Tuesday, July 15, 2003

the real credibility issue 

Russ Baker is on the trail of some Bush administration shananigans with their economic data over at Slate:
Another administration trick is playing with the length of its economic forecast periods, which puts the best possible face on bad news while exaggerating the projected benefits of its own initiatives. For example, to heighten the impression that Social Security is running out of money (thereby strengthening the case for allowing workers to divert money from the system into private retirement accounts), the administration has predicted shortfalls far in the future by relying on preposterously long forecast periods. In a superb analysis of the budget in the June Harper's, Thomas Frank noted that in 2002 the administration declared an $18 trillion shortfall in Social Security and Medicare—about five times the current national debt. Frank notes that in order to arrive at the $18 trillion figure—since Social Security is currently in surplus—the administration used a "cumulative seventy-five-year estimate [Frank's itals] based on extreme long-term projections ... ." Meanwhile, even as it relies on 75-year projections for Social Security, the same document replaces traditional 10-year budget projections with five-year ones, claiming the longer-term numbers were unreliable.
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