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How Uncle Sam Fiddles with the Figures

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted August 14, 2008




Fuzzy Numbers. That according to Kevin Phillips is what the U.S. government is all about when it comes to official economic data.

In fact I wrote about Phillips in a piece published in May entitled: Uncle Sam’s Phony Economic Numbers.

In a Harper’s magazine story, Phillips wrote:

“Ever since the 1960s, Washington has gulled its citizens and creditors by debasing official statistics, the vital instruments with which the vigor and muscle of the American economy are measured.  

The effect has been to create a false sense of economic achievement and rectitude, allowing us to maintain artificially low interest rates, massive government borrowing, and a dangerous reliance on mortgage and financial debt even as real economic growth has been slower than claimed.  

The truth, though it would not exactly set Americans free, would at least open a window to wider economic and political understanding. Readers should ask themselves how much angrier the electorate might be if the media, over the past five years, had been citing 8 percent unemployment (instead of 5 percent), 5 percent inflation (instead of 2 percent), and average annual growth in the 1 percent range (instead of the 3-4 percent range).

The real numbers, to most economically minded Americans, would be a face full of cold water. Based on the criteria in place a quarter century ago, today’s U.S. unemployment rate is somewhere between 9 percent and 12 percent; the inflation rate is as high as 7 or even 10 percent; economic growth since the recession of 2001 has been mediocre, despite a huge surge in the wealth and incomes of the superrich, and we are falling back into recession.”

Since then I’ve come across, a continuation on this theme via a post on The Big Picture.

It’s a video from Chris Martenson, and it explains how the government massages the numbers in ways that mere print never can.

So if you want to know how it all really works, I recommend you click the link below:

Martenson’s entire course, by the way, is well worth your time.

The cleat of reality is out there folks-just don’t expect to get it from the government.

Ponder that while you consider the recently released inflation data. It was hot again.

From AP by Martin Crutsinger entitled: Consumer prices rise at double the expected rate

“Consumer prices shot up in July at twice the expected rate, pushed higher by surging energy and food costs. The latest surge left inflation running at the fastest pace in 17 years.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that consumer prices rose by 0.8 percent last month, twice the 0.4 percent gain that economists had been expecting.

It marked the third straight month of oversized inflation increases following jumps of 0.6 percent in May and 1.1 percent in June. And it leaves inflation rising by 5.6 percent over the past year, the biggest 12-month gain since January 1991.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, rose 0.3 percent in July, slightly higher than the 0.2 percent increase that economists had expected. For the past 12 months, core inflation has risen by 2.5 percent, the highest 12-month change since February.

The battering of consumers continues as prices are rising for just about everything,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. “If you think things are going to get a lot better with the drop in petroleum prices, think again. The increases (in July) were broadbased.”

The core inflation figure was driven higher by a big 1.2 percent jump in clothing costs, the biggest increase in this area since August 1998. Airline ticket prices, which have been surging because of higher fuel costs, jumped another 1.3 percent in July.

The big rise in inflation left consumers even more squeezed. The Labor Department said that average weekly earnings, after adjusting for inflation, fell by 3.1 percent in July compared to a year ago, the biggest year-over-year decline since November 1990.”

The truth is out there….