One of the things that is hardest for voters to sort out is how the economy is reported in the news. There are conflicting claims about a very complex subject, so that even journalists can not really keep abreast of what is real and what is correct. Yet having a good sense of what the truth is about the economy, the budget, the deficit, the debt, and what the trends and history are is important to our democratic participation.
I would just like to offer a recomendation to anyone who is concerned about this issue, based on my experiences of trying to sort out economic claims and reports made by politicians and j0urnalists.
Dean Baker, a macroeconomist from the Center For Economic and Policy Research stays abreast of the major economic news events and provides excellent analysese of how reports could be misinterpreted or confusing. He writes the blog Beat The Press, which I consume daily using the RSS feed and Google Reader. I find this is to be an excellent source of information on budget policy and helpful in understanding the economy in general. With all the information overload we all have experienced how easily we can be misled or confused by poorly written articles or headlines.
And Mr. Baker has a good sense of humor too. Today in a post titled "More Mind Reading at the Post" he reported that "The Washington Post is quickly becoming an employment service for psychics." In another post debunking a fallacy about the performance of Charter Schools, which is based on ignoring average performance, Baker writes that "The NYT had a bad case of he said/she said reporting this morning". In a post about the value of the dollar and manufacturing Baker starts with "Readers of the front page WAPO piece on manufacturing productivity will assume that neither the Post nor any of the economic experts it consults have heard of arithmetic."
While we may think we have a handle on what gets reported, it can't help to have a little expert advice when trying to interpret the news and sort out conflicting claims and reports. Sometimes even the most improbable sounding reports just might be true; but it's not always easy to tell!
While these sarcastic remarks provide some comic relief and entertainment, they also truly reflect the poor state of the art of economic reporting in major news sources, and Baker gives thorough and understandable explanations of why economic journalism deserves such tongue-in-cheek prodding. All in all I find the blog a great resource for improving understanding of the economic impacts of political events and trends. I highly recommend it to anyone interested.