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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How NOT to Cover the Economy...

Among DeLong?s horror stories: This November 4, 2005 New York Times story: "Senate Passes Budget With Benefit Cuts and Oil Drilling," By Robert Pear with Carl Hulse.
 
The first paragraph:
 
The Senate on Thursday narrowly approved a sweeping five-year plan to trim a variety of federal benefit programs and to allow drilling for oil and natural gas in a wilderness area of Alaska, increasing the chances that the energy industry and Alaska officials will achieve a long-sought goal. The budget bill, the most ambitious effort to curb federal spending in eight years, was approved by a vote of 52 to 47. Five Republicans opposed the measure; two Democrats voted for it. Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said, "This bill is a reflection of the Republican Congress's commitment to pursue a path of fiscal responsibility." It will, Mr. Gregg said, reduce the deficit and save roughly $35 billion over the next five years...?
 
DeLong explains why it?s a horror:
 
The Federal government currently spends money at the rate of $2.6 trillion a year. Total incomes in the entire American economy are about $12 trillion a year. Saving $35 billion over five years means that you are saving $7 billion a year--0.3% of federal spending; 0.06% of GDP. Out of a federal budget that spends $9,000 per person per year, Judd Gregg is saving $27 a year.
 
Thus reading a lead like that makes Brad DeLong, at least, foam at the mouth: phrases like "sweeping," "ambitious," "commitment," and "fiscal responsibility" simply have no place here--especially since [the author] does not give his readers any of the numbers needed as reference points to assess the magnitude of the Senate's action.
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