Letters to the Editor

Thursday, Feb 28 2013 11:00 PM

Watch out for partisan spin on GDP statistic

By The Bakersfield Californian

Let me again note my faith is in God, not Washington or Sacramento. That said, the level of spin sometimes drives me to distraction. A recent letter writer's budget analysis is one such thing ("Obama frugal? Run those numbers again," Feb. 27). While his numbers appear accurate, the last two columns of the accompanying chart -- which computes the ratio of spending to the gross domestic product -- appear to be nothing more than a way to portray spending by the Obama administration as "the worst," since the other categories do not make him look so bad.

The writer notes that GDP is a measure of how well the economy can support government spending -- generally true, but so what. GDP is not a fixed sum or measure. Indeed, when the economy is weak, GDP goes down, and that is when stimulus spending, if it is to be used, is implemented. As a metaphor, let us say government spending is a full-size pickup truck. When the economy is strong, like an 18-wheeler roaring down Highway 99, the pickup doesn't seem that big. When the economy is limping along like a 15-year-old economy car, that same truck looks enormous. Likewise, comparing the same level of spending to a weak-vs.-strong economy will skew the apparent size of the spending.

Including spending as a percentage of GDP is a statistic used for partisan spin -- it bears no relationship to whether this or that administration is frugal or profligate. Once again, I ask, please fight fair, and be not only technically honest but honest and straightforward.

Bob Woods


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