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January 07, 2006

NYT Attempts To Spin The Economy, Somewhat Halfheartedly

Come on, boys, you can do better than this, can't you?

The article is definitely negative and slanted, but only a little compared to the usual fare. And it does contain this extraodinary admission:

By almost all measures, last year was a good one for the American economy. The economy expanded by about 3.6 percent in 2005, the fourth consecutive year of solid growth, despite the soaring energy prices and the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.

But check this out:

Many analysts said, however, that Mr. Bush's policies were not the primary reason for the economy's strength.

"Tax cuts had very little to do with it," said Narimen Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight, a forecasting firm in Lexington, Mass. "You had a housing boom, which had very little to do with tax cuts, driving consumer spending. We also had before this year the dollar coming down, which helped drive up exports."

This is absurd. No President's policies are the "primary reason" for the economy's strength (or weakness). What a president can do to improve (or sabotage) and economy is fairly limited by structural restrictions (e.g., the Federal Reserve controlling interest rates, entirely out of the administration's hands) or political ones (e.g., there is only a limited range of tax rates the public will accept).

Clinton's policies were also not the "primary reason" for the strength of the later 1990's economy, as "many analysts" would have said then, too, had the NYT only bothered to ask.

But of course the NYT's economic storyline back then was "Everything that's good that's happening is all because of Clinton," because they generally agreed with his policies. Especially that bit about raising taxes "on the rich."

The proper question is whether or not the administration's policies are helpful to growth, whether or not they contribute to the strength of the economy. The Times didn't ask that, perhaps fearing what "many analysts" would tell them.

Skilllllll... Luck! Update: When I was in high school, I and my friends engaged in this childish sort of analysis-- but ironically. As a joke.

We'd play ping pong, and we'd argue (again, joking) that whenever we won, it was "skillllll..," and whenever an opponent won, it was "luck." We had a handy blackboard, where we graphed out the "skill-luck" duality. My friend, for example, would put up on the blackboard his three wins and show a rising trend-line as he said "skillllllllll..." and then when he got to my two wins, he'd plunge the trend-line down and say "luck!"

It's good to know we were so far out on the forefront of economic analysis. We were doing skilllllll...luck! analysis before the NYT started doing it with Clinton and Bush.

Reagan: Pretty much the only modern President who pushed through such major changes to the tax code that he could be said to be the "primary reason" for the economy's health or sickness (health, as it turned out).

Since then it's mainly been tinkering at the edges.

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posted by Ace at 10:04 AM

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