Ignoring economic facts, Matthews claimed Democratic Party "hasn't done jack" for middle class

››› ››› JOE BROWN

Chris Matthews claimed that the Democratic Party "hasn't done jack" to improve the economic well-being of poorer and middle-class Americans. In fact, during the Clinton administration -- the last period during which Democrats had significant control over national economic policy -- the economy added more jobs per year, unemployment decreased, and personal per capita income increased more per year than it has under President Bush.

On the May 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews claimed that the Democratic Party "hasn't done jack" to improve the economic well-being of poorer and middle-class Americans. In fact, during the Clinton administration -- the last period during which Democrats had significant control over national economic policy -- the economy added more jobs per year, unemployment decreased, and personal per capita income increased more per year than it has under President Bush.

Matthews made his comments during a discussion with Democratic Party strategist Steve McMahon. Shortly after noting that he "grew up in a cloth-coat Republican family" who "voted Republican because they believed in fiscal responsibility," Matthews stated that "cloth-coat Republicans" -- whom he identified as "merely middle-middle" class -- "must be really depressed," given the high cost of fuel and their lack of sufficient stock holdings to benefit from the current surging stock market. When McMahon asserted that the Republican Party has absorbed so-called "Reagan Democrats" "on the strength of these kinds of economic issues and the perception that cutting taxes is going to grow the economy where they live," Matthews protested: "But your party hasn't done jack."

In fact, the Clinton presidency saw better yearly job growth, decreases in unemployment, and larger yearly increases in personal per capita income compared to the Bush presidency:

  • Under President Clinton, the economy added 18.5 million jobs,* an average of 2.3 million per year. Under Bush, the economy has added 6.1 million jobs,** an average of 1.2 million per year. [Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]
  • Under Clinton, the unemployment rate decreased from 7.1 percent to 4.2 percent,* falling an average of 0.4 percent per year. Under President Bush, the unemployment rate has climbed, from 4.2 percent to 4.7 percent,** an average increase of 0.1 percent per year. [Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]
  • Under Clinton, personal per capita income (2000 dollars) grew from $21,293 to $25,622,* an average increase of $541 per year. Under Bush, personal income per capita (2000 dollars) has grown from $25,608 to $27,735,*** an increase of $404 per year. [Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis]

From the May 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: You know, I grew up in a cloth-coat Republican family, not -- merely middle-middle -- and they voted Republican because they believed in fiscal responsibility. They believed in the government, they believed in -- not in the government, they believed in the country; they're very patriotic, obviously. And I got the feeling -- I must say that those people must be wondering why are the stock market values going so high and I don't have much in the market and my gas prices keep getting higher and I'm commuting 50 miles a day and I'm paying a lot of money out. Steve?

McMAHON: That's exactly what's going on.

MATTHEWS: The cloth-coat Republicans must be really depressed.

McMAHON: The Republicans have taken the Reagan Democrats and made them Republicans on the strength of these kinds of economic issues and the perception that cutting taxes is going to grow the economy where they live.

MATTHEWS: But your party hasn't done jack.

McMAHON: Well, come on, Chris. That's not true.

MATTHEWS: What have they done?

McMAHON: Our party, first of all, doesn't control any branch of government, and the Republicans in Congress won't let any of the Democratic alternatives come up for a vote. So regardless of whether it's health care for every American -- which there are bills in Congress to do -- or actions that might result in lower gas prices faster than what the president and Republicans are talking about, the Republicans in Congress simply won't let it come forward. And the message the Democrats have to carry is, we have the alternatives, the Republicans are blocking them, and if you want to get those alternatives heard and voted on, you're going to have to send a Democratic Congress to Washington in January.

*From February 1993 through January 2001

**From February 2001 through April 2006

***From February 2001 through March 2006 (BEA data for April 2006 not yet available)

Posted In
Economy
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
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