Friday, October 15, 2004

Reality Road Check: Undecided Voters Part IV

You And Your Money

In my post, Undecided Voters Part II - Politics of Numbers, we discussed the timing of the recession, the indicators of that recession and the incident which compelled it past where it might have gone to the reality of a post September 11 economy. As I noted in that posting, we had hit our economic peak somewhere around October 2000, slightly before President Bush took office. There were a number of things that contributed to it, but, as the National Bureau of Economic Research indicated, we had experienced one of the longest upward climbing economic booms in history. It was bound to come down some sooner or later based on normal economic trends.

We will be reviewing some charts that show this climb as well as historical economic trends that fairly indicate that continuous economic booms do not exist in our history and probably never will. I will also review some things that leant to this economic boom, not the least of which was "hope". "Hope" is an important factor and based on one of the most important historical factors in economic history: the fall of the USSR. This one instance made the United States the last remaining super power on the planet with the strongest economy. It also negated the possibility of nuclear holocaust at the hands of the "evil empire". "Hope" for a future of peaceful economic expansion around the globe was driving investments as not seen since post World War II.

Some might point to China as our next biggest "arch enemy" and the concern of their nuclear weapons. A potential conflict over the right of Taiwan to continue as a free and democratic country at the edge of a post Communist China (yes, "post" communist because China is edging towards capitalism even as we read here). But there is a reality that must be taken along with these concerns that make China less of a danger than many might otherwise consider: Money. Simply, China is in the middle of their own economic boom, largely dependent on trade with the free world (including the US) and global investments. Money trumps all and China is very unlikely to want to damage it's own economy with threats of war.

What about your money? Your money drives this economy. Your money is what will bring us from recession and is working now. But the consumer confidence index shows that you, the consumer, are not as confident. Why is that when economic indicators have shown that we are on the road to recovery?

"Recovery" is in the eye of the beholder. Are we recovering? Do you have money in your pocket? Go to the inner sanctum to find out about your money and why you wonder if we are "recovering".

Do you have more or less money?

Undoubtedly, there are some people reading this that know, after the tax cuts of the last three years, you actually have more money in your paycheck. Others will point out the lost jobs that they experienced that required them to take a job that paid less, even if it was $5 or $.50 less and, understandably, would say they have less in their pocket. Those that have fallen victim to "outsourcing" will point to that as a factor in their considerations for how and when and under who's administration their job loss occurred. It is only you, as the individual who can decide if you have more money in your pocket and determine if this is the sole director of your vote.

What about the country as a whole? Have we lost income or gained income?

During the debate, Senator Kerry claimed that the average household had lost over $9,000 in salary. President Bush claims that his tax breaks put more money into people's pockets, particularly the middle class.

Who is correct?

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, economic trends indicated, even as we went into recession, your real personal income (money from salaries, interest from investments, sale of realestate, etc) steadily increased through 2001:


real personal income through 2001 Posted by Hello

The solid line represents your income during this recession period and the dotted line represents historical trends in income during all other economic recessions.

Why would your income increase, but the country head into recession with job losses as per my post "The Politics of Numbers"? Largely because of two things:


  1. Effects of economic down turns compared to income have a verifiable lag time.
  2. Job losses in 2001 were extensive in the first few months and had tapered off considerably during June, July and August. August showing none. Which means we were set to have one of the shortest recessions in history.


In short, had all economic trends continued as they were, you would have felt very little impact in your pocket. But, as I pointed out in "Politics of Numbers", something else happened entirely. September 11, 2001.

This was not just a human tragedy or even a national tragedy. It was an economic tragedy as well. And it was timed with near perfection.

What does September 11 and Al-Qaida have to do with our financial situation?

As I pointed out in "Politics of Numbers", the economic impact was felt immediately. What might have been a slow game of leap frog back to a growing economy, was exacerbated by immediate unemployment of over 1.4 million people within the first four months after the tragedy.

And you felt it even as the president urged us to go shopping, continue our lives as normal and try to not let it effect us or the economy. In reality, it would be hard for many not to feel these effects. But, it is actually sound advice that we will discuss a little later.

What about Al-Qaida and finances? Did they plan to have this kind of impact or was it incidental to the entire tragedy?

