|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by J.C. Nossiter
|The Morning Mendacity
Sunday, August 8th, 2004
|The Nossiter Net is cast to ensnare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? firstname.lastname@example.org|
|George Shultz served as Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Labor, and Director of OMB under Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Before that, he was a professor at the business school at the University of Chicago, as well as its Dean. He should, in other words, know better.
But on the Op-Ed page of Wednesday’s 8/4/04 New York Times, Mr. Shultz practices an art form all too popular with Bush Republicans: the manipulation of data for political purposes. In a piece called A Record of Recovery, Mr. Shultz argues that a recession created by Clinton has “turned into prosperity under” Bush. Mr. Shultz illustrates his thesis with two line charts. Apart from obvious troughs shortly before ’91 and ’02, both lines, representing percentage changes in GDP and employment growth over time, are relatively flat, demonstrating that the Bush economy is the equal of Clinton’s.
In fact, the flatness of the lines is achieved with a simple ploy of the chart-makers art: compress the Y axis and expand the X axis scales enough, and any data can appear relatively unchanging. Mr. Shultz’s own employment numbers expose this deception. Employment growth under President Bush is 100% lower than when President Clinton took office and 200% lower than at the peak of the Clinton expansion, enormous differences that appear to be minor in Mr. Shultz’s sleight of hand graphic. Had one of his former economics students produced such charts, Professor Shultz would have given him an A – for Artifice.
The Afternoon Affront
We hate to keep criticizing the New York Times, but then again, how can we not? George Bush will almost certainly preside over the first administration since Herbert Hoover’s to produce a net loss of jobs over the course of four years, 1.1 million and counting. And yet in Katharine Q. Seelye’s story on 8/7/04, the best sub-head the Times could come up with was “But Bush Stays Upbeat Despite Poor Jobs Data.”
As though contesting the NYT for the depths of vacuity, Mr. Bush’s stump speech now maintains that, economically, "we are turning the corner and we're not turning back". As John Kerry has noted, another Republican President employed a similar line: “Prosperity is just around the corner.” Who was that President? Herbert Hoover.
©J.C. Nossiter, 2004
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