American Thinker. You may follow him on Facebook or his website (and blog, which includes the AT “rejected” pieces) at southernprose.com.

I really don’t think it’s possible to believe that Joe Scarborough is stupid. The man has a law degree. Scarborough served four terms with distinction in the U.S. House of Representatives as a “New Federalist” Congressman from Florida, earning a 95 percent conservative lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union and received a “Friend of the Taxpayer” award from Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform, and signed the Contract with America. Scarborough was also one of the 228 Republicans who voted to impeach Bill Clinton.

Today Scarborough is co-host of MS-NBC’s Morning Joe with his third wife, Mika Brzezinski. However, this man of many talents also authored three published books and played with his band Dixon Mills on their album Calling on Robert E. Lee (nice race-baiting title, right?). More recently Scarborough produced what might be the worst music video available on YouTube, New Age garbage titled  Mystified.  Be forewarned before clicking the link: it’s five minutes and twenty-three seconds of your life you can never get back. I took one for the team, just so you wouldn’t have to watch it yourself. While watching it myself I was reminded of Opus the penguin’s classic review of Benji Saves the Universe in the comic strip Bloom County, a movie he described as “simply bad beyond all dimensions of possible badness.” For whatever reason, the words “We are not men. We are Devo” ran through my brain.

Joe Scarborough has an estimated net worth of approximately $25 million dollars and makes $8 million dollars a year, in spite of having two ex-wives and six children to support.  It’s really surprising to think that Scarborough might be economically illiterate, but the alternative would be that this former conservative Republican congressman sold his soul for the almighty dollar when he transitioned from serving our nation to servicing his personal bank account. Yet that seems to be the most reasonable explanation for him to make such a stupid claim as to say that Trump’s economy is worse than Jimmy Carter’s infamous “year of malaise” in 1979 or Bill Clinton’s GDP of 2.7 percent in 1995. Of course the numbers are accurate (Scarborough isn’t that stupid) but anyone who has taken an introductory course to economics (that would be me) can tell you that a snapshot in time is useless, and cherrypicked numbers can be very misleading, especially if that is the intention of the analyst.

Seriously, only a low-information voter or a fan of Morning Joe might get fooled by such sophomoric thinking. All it takes is digging into the numbers just a little deeper and noting the trends. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to remember events from a historical perspective. Shall we?

Okay, let’s start with Jimmy Carter. Yes, it is absolutely true that U.S. GDP in Carter’s final year was 3.2 percent with total annual revenues of around $2.6 trillion dollars. However, GDP per capita (Gross Domestic Product divided by total population) was only $11,700 per person. Radical Iranian terrorists invaded the U.S. embassy and had been holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days causing gas shortages and rationing. Carter gave a speech imploring Americans to adjust their thermostats to endure hotter homes during the summer and to wear sweaters during the winter. America was in a funk because Jimmy Carter was a weak president, and that’s why he lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980. For a complete and accurate picture of the economy as a whole, employment numbers should be looked at as well, but I’m reticent to bombard the reader with too many numbers and statistics at once… when it happens to me and the numbers start to bore me, my eyes tend to glaze over and I get sleepy. But I encourage the reader to evaluate the employment trends over these same periods that are being discussed in regard to GDP.

But Carter’s failure was not limited to foreign policy… any economist worth his salt (this would exclude Paul Krugman) will concede that economies should be seen as trends and an analogy is often used of turning a battleship; it doesn’t happen on a dime. Economic policies implemented today will often not be felt for several years. The real damage of Jimmy Carter can be seen in the first few years of Ronald Reagan’s first term. Annual GDP growth for 1980 was -0.3 percent. In 1981 it slightly improved to 2.5 percent and then dropped again to -1.8 percent in 1982. In 1983 we finally saw decent improvement in the GDP jump up to 4.6 percent. But with three out of Reagan’s first four years being dismal compared to Carter’s final year, how come Reagan won reelection in a landslide in 1984 while Carter had suffered humiliating defeat only four years earlier with a much better economy than Reagan seemed to have had?

Well, it’s because voters aren’t stupid. Reagan cut taxes and slashed regulations, and the economy was booming long before GDP numbers reflected it. Reagan won in a landslide because even a stupid teenager like me at the time could see the difference between high unemployment and lines to buy more expensive gas and a prosperous economy. Reagan won, and from 1984 to 1988 the GDP grew at 7.4%, 4.2%, 3.5% and 3.5%. At the same time, GDP per capita went from $11,700 in Carter’s final year in office up to $20,000 under Reagan. Voters gave George H.W. Bush credit for being Reagan’s vice president and gave him four years from 1988-1992, and the Reagan boom continued for two more years: 4.2 percent GDP in 1988 and 3.7 percent in 1989. Then what happened?

“Read my lips. No new taxes!” Bush promised America. Then he buckled to Democrats in Congress and passed new taxes. In 1990 GDP dropped to 1.9 percent, followed by -0.1 percent the following year, and Bush was toast. Democrats love to brag about the “Clinton economy” from 1992-2000 which saw solid if not spectacular annual GDP growth per year of 3.5, 2.8, 4.0, 2.7, 3.8, 4.4, 4.5, 4.8, and 4.1 percent. Clinton was lucky in several respects: he was up against a Republican Congress implementing the Contract With America (which Scarborough oddly enough seems to have completely forgotten even though he signed it) that kept him from screwing up the economy, Clinton was often pragmatic when it came to making a deal he thought would make him more popular, and most importantly, Hillary’s plan to implement her version of ObamaCare failed miserably, keeping approximately one-fifth of the economy safe from greedy Democrat politicians. If nothing else, Bill Clinton deserves credit for not screwing the economy up -- remember the famous catchphrase of that Louisiana lizard James Carville, who said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” The economy saved Clinton from impeachment and kept him relatively popular through his two terms, but voters were tired of his shenanigans by 2000.

Voters aren’t stupid. By every measurable standard, the economy has improved under Donald Trump since 2016. Yes, the unadjusted GDP growth rate for 2019 was only 2.3 percent, as Scarborough gleefully pointed out… but from 2016 to 2019 annual GDP rose from 18.7 to 21.4 trillion dollars per year, and GDP per capita grew from $57,900 to $65,460 as unemployment dropped to fifty year lows. Trump is drawing overflow crowds in traditional Democrat strongholds and freezing temperatures.

Well, at least we know what mystifies Joe Scarborough -- basic economics.

John Leonard writes novels, books, and occasional articles or blogs for American Thinker. You may follow him on Facebook or his website (and blog, which includes the AT “rejected” pieces) at southernprose.com.