February 04, 2004

Measuring the Deficit

The Columbia Journalism Review blog is rapping knuckles at the NY Times over how they're reporting the federal budget deficit. The NYT was using a straight dollar figure unadjusted for inflation, the CJRB said that as a percent of GDP was a better measure and showed that we are nowhere near the peak year of 6.0% of GDP.

I very much agree that %GDP is the relevant figure. A credit card bill that would ruin me might be the normal run of the mill figure for Paris Hilton or Donald Trump. What you make influences how much debt you can take. But the CJRB misses a story. The figures that CJRB uses exclude wartime years. But you only do that during peacetime. If you're in a war, you have to throw in the debt figures for WW II and other war years. We didn't get to over 100% debt to GDP in WW II with under 10% deficit to GDP figures.

We thus get back to the big foreign policy question of the day, are we at war. The CJRB does good work by chiding the Times for its dollar deficit reporting. But it has its own bias showing when it implicitly throws out wartime deficit figures.

Posted by TMLutas at February 4, 2004 09:02 AM