Flat Earthers for Bush!
October 4, 2004 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Don Luskin dismisses high school economics as Democrat propaganda in the National Review:
Be that as it may, there is no unique virtue to inflation-adjusting — except that it makes all changes in income look worse, which well serves the liberal agenda of the Times’s economic reporting during an election year.
The National Review has always been conservative, but I'm unaware of when a writer for a mainstream publication has so explicitly dismissed something as common-sensical as real dollars. What's next? Gravity? Heliocentrism? Via Brad DeLong.
posted by goethean (16 comments total)
Its only because they use that damn fuzzy math that Dear Leader detests.

The earth is flat and only 6,000 years old.

When the facts and the law are on your side, pound on the facts and the law, when they are not, pound on the podium.

No cognitive dissonance exists in the right wing. No sir. None. So just SHUT UP!!!
posted by nofundy at 1:12 PM on October 4, 2004

That's funny, I'll have to RTFA. My high school economics teacher was a grumpy Rush Limbaugh listener whose main thesis was that taxes are theft. We skipped the chapters on labor unions and the environment.
posted by inksyndicate at 1:14 PM on October 4, 2004

Real dollars, like economics itself, are of human invention. Gravity and heliocentrism are not.
posted by quadog at 1:29 PM on October 4, 2004

Gravity and heliocentrism are not [a human invention].

They got to you already, haven't they? You and your filthy crypto-syndicalist gnome-of-zurich masters won't stop me from finding the truth! The truth is out there!
posted by aramaic at 1:50 PM on October 4, 2004

Sir--only the bible is mainstream. The rest is radical nonsense from either side of the aisle.
posted by Postroad at 2:01 PM on October 4, 2004

Someone should inform him that a .2% increase in two years isn't that great to begin with, even if you're going to put on your Reality Blinders and ignore inflation. That means, if I started at $60k, I got a $60 raise (yes, that's SIXTY DOLLARS) each year for the past two years.

Economic expansion, my ass.
posted by mkultra at 2:05 PM on October 4, 2004

Luskin's reply is rich:

As to Johnston’s liberal credentials, I can think of none more impeccable than having one’s book endorsed in a Paul Krugman column (being a New York Times economic reporter is another good one). The fact that the book has been endorsed by others whom Johnston judges to be non-liberal is immaterial.

Because if Krugman endorses it, it's wrong.

I'm sure Luskin won't be offended if I apply the same logic to his writings from here on out.
posted by namespan at 2:11 PM on October 4, 2004

Certainly adjusting for inflation is a reasonable thing to do in this case as it more accurately represents the change in income. However, the point that one could choose when to adjust or not adjust for inflation in order to serve political goals is a legitimate one. Of course, without a counter-example that Johnston has used or would use unadjusted income data when it benefited a liberal public figure, the charge is unsubstantiated.

Still, in context (which this front page quote lacks), Luskin doesn't dismiss adjusting for inflation as a process without value (as implied in the fpp). He dismisses it as not being distinctly more valuable than other possible adjustments (he lists effective tax rate and non-cash compensation) that could be made. The point is arguable but legitimate.

For the record, I think Luskin's accusations that the Times is manipulating economic data to fit a liberal agenda are complete garbage. Nor do I agree with much of anything he said in the linked article. But he never rejected basic economic principles.

Manipulatively distortion of conservative positions is still manipulative distortion. Let's not all cheer it on just because we're mostly liberal here.
posted by Wingy at 2:18 PM on October 4, 2004

"Mainstream" Reuters dismissed real dollars a long time ago - at least when it makes Bush look bad.
posted by mikewas at 2:29 PM on October 4, 2004

I sat in on a few sophmore/junior econ classes for fun in college -- didn't have the time to really get serious with many of them, so for most I didn't enroll -- but the thing that struck my (admittedly shallow) experience with them was that while the math seemed solid and interesting, I had no sense that any of this was demonstrably connected to reality. Certainly not like my physics courses, where we either did experiments that demonstrated what we were learning, or, failing that, were pointed to experiments where data was gathered and we could look it over and verify that, sure enough, it matched the theory pretty well. We never did anything like this in econ, which really bugged me.

So sometimes I think of economics in general as, if not a psuedoscience, a long series of thought experiments....
posted by weston at 3:00 PM on October 4, 2004

Wingy, you seem to be saying that there is no unique virtue to inflation-adjusting — except that it produces accurate numbers.
posted by goethean at 3:23 PM on October 4, 2004

in the uk things are pretty much like the usa, i guess, in that correcting for inflation is something that you should do when you want to compare things over time, but which doesn't otherwise influence you day-to-day.

here in chile, however, they have this strange monetary unit, separate from the peso, called the UF. the value of a UF changes from month to month, following some arbitrary "basket" of prices (bread, gasoline, etc) to stay constant in value (in "real" terms - ie it adjusts for inflation).

presumably this was introduced when the economy was in a mess with huge inflation. however, it remains used even now (when inflation is at similar levels to the uk, usa). most houses are priced in UF. i pay my pension contributions in UF. if i apply for a loan to buy a house, everything (including interest) is in UF.

that last one is nasty because for a moment you (if you're used to non-corrected values) think you're getting a great deal. then you realise that the interest is "on top of" inflation.

so anyway, here, at least, "real dollars" aren't just some abstract thing. they're the basis of most large financial transactions. they're real.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:12 PM on October 4, 2004

ps it's a monetary unit, but it's not a banknote. you can't put a box full of UF under your bed (although you can get medium/short term investments with guaranteed returns in UF).
posted by andrew cooke at 4:15 PM on October 4, 2004

andrew cooke:

posted by delmoi at 7:29 PM on October 4, 2004

Interesting. I had never heard of this UF. Here is the best background I could find and here is the paper mentioned in the background piece.
posted by euphorb at 8:56 PM on October 4, 2004

I don't feel like poking around on his website to find his C.V., but the guy's post-high school formal education consists entirely of a semester at Columbia.
posted by coolgeek at 7:22 PM on October 6, 2004

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