The first thing that you must understand about Osama bin Laden and the advisors that work with him is that they are not stupid people. As much as we might like to imagine them cowering in a cave eating goat cheese and cooking over a campfire, it would be highly disingenuous of anyone to believe that they do not understand finances and impact at least as well as you do. They did not attack the World Trade Centers because they were the tallest buildings in America. They did not attack them because they thought they would get the highest number of casualties (in fact, on a video later released, Osama is heard laughing with amazement over the amount of damage that was actually inflicted). The did not attack them because they were symbols of American ingenuity or freedom.

The attack was orchestrated specifically because these two towers represented the epicenter of American finance and economy. The purpose was to inflict as much damage on the US economy as possible in hopes of forcing just such an economic disaster and, hopefully, force the US to withdraw from some of it's global endeavors.

And what about the timing?

As noted, Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants were not scruffy goat herders without education or understanding of finance. They understood it perfectly well and had been using it to invest money and collect dividends by which to support their own endeavors and launder money. They understood perfectly well the condition of the US economy. The plan had been in place for nearly five years and, yet, had not been unleashed. We could speculate about operational issues and training, etc, but, if we look at the last years of the Clinton administration and the financial indicators, we can see that the US economy was in a "boom". Certainly, an attack would have set us back, but would not have had the impact on a growing economy that it would have on an economy in recession.

With the recovery of August 2001 looming, it was now or never for Al-Qaida to strike and they did. According to some reports, Sheik Khalid had actually tried to get it off the ground in April when the recession had first been called, but that had been postponed due to operational issues.

So, what happened to your money, post September 11?

Almost immediately, you felt it in the pocket book. Within a few months, prices for commodities, dairy, food, clothing and gasoline began to see an increase in cost. Almost immediately, 1.4 million people were unemployed and were desperately searching for any job to sustain them. In which case, there are two factors that effected your money and they are based on "supply and demand" rules of economy:


  1. 1.4 million people searching for a job along with the original 7 million unemployed at the time
  2. Available jobs paid less in salary


The reality is, with so many people looking for a job, employers no longer had to offer top salaries and benefits to attract good employees. The employees were now competing at a rate of 20 to 1 for a position and the employers had the upper hand. The reality is, because so many companies were effected by September 11 and the recession, they no longer had top management positions available or many jobs at all. What was left was lower paying wages which you competed for.

This had a direct impact on your wage earning per family:


median household Income 1967 2003 Posted by Hello

According to these statistics, you, the average family, went from an average household income of $45,000 in 2000 to approximately $43,500. Losing approximately $1500 per year per household.

In answer to our earlier question, was Mr. Kerry correct when he said that the average household had lost nearly $9000 in yearly income? The answer is no although this graph is an "average" so that means that, statistically, someone could have lost as much as $9000 in yearly income. But that would mean, because this is an average, that others would have gained nearly $7500 per year in income. Leaving the aggregated amount of -$1500. However, there are no statistics that support this conclusion, therefore, we must assume that Mr. Kerry's claim is incorrect.

Is President Bush correct when he claims that he has put more money in your pocket?

The answer is "nuanced" as Mr. Kerry likes to say.

The numbers don't lie. You, on average, have less income today then you did in 2000. So, was the president lying? Not exactly. For those who did not lose a job or income, most of you would have realized an additional amount of "take home pay" in your check. This is due to the re-alignment of tax levels. On average, you, whose salary was not directly impacted, saw approximately a 2% increase in your take home pay. In addition, if you have are married, you received approximately 1% additional take home pay for relief from the "marriage penalty" and if you have children, another 1% in take home pay for the child credit. Some of which were only first realized when you did your taxes last year and received your refund check (or paid less to the IRS).

In short, most of you realized an additional 4% in cash from your paycheck.

For those who were impacted by the loss of a job and/or the taking of a lesser salary, your total income was effected, but you probably did not note the additional take home pay in your check because it was less than you were used to making after all.

So, the answer is, yes you have more take home pay, but, no, some of you are making less salary than previously. And, no, we did not lose an average of $9000 per household.

What else do these numbers tell us? Are we recovering?


median household Income 1967 2003 Posted by Hello

If you look at the graph and it's trending closely, you will note that in every recession period, once the downward trend in income leveled off, it never continues to go down, but does immediately begin to grow again. If you look at the end of the graph where it shows the 2002-2003 period, you will also note that household income had leveled off after it's loss. We have no complete numbers for 2004, but we may make conjectures based on known data.


