Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Debasement Of Official Statistics

As shocking as the job numbers are -- 533,000 lost in November and two million in the first 11 months of the year -- as the economy hurtles God Knows Where, they mask an even grimmer reality: That there are millions more Americans who have stopped looking for work who aren't included in unemployment statistics.

This is a particular pet peeve of mine and something that consistently escapes the notice of that lazy-assed mainstream news media.

Kevin Phillips, my favorite fallen conservative intellectual, addressed this in "Numbers Racket: Why the Economy Is Worse Than We Know" in the May edition of Harper's. A wee taste:
"[S]ince the 1960s, Washington has been forced to gull its citizens and creditors by debasing official statistics: the vital instruments with which the vigor and muscle of the American economy are measured. The effect, over the past twenty-five years, has been to create a false sense of economic achievement and rectitude, allowing us to maintain artificially low interest rates, massive government borrowing, and a dangerous reliance on mortgage and financial debt even as real economic growth has been slower than claimed. If Washington’s harping on weapons of mass destruction was essential to buoy public support for the invasion of Iraq, the use of deceptive statistics has played its own vital role in convincing many Americans that the U.S. economy is stronger, fairer, more productive, more dominant, and richer with opportunity than it actually is."
More here.

Meanwhile, the awful jobs news appears to have ended an impasse over whether to bail out the Big Three automakers.

An initial $25 billion will come from an already passed bill in the form of
federally subsidized loans intended for developing fuel-efficient cars, which would seem to violate the spirit of the bill since General Motors and Chrysler, and possibly Ford as well, will use the money to stay afloat.

Hat tip to Talking Points Memo for Phillips item

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