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Cleaning Michael Gerson's Clock

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Friday, 01 March 2013 04:43

Michael Gerson is upset that Democrats didn't want to have a debt clock shown at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee. He huffs:

"numbers, it turns out, have an offensive ideological bias."

I'm sympathetic. Right alongside the debt clock we could have the lost output clock. If we use the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) measure of potential GDP, this would be rising at the rate of about $3 billion a day or $1 trillion a year. If we used CBO's 2008 economic projections as the basis for measuring lost output, then the clock would be rising at a rate of more than $5 billion a day, more than $1.6 trillion a year. This of course is a huge understatement since it doesn't pick up costs like alcoholism, suicides, and family break-ups that are indirect outcomes of unemployment. 

Presumably Gerson supports having this lost output clock, right? After all, numbers can't have an ideological bias.

Gerson's real complaint is that we haven't solved problems that may occur in the decade of the 2020s, if it turns out that health care costs are still out of control. If health care costs are under control (as recent data suggest may be the case), then these problems will not exist. Of course the answer to out of control health care costs is to fix the health care system, not run around yelling about budget deficits.

Maybe we can give Gerson a clock measuring the number of ants that have crossed national boundaries anywhere in the world. It wouldn't really have much to do with anything, but then neither does his beloved debt clock.

Comments (4)Add Comment
Race Between the Tortoise Output Clock and the Hare Deficit Clock
written by Last Mover, March 01, 2013 5:36
The economic race between tortoise output and hare deficit has been won by the hare said Michael Gerson, an expert on number counting.

As anyone can see by these two clocks placed side by side, cause and effect runs from the tortoise losing the race because the hare won the race.

Watch closely as the deficit clock is removed in an austerity move, leaving only the tortoise clock. Notice how the tortoise output clock picks up speed and wins the race since the hare deficit clock is no longer in the race to drag down the tortoise.

Numbers don't lie said Gerson, so what are you going to believe, the numbers or your lying eyes?
Clock Watching
written by Bart, March 01, 2013 7:01

One can think of several clocks that could appear in Congress, on TV chyrons, or in the public square:

The daily cost of the Afghanistan war
The daily cost of our 700-odd foreign military bases
The daily cost subsidies to oil companies, and so on...
...
written by medgeek, March 01, 2013 12:59
And to think that Gerson is one of the "reasonable" ones...
...
written by watermelonpunch, March 01, 2013 9:45
What is this guy 16yrs old????

Let him put that on his MySpace page, next to his weather widget, a Hot or Not Sodahead survey, & the link to rules for a drinking game he thinks is yo, cool funny dude!

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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