  1. According to the research in "Politics of Numbers", unemployment continues to steadily decrease. Sometimes faster and slower than others.
  2. Average monthly job gain: 103,000.
  3. GDP is steadily rising since it's nearly all time low of .8% in 2001 to appx. 3.7% in 2004 (to date).
  4. Average hourly wages have increased from $15.55 in May 2004 to $15.77 in August 2004. This up from average hourly wages of $14.40 in September of 2001


So why then is consumer confidence down for a second month in a row?


consumer confidence Index 2004 Posted by Hello

There are a few reasons that persist:


  1. Insecurity about continuing economic growth. The last three years have seen some ups and downs based on the financial data and many people are hesitant to believe that the upward trend will continue.
  2. Unemployment continues to be a net loss of jobs (-585,000) which means there is still less money for consumers to spend
  3. Cost of oil continues to rise, forcing the cost of gasoline to increase exponentially.
  4. Increase in gasoline prices have caused an increase in cost of delivery of goods and services which means an increase in cost of living.
  5. Continued fighting in Iraq and other hot situations continue to worry consumers and investors about the future (Iran, North Korea).


What then will the future hold and who best will guide it?

Frankly, there are no guarantees. Any number of factors can effect the economy. The truth is, if we are looking to climb out of this insecure economy in the next 6 months, we may be setting our expectations too high and, having them dashed, will see another leap frog effect on consumer confidence and improved economy. Neither candidate can actually control the economy or how many jobs are created. However, it is their policies that will effect those that create jobs and whether you have money in your pocket from tax reduction.

If we return to the graph above, the width of the blue bar indicates the length of the recession. For instance, the recession of 1981 last until mid 1982. Nearly one and a half years before the economy recovered and then, household income did not start increasing until six months after the recession began to recede or until 1983. After the recession of 1990, household income did not start increasing until three years later, 1993 and did not return to it's previous levels until 1995.

In our current situation, the recession appears to have ended by 2002. In 2003, income loss had leveled off and, according to current trends, will increase for 2004 eventually coming equal with pre-recession income in 2005. If no other financial issues arise, it will continue on past the pre-recession levels.

In short, barring any disasters, you will soon return to your original income and then some.

Is this sustainable?

Again, there are too many factors to accurately project what the economy will do, but today's numbers indicate we are in a recovery. Some things, regardless of who is in office, are unlikely to change:


  1. We will continue in Iraq until it is pacified and the new government is elected for at least another year. Neither candidate is likely to withdraw or have a plan to withdraw any time before that. Continuing violence has an impact on people's buying habits. Only the election of 2005 and continued offenses against the terrorists will tell the outcome.
  2. Oil prices will eventually top out, however, do not look for a fall in price equal to the increase. Countries like China and South Korea having growing populations and economy and require more oil. This is supply and demand economics and, as long as the demand is greater than the supply, prices of oil will not decrease significantly unless other countries can increase their output and few, besides Saudi Arabia, are willing to do so.


But, based on trends, we are recovering and, barring another attack, we will continue to do so. From this perspective, President Bush's economic package of tax cuts seemed to have worked as he indicated and is pulling us from recession. Some might say that this was nothing less than Herculean considering the effects of 9/11. They may be right in this case.

The question must be who will be able to insure the future. We will review each candidates proposals and on the next round of "Politics of Numbers".

Reference Materials
US Department: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Factcheck.org: Bogus Claims on Job Losses
Factcheck.org: Who received tax relief?
National Bureau of Economic Research
Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Index: 2003

11 comments:

Jeffrey said...

Kat, this is Jeffrey from Iraqi Bloggers Central. I just wanted to tell you how much I'v enjoyed your blog. It looks good and it's filled with great info and comments.

I have travelled around in China and you're absolutely right. The Chinese see their Mao-period as a strange aberration in their 5-thousand-year history. Just an odd interlude. No one loves money as much as the Chinese. For example, one of their rituals is to burn fake money for people who have died in their family. To them, it's like a Western Union money order to the Heavens. Of course, they think, the dead need MONEY! For Chinese, even the dead need to have a roll in their pocket. Anyway, the Chinese are hard workers and their cities are booming. Walking in downtown Shanghai will really open your eyes. I do not see a future clash with the Chinese.

