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Boskin: U.S. Economic Data Is Almost Criminal

Thursday, 14 Jan 2010 09:43 AM

Former White House economist Michael J. Boskin says American investors no longer place much credibility in the economic and fiscal statistics being reported by the U.S. government, and are “increasingly inclined to disbelieve them.”

Boskin, the one-time economic adviser to President George H.W. Bush, says that solid, reliable information is needed by investors, because “as a society, and as individuals, we need to make difficult, even wrenching choices, often with grave consequences.”

To base those decisions on misleading, biased, or manufactured numbers, is not just wrong, “but dangerous,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

But, due to the obvious fudging of numbers involved in the government’s health care insurance industry reform effort, most Americans now believe the health-care legislation will actually raise their insurance costs, rather than reduce them, and increase the federal budget deficit, rather than contain it.

That’s not the only area where cynicism over official statistics is growing.

“Most Americans are highly skeptical of the claims of climate extremists,” writes Boskin, now a professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

And because of the spin over “jobs created and saved” by the stimulus, they have a “more realistic reaction to the extraordinary deterioration in our public finances than do the president and Congress,” Boskin adds.

Squandering their credibility with these numbers games will only make it more difficult for America’s elected leaders to garner support for difficult decisions from a public increasingly inclined to disbelieve them, writes Boskin.

For example, touting the claim that the U.S. economy came out of recession last summer, while Germany’s economy last year suffered its worst post-war slide, according to Der Spiegel online, strains credulity among economic observers.

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Former White House economist Michael J. Boskin says American investors no longer place much credibility in the economic and fiscal statistics being reported by the U.S. government, and are increasingly inclined to disbelieve them. Boskin, the one-time economic adviser...
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