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Yup, those were First World Problems…

Yesterday the New York Times ran an op-ed by Bill Clinton commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. “Since his death, not a week has gone by that I have not missed him,” he wrote. “I loved him and his wife, Leah, very much.” Then Clinton mentioned his own wife, Hillary, who forced the military hero to go out on the Truman Balcony when he wanted a smoke. Those were the days, right?

“A decade and a half since his death, I continue to believe,” continued the fellow from a town called Hope, “that, had he lived, within three years we would have had a comprehensive agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

The chutzpah of that one, setting a definitive deadline by which a Middle East peace agreement definitely would have been brokered in an alternate reality! But to that end of course it’s hard to think about the great dead statesman of Israel when his good friend and fellow statesman has shown up with his soothing tones at precisely the moment his the liberal intelligentsia was missing him most. They miss him so much! Mainly for the way he was such a hit with the lower-brow liberals, despite his epic betrayal of their economic interests. (And leave it to the liberals, they’ve already started re-Tweeting the latest revisionist history talking points about that part!) And to the liberal establishment’s credit, in contrast to Yitzhak Rabin or Barack Obama, Clinton is decisively alive. Which makes it a lot more comforting to have him to focus on while we’re being told to click our eyes and just imagine it’s 1994, knowing what we know now about how that turned out two years later for the Democrat.

Now: I more than anyone would love it to be 1994 right now. But how to put this as emphatically as it needs to be said…had Kurt Cobain not died that year, had he instead devoted the next three years to recording sequels to “Rape Me” he still would have failed …THIS IS NOT 1994.

But you do what you can, so I tried to marshal some statistics to drive home this point, keeping in mind that the problem with statistics is that they are near-universally manipulated and debauched by the number crunchers who know hacks like me will take whatever numbers they can come up with to sound “authoritative” enough to get the bosses off our backs. (You’ll remember this if you happened to take the SATs around 1994, the year before they were “re-centered” to make it appear as though America’s children was learning more than they actually were.) So I tried to find numbers that were as unsullied as possible, without too many percentages, averages, subtle changes in methodology or adjustments for inflation. The consumer price index says that $1.00 then bought what $1.47 gets you today, but I’ve got a Washington City Paper from 1995 right here chock full of 75-cent draft beer specials and dozens if not hundreds of classifieds advertising Adams Morgan and Mount Pleasant housing shares in the under-$300 price range.

You may notice that the most profound change in the numbers is the amount of income and wealth possessed by the very and extremely rich. Both the Clinton and Bush Administrations promoted this trend with near-identical rates of enthusiasm; the income raked in by the top 1% of households surged an annualized rate of 10.3% during the Clinton Administration economic expansion and, following the stock market crash and 9/11 recession, resumed growing at an annualized rate of 10.1% during that that occurred under Bush. For the rest of us, the past 16 years have pretty much been one long, slow and decisive suck. That is probably part of the reason we miss 1994 so much.

THEN (1994, unadjusted for inflation)

Median household income: $32,264
for households headed by holders of bachelor’s degrees: $52,370
And speaking of college…
Tuition, room and board at a 4-year public university: $8,990
Private: $18,784
Ivy League grade “elitist”-type institution: around $25,000 (there were a lot of alarmist “six figure college degree” trend stories this year)

Population: 260 million
Number who voted Democratic in the last presidential election: 44.9 million
In prison/jail: 1.5 million
Without health insurance: 42 million
On food stamps 27 million

GDP: about $6.9 trillion
“Income” portion of that: $5.59 trillion
Income earned by top 1% of households: about $838 billion
…and top .01% of households: about $139 billion
Income earned by bottom 90% of households: $3.41 trillion
(Average household income of bottom 90%: $34,795)

National debt: about $4.2 trillion
Consumer debt: roughly $4.5 trillion
Annual health care expenditures: 949.4 billion

NOW (Roughly 2010, with some extrapolations based on 2008-2009 figures)

Median household income: $49,777 +54.2%
…in households with bachelor’s degrees: $67,840 +29.5%
Tuition, room, board etc. at average public university: $16,140 +79.5%
Private: $36,993 +97%
Ivy: about 50K +100%

General population: 307 million +18%
Number who voted Democratic in the last presidential election: 69.5 million +56.2%
Prison/incarcerated population: 2.4 million +60%
Uninsured: 50.7 million +21%
On food stamps: 42.4 million +57%

GDP: $14.3 trillion +126%
Income portion of that: $12.1 trillion +116%
Of that, earned by top 1% of the population: $2.783 trillion +226%
…and top .01% of the population: $726 billion +422%
Income earned by bottom 90% of the population: $6.05 trillion +77%
(Average household income in bottom 90%: $52,609 +51%)

National debt: $13.6 trillion +224%
Annual health care spending: $2.524 trillion +165%
Consumer debt: $11.7 trillion +160%