*

Robert said...

Oh Kat dear, sorry I've been absent from your blog for a while. I love reading your stuff, but I just don't have the energy to read it all. I don't know how you have the energy to write it all!

I just wanted to say, I saw that movie where the British are slaughtering all the Zulu on AMC last night, and 1. it was interesting to hear the "Men of Harlech" song, and 2. those Zulu sure were stupid.

Kat said...

Jeffrey...I am so glad to see you. I've wondered where you've been. I am glad that you enjoy the blog. Although, after reading my late night posting, I feel that I need an editor. I read this at least 10 times and can't believe I had so many spelling and sentence errors left over!

C'est la Vie!

Anyway, yes, the Chinese are the new economic frontier along with India. That is why there can be no guarantee of stopping "outsourcing". The only guarantee of jobs is for the American people to become innovators and drive more research and development. this is what I see for America. It is one other reason why I agree very much with the "No Child Left Behind" act. It's not enough to stop drop out rates from schools. We must develop our children into scientists, inventors, etc.

Only through invention of technology will we improve our lives and be able to continue to compete with the growing nations of the world.

Robert: I love that movie "Zulu". Michael Caine was so haughtily British in that picture. But yes, my favorite part was the "Men of Harlech" (cornwall) song. It's interesting about that song and Rick Riscorla singing it as he ushered people out of the towers. Someday, people will forget and they'll tell stories. The story of Rick Riscorla singing will be like an urban legend. A myth like all the tales of heroes that came before. But for once, we will know it was true because we live in this time.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

Hi Kat,
While I generally agree about outsourcing and China and India, to a point, I also think that any time there is slave labor, what that tends to do is to export misery. There is never going to be a way to compete with "free" (a.k.a., slave labor). I'm mostly free market, most of the time, but when slavery gets involved, I start to hand the mic over to the Dick Gephardt types and let 'em regulate.

On "No Child Left Behind", I was a contractor for the State of Minnesota in a pet program pushed for by Governor Pawlenty (Republican) in his own version of NCLB, the basic Republican obsession with "school measurement". I learned one major thing which agrees with Republican theories, and one additional major thing that nobody on either side of the political aisle is willing to fess up to and admit, because it slaughters everybody's sacred cows everywhere.

The big Republican thing I learned to be statistically true is that there is no correlation between dollars spent on a child, and educational output as measured by any combination of test scores, disciplinary incidents, graduation rates, or even school attendance. If anything there is a negative correlation, almost as if the more money you throw at a student, the worse their performance gets. Republicans right, Democrats wrong. On that score anyway.

The big secret that no one wants to talk about is WHY that non-correlation (or negative correlation) is there. In my statistical analysis, coupled with my knowledge of certain locations, it's painfully obvious to me that bad parenting is at the root of bad education. Dollars thrown at a school with bad parents dragging the students down, are powerless to drag them back up. It's throwing good money after bad.

The painful thing to have to do, if we're to have any hope of improving education in America, and ultimately the American economy, is to reinstate an old practice from "back in the day", of removing children from particularly egregious homes and placing them where their upbringing will be more conducive to their education, hence, their solidity of citizenship and contribution to the economy (rather than dragging it down as a multigenerational welfare case).

This cuts up the Republican sacred cow because it means "school measurement" and "rewarding schools and teachers based on performance" is an exercise in futility. You cannot hold institutions responsible for things beyond their control. You can teach a student, as a teacher, but can you make sure they get to bed at night? Make sure they shower? Make sure they spend the evening in more productive pursuits than "jacking"? No. Schools are in bondage to measurement efforts, and are feeling great frustration at the illogical burden placed at their doorstep.

It cuts against the Democrat sacred cow because it shows their "Great Society" programs in the 1960s have roundly failed. They took bad parents and subsidized them, which was the direct opposite of what needed to be done. Bad parents need to simply have their children taken away, which sounds draconian, and there will be no end to liberal screaming over the matter, outbursts like "have you no compassion?" But just the same, it must be done if we're to have any hope at all, of surviving as a nation. It all hinges on how much teeth Social Services will really have, in the coming years. Will they have to just sit back and watch when a child is in a family full of crack addicts? If so, just hand the keys over to China and beg them to save us from our own stupidity, while the begging is good.

