Baxter Black: The Misery Index 2011
September 16, 2011
Economists have a mythical figure called the misery index. It is the total of the unemployment rate added to the inflation rate. This summer in the U.S. it’s running about 13.0. The lower the better. In both the 90s and ’00s it’s been as low as 7.
To calculate indexes like this, the conclusion can be broadly accurate. But, to make it more personal one can include more variables. For instance, take one inch of rain as a factor. The misery index of an alfalfa farmer with hay on the ground would be 15.6. It would have been 16.0 except his prize pumpkin patch was getting parched.
Or say you were entered up in Cheyenne at the big rodeo and that one inch of rain fell the hour before you were to compete in the bull dogging. Your misery index could be as high as the weight of your hazer!
Another broad category would be the temperature. At the Winter Olympics, the misery index would rise as the temperature did. But say Billy Bob went to the three-day tailgate party at the Oklahoma vs. Kansas football game. The hotter it got in the parking lot, the more beer you could hold! So the misery index would decline!
To personalize the misery index even more… and remember lower is better, you could include factors like:
• years since you bought a new pair of boots + unemployment + inflation or
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• semesters till your daughter graduates from vet school plus, plus,
• months you have left on your truck payments, plus, etc
• age of the horse you are riding, plus
• payments left on your alimony, well, you know
• therapy sessions until your hip heals so you can get back on your horse… and
• time you have left wearing the court-ordered ankle bracelet
I was at a livestock convention a while back and after the big show a group of pretty salty cowmen were conversing. They got to comparing injuries and insults. I mentioned the misery index. They loved it! They could compete in who was the worst off! However, they began to get far afield in the categories to be counted as the evening went on: i.e., the number of missing teeth with no cavities you still have left, the number of times you’ve been bucked off lately, number of horses that have been dumped on your place, number of times you’ve been turned down by a barmaid until you met your wife, the number of times you lost your wallet, car keys and/or glasses in the last week, but… Bud was finally judged the winner of the misery index by counting the number of times his old, incontinent dog peed in the pickup seat… plus inflation and unemployment. It nearly reached President Carter’s old record of 21.9.