David R. Henderson  

Sloppy Reporting on Greece

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Another Network Lie about Vehi... The Sixties and the Tea Party...
Demonstrators and police clash Friday near the Greek parliament in Athens. Greece has frozen pensions and increased taxes to cut spending by 4.8 billion Euros in a bid to persuade the EU it can avoid default. See A10.

So reads the caption under the picture on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal. What's wrong with the caption? It's false. The Greek government doesn't plan to cut spending by 4.8 billion Euros. Rather, it plans to cut the deficit by $4.8 billion Euros, with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

This isn't a picky distinction. What this error shows, at best, is how cavalier reporters tend to be about distinguishing between budget cuts and deficit cuts. At worst, it shows that they have accepted a language that you often hear from U.S. congressmen in which cuts in budget deficits are referred to as "savings" even if they include tax increases.


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CATEGORIES: Fiscal Policy



COMMENTS (8 to date)
Colin K writes:

It's all just revenue saved or created.

Jack writes:

Usually, it's copy editors, not reporters, that write captions. Not sure you can use it as evidence about the attitudes of reporters.

David R. Henderson writes:

Jack writes,
Usually, it's copy editors, not reporters, that write captions. Not sure you can use it as evidence about the attitudes of reporters.

Good point, Jack. But you've given me a challenge. I remember reporters talking this way all the time when I was in the Reagan administration. I'll look out for examples and I'll bet I'll have one within two weeks without much work.

kat writes:

Sometimes it's the journalist; it could be a language issue, meaning the writer's first language isn't English. But Jack is correct. The copy editor is the gatekeeper, though in these tough times not all newsrooms have them available. WSJ has no excuse.

Yancey Ward writes:

Journalists not understanding the things they write about? What else is new?

Don Lloyd writes:

David,

Concentrating on the 'deficit' is even more of a problem than it appears.

Not only are both taxes and spending separately detrimental to the economy, independent of their balance, but even if the government reduced spending by making some of its activities free by using volunteers and donations, those activities would still be incurring an opportunity cost as they allocated both human and material resources for the benefit of politicians rather than consumers.

Regards, Don

Ted writes:

Or it's just a mistake ...

You want to bet I can't go through some of your posts and find a trivial mistake?

David R. Henderson writes:

Ted writes:
Or it's just a mistake ...
You want to bet I can't go through some of your posts and find a trivial mistake?

Nope. People have already pointed out a number of trivial mistakes I've made and some not-so-trivial ones. But to the bigger point, that's why I've accepted Jack's challenge. I think that even if this was an innocent mistake, not everyone who does it is making an innocent mistake.

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