"Zulu": That movie was a staple of mine as a youngster. It's almost in the category of those films that just plain CAN'T be remade, partly due to politically correct Hollywood, and partly because the original was just so damnably inimitable.

Michael Caine was the perfect English officer. "Ta ta. Do carry on with your... mud pies." I love that crack.

I'll have to disagree about the Zulus being "stupid" though. That strategy of theirs, the bull with the horns, that's actually one that has been adopted into modern military thinking. And if you look at how technologically "challenged" the culture was, in spite of that they achieved enormously sophisticated social organization, far beyond what any other human tribes could ever have done without the use of, say, horseback riding at least (for communication). They just got out-tech'd by the British, and there was a slight psyops advantage on the part of the Brits in the movie, because there was no retreating anyway, and that clever song kept their spirits up. For the Zulus, everywhere the Brits WEREN'T was an opportunity to flee, and it's hard to keep the cadence of those Zulu songs when so many are dropping to gunshot wounds, left and right, and screaming from the agony.

The G-man said...

bad parenting is at the root of bad education.

The problem is that parenting is becoming more and more challenging. The world has become a place where the temptation for kids to do wrong has grown immensely while the tools in a parent's tool chest to parent their children has grown smaller. The things our parents used to teach us right from wrong are now considered abuse.

Recently, a friend of ours found out that her son was shooting out windows of passing cars with a friend's BB gun. She found this out because she was called into the police station to pick the up the wayward child.

As a punishment, she confiscated his Gameboy Advanced and all the attendant games and sold them to a pawn shop to help offset the expense of having all of that auto glass repaired. The child complained at school and our friend received a call from the school counsellor who informed her that her actions amounted to abuse (go figure).

It seems like these days, regardless what a child has done, you are not supposed to punish them. There should be no such thing as consequences in this brave new world.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

G-man, when a school counsellor interprets reasonable punishment as "abuse", then certainly that should be an item on which a school should be measured and the school itself, punished.

At first I thought you were alluding to spanking in your comment, and I was going to say that I managed to raise a daughter without ever spanking her, and she was a model child and at 16 is a well-behaved, well-adjusted treasure.

Taking away the video games is abuse... well, then that school that refuses to fire that counsellor, they should get their funding yanked until the paint peels off the walls. Or until that counsellor is replaced by a competent human from the planet earth, whichever comes first.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

Kat, I forgot to mention about that "Men of Harlech" song. Isn't it ironic that that song is a battle hymn that was once used by Cornish warriors while FIGHTING what later became "The British" (a.k.a. "the Saxons")? I thought so anyway. ;)

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

Three is a charm. I forgot to also comment on the loss of income from the bust of the dot-com boom.

In that peak year of 2000 I was making $115K, as opposed to my present $89K. Now, $89K is not a poverty-level salary by any means, but I didn't have the authority to tell my mortgage lender that I'd decided to pay them 26/115ths less in my mortgage payment, nor could I tell the bank servicing my auto loan that I unilaterally decided to pay that much less to them. So there was a tightening process that required me to refinance the house (conveniently enough this coincided with the prime rate drops that accompany recessions), and generally live less of a playeresque lifestyle, be less of a hot-shot.

I don't blame Bush for the decline though, seeing as it started before he even had a chance to enact any policies, at all. The bubble was just that: a bubble. The $115K I was making before was an untenable level of income, $26K more than could be justified in a corrected market. Clinton is not to blame for this collapse, nor was he to be credited for the temporary annual $26K bonus. Primarily a lot of hype about the Internet that didn't pan out, that afforded me to live beyond what my current means are.

I do feel "pain", but I don't place blame where John Kerry is trying desperately to get me to place it. And I am ever-cautious about his promise to restrict tax increases to "only" those making over $200K. My current employer has a $200 billion market cap, so, will they have to whack my position in order to pay Kerry's tax bill? That is a question far too few Americans are lucid enough to ask, unfortunately.

Kat said...

G-Man and Ciggy...

I agree with you in many respects. I think that what we have here is two problems:

1) Money does not solve all of the problems. Money unwisely spent solves no problems and I think that is where we've had many issues with our school funding since the late sixties. The 70's and busing were definitely outcomes of this poor management. Schools need to be about teaching children reading, writing, math and science. Language is important as well as civic and history classes. Lots of good classes can be taken.

