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More Joke Budget Reporting in the NYT

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Monday, 14 April 2014 03:56

The NYT is continuing its parody of news reporting with a piece that discusses the budget proposals of France's Prime Minister, Manuel Valls. It told readers:

"On Tuesday, Mr. Valls offered the most detailed summary yet of how the government intends to meet its promise to enact Really Big Number in spending cuts by 2017. He called for Really Big Number in cuts to the central government bureaucracy, Really Big Number to the national health care system and Really Big Number to local governments — an element at which many legislators on the right booed loudly, having just won control of a number of local governments. He did not specify how the remaining Really Big Number in cuts would be made."

Okay that is not exactly what the piece said. Here's the actual paragraph:

"On Tuesday, Mr. Valls offered the most detailed summary yet of how the government intends to meet its promise to enact $69 billion in spending cuts by 2017. He called for $26 billion in cuts to the central government bureaucracy, $13.8 billion to the national health care system and $13.8 billion to local governments — an element at which many legislators on the right booed loudly, having just won control of a number of local governments. He did not specify how the remaining $15.4 billion in cuts would be made."

Did this provide any more information than the "Really Big Number" paragraph? The piece provides no information on how much is currently spent on these programs, nor is it even clear whether these cuts refer to a single year's spending (presumably 2017), or some aggregate over 2015-2017. The NYT surely has some readers who are sufficiently familiar with France's budget to make sense of the numbers in this article, but to the other 99.9 percent of readers, these numbers provided no information whatsoever.

 

 

Comments (7)Add Comment
a little math
written by medgeek, April 14, 2014 5:40
France's GDP is about 2.6 trillion, so the numbers are 1 percent and less of GDP. I haven't looked up what the cuts mean to total spending on the individual items in the paragraph (clearly more significant), but I'm sure "the google" could help here as well. But hey, what are we paying the reporters for? Lots of noise, very little signal in that piece. Makes you wonder how such an uninformative piece makes it past the editors.
...
written by Ryan, April 14, 2014 6:42
Wait, why is the context missing. After all, the US has something like $3 trillion in annual Federal outlays, so $69 billion in French spending cuts seems small!
" ... Makes it Past the Editors"?
written by John Puma, April 14, 2014 6:42
Why should we assume that editors have no role in the apparent non-, mis- and dis- information business?
France in the NYT
written by keenan, April 14, 2014 7:32
The New York Times consistently runs articles deploring one thing or another about the “horrible” French economy – often how France’s social protections are supposedly driving the country to ruin.

A recent article, for example, claimed there’s an “exodus of entrepreneurs” fleeing France for the more business-friendly London. The article stated, “Around 350,000 French nationals are now rooted in Britain, about the same population as Nice, France’s fifth-largest city.” (NYT, “Au Revoir, Entrepreneurs,” March 22, 2014, by Liz Alderman).

Here is a BBC podcast which examines the validity of this and similar claims . . . and find them less than convincing.
http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/pod...-0600b.mp3

The podcast is from the BBC radio show, “More or Less,” which explores the reliability of statistics in the news.
...
written by dax, April 14, 2014 10:05
The "so many nationals of France live in the UK" line is like "the US imports a lot." The US also exports a lot and - of course - there are more UK nationals living in France than French nationals living in the UK. The reason why everyone concentrates on the one number and not the other is that everyone knows that France is a nicer country to live in than the UK, so it's considered normal that Brits want to live in France. But that French nationals want to live in the UK, hey that's man bites dog territory.
...
written by JDM, April 14, 2014 7:05
I agree with John Puma's point. It's not "how does that make it past the editors"; it's "that's how it does make it past the editors".
the most important
written by joe, April 15, 2014 3:28
The most important part left out is that France doesn't control its own currency. It's functionally very similar to a US state. And no one in the Europe seems to be able to understand how an accounting identity works. Somehow every one is supposed to run a surplus simultaneously.

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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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