This Chart Still Needs a Campaign To Speak For It


A few weeks ago, AEI linked to this Wall Street Journal chart:

The post was titled, “Romney’s Economic Case In One Chart,” and it should be. But charts don’t speak for themselves; they need to be explained.  In an age where pollsters routinely judge presidential prospects by the responses to the question, “Understands the problems of ordinary Americans,” it’s not enough to talk in abstract terms about getting the economy moving again, or screaming “Liberty!” at increasingly shrill pitches.  It’s not even enough to say that the ever-growing gap between the dark red line and the light red line represents wealth.  People need to be reminded why charts like this matter to them.

Like this:

I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century ago.

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

But it is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope—because the nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out.

Eighty years of wealth accumulation later, we are not anywhere near so desperate.  But a large portion of this still applies, and it wouldn’t be too hard to translate it into modern terms.

That gap represents houses unbought, vacations untaken, memories not made.  It represents retirements not taken, or undertaken with too little money.  It represents families living closer to the edge of disaster, and thus closer to the trap of government assistance, since they can save less.  It represents education and training not gotten, success not earned.

Stasis is not starvation, but it is no less empty for all that, and it will, as Europe has shown, accelerate over time.  In a country when men and women pride themselves on being masters of their own destiny, it should be possible to explain what being at the mercy of hostile forces means.

The good news is that we know it’s possible, and that the man who made it work was one of the rare 20th Century patrician Presidents.

The bad news is that those words were spoken at his Second Inaugural, as he prepared to deepen and strengthen all the wrong solutions.

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