I think something that happened in the 70's and 80's was that we were seeing a change in social attitudes, as Ciggy points out "the great society" in which we, the entire village of the USA, were made responsible for the growth and development for children we have no control of. In a real sense, negating the parents' responsibility or over riding it with societies "sensitivities".

2) Discipline: For the record, when I was growing up, we got spankings. Not harsh beatings, but definitely two strokes of the hand or paddle. This was usually preceded by a 10 minute lecture (that seemed like hours) on how we disappointed said parent.

I think that discipline works whichever way you enforce it, but what I've seen (from cousins and others with children; I have none so you can take what I say with that in mind) is that those that instill discipline (I mean good behavior with encouragement and punishment, whether corporal or some other physical manifestation like "timeout") immediately upon an incident, usually have better adjusted children. Those that continually threaten discipline without taking the steps on a regular basis, have out of control children.

By time they impart some sort of discipline, the child already seems to have won the upper hand. In particualr, children younger than 12. You cannot reason much with a 5 or 7 year old who is throwing a fit or behaving badly. They do not understand "reasoning" in the sense of an older child who already has had "right and wrong" instilled in them.

Children are really small people. Just like adults. Adults, for instance in business, who do not feel the consequences of their behavior, tend to believe that they can continue their behavior ad infinitum because there are no consequences.

My parents both worked. My dad sometimes had two and three jobs. It did not stop them from keeping an eye on us, encouraging us or disciplining us. I don't believe they felt any guilt about working so much to take care of us.

That may be the other issue that guides people in reducing discipline: guilt. We have become a society so over ridden with guilt, it seems we can't justify administering discipline when necessary.

In conclusion, if you guys want to read what I think about "no child left behind", I pretty much wrote exactly what you were commenting on: the downfall of our society in interacting with our children.

Again, they are based on observations.

http://themiddleground.blogspot.com/2004/07/passion-for-equality-raising-men-or.html

Enjoy

Tammi said...

I'm very glad I didn't post my economic piece. You did everything that I wanted to AND added charts and graphs (I thought I'd gone to analyst heaven there for a moment).

You are exactly right when you point out that the recession was on it's way, no matter who was in office. It's economics - pure and simple. What goes up MUST come down at some point. Also - when 9/11 struck (which I agree was deliberate timing) it just put everyone into a freeze. No one traveled, no one shopped. It was devestating here in Florida, as we were hit like the rest of the country, add to that no tourists, so there were many jobs cut due to no traffic. And those that didn't get cut were too afraid to spend any money that it just kept spiraling out of control.

We are still limping along. (of course the damn hurricanes didn't help either.) It's better but not where it could be, or even where much of the country is.

And as to the unemployement figures, honestly - reporting 96,000 new jobs in the last Labor Department report with a constant in unemployment is actually pretty amazing considering the past 3 years. I know that doesn't sound good when you are one of the unemployed but it actually is pretty amazing.

Kat said...

Tammi...that is exactly what I am trying to convey. we were going to have a recession, period. didn't matter who was in. the question would have been, who would do what to jump start it again and how long would it have been.

One thing that is constant is Alan Greenspan. If I remember correctly, at no time did he suggest lowering the federal interest rate before Sept 11. If there is one person that knows the economy, it's Mr. Greenspan, whether it's a democrat or republican in office. It was not until the catostrophic effects of Sept 11 that anyone started to consider taking drastic measures to pull us out of the nose dive we were in.

I mean, do you know of any countries anywhere that can have a GDP of .8% and then return to 3.7% in three years? It doesn't happen. You have only to look at Russia or India or even the European countries.

Frankly, had France or Germany had this type of catastrophe, you would have seen some major cutting of their benefits. The market as it exists would have collapsed and you can bet your bottom dollar we would have been enacting all sorts of economic packages to pull them out.

did anyone see any European countries do anything to pull us out? No. Because they couldn't afford to. We saved ourselves and will only continue to save ourselves by diversifying services and products. By innovative technologies. Nobody saved us but the US citizens and the policies of the President. If taxes had remained as they were pre 9/11, we would be now still talking about 2% GDP and praying for relief.

That's a fact.

Ciggy...yes, I do find it very interesting that the "Men of Harlech" was sung by a British troop some 400 years after it was sung by the enemy of England, the Welsh.

Irony in it's fittest form.