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UPDATE (01/17): The DOW fell just under 307 points today, closing at 12,159.21, making this the FIFTH 200+ point loss this year, which is not yet three weeks old.

I was given a subscription to “Vanity Fair” Magazine for my birthday during the 2004 Presidential Election. I was unaware at the time that VF is one of the best sources of political journalism there is, whose editor, Greydon Carter, is a notorious critic of the Bush Administration. I have happily renewed my subscription every year since.

While having an unabashed Democratic slant that spares no Republican from its in-depth investigative journalism, the magazine is popular among many Conservatives, who frequently write Letters to the Editor to complain about some “unfair bias” or “misinformation” in a previous article.

Two such letters appear in this month’s (February 2008) issue. The author of the article in question was given the opportunity to reply to his critics, which I felt was so lacking, I had no choice but to write the VF Mailbag and provide a proper response:

I know VF doesn’t typically allow readers to respond to others’ comments, but I found Mr. Stiglitz’s response to letters last month (February issue) fatally lacking.

Two readers repeated ubiquitous Republican Talking Points dismissing the economic achievements of both FDR and Bill Clinton.

The first reader pointed out the looming recession during President Clinton’s final year in office. Of the eight years of the Clinton presidency, only two were poor performers: 1996 & 2000. And what do those two years have in common? They were both ELECTION YEARS. While the DOW is a notoriously bad benchmark of economic health, it is an excellent measure of economic mood. The DOW hit its record high in January of 2000… the very beginning of the political campaign (a novel idea to begin a Presidential campaign in the same year as the election, I know). Governor George W. Bush went on the campaign trail telling everyone at every stop that “the economy wasn’t as good as they were saying”, and with that, the market slipped. And like a self-fulfilling prophecy, with every slip, Bush continued to point to the decline as “proof” that what he was saying was true. People forget that before 9/11, the popular consensus was that George W. Bush “talked the economy into a recession”.

Another reader, loaded with selective facts, points out that the economy that grew under FDR following the Hoover Depression, was far weaker in 1938 than in 1937, and only the massive military buildup of WWII finally pulled us out of The Great Depression.

What that reader conveniently disregarded (or is unaware of) is that in 1938, Europe was in chaos. Hostility between China and Japan grew, Spain was on the brink of civil war, and Italy, Germany and Japan formed the Anti-Comintern Pact which threw Europe into turmoil as the Axis began preparing for war.

It is unfathomable that the second reader could credit military sales to Europe for bolstering the U.S. economy from ’39 to ’41, but conveniently disregard the decimation of sales to Europe in 1938 as that same war approached. “War” did not rescue the economic recovery under FDR. It delayed it.

In just the past 2-1/2 months, the DOW has seen SIXTEEN TRIPLE DIGIT LOSSES due mostly in part to the current mortgage lending crisis. The DJIA is currently 1,485 points off its 14,000.41 record high close of July, 2007. Once a rare sign of trouble, FOUR of those sixteen 200+ point drops occurred in just the past two weeks alone. This is the record they defend while criticizing the stunning successes of FDR and Bill Clinton.

Despite Vanity Fair’s normal practice of not printing responses to other readers, they have done so at least once in the past, and I’m hoping they will do so again. I’ll let you know.