The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Avenue of Broken Resolutions

Way back on December 30, Dean Baker wrote up a lovely list of New Year's resolutions that would do us all some good in 2007. For example:

1) Put Numbers in Context

Virtually no one can attach any meaning to the $40 million appropriation for a particular earmark, the $196 billion transportation budget for the next six years, or the projected $70 trillion budget shortfall over the infinite future. These numbers can be made meaningful by putting them in some context. In the case of budget items, this is probably best done as shares of total spending and/or as per person expenses. In the case of deficits, the appropriate denominator is GDP over the relevant time frame (annual GDP for a current year deficit, all future GDP for an infinite horizon calculation). These calculations require almost no extra time from reporters and zero extra space (substitute a percentage or per person number for a meaningless million, billion, or trillion dollar figure).

How's it going so far? From what he's seen in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, not real well.