Paul Krugman Gets Food Stamps Wrong by a Factor of Ten, Ha Ha!

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Monday, 05 August 2013 08:55

Okay, I am not really writing this to make fun of my friend Paul Krugman for whom I have enormous respect. The point here is that reporters should be trying to express budget numbers in terms that are understandable to their audience.

Krugman was apparently misled by news accounts (like this one) reporting that the Republicans wanted to cut food stamps by $40 billion which did not point out that this cut was over ten years, not one year. I have been ranting about this point for a while. If reporters made a point of putting budget numbers in context, for example by expressing them as a share of the total budget, you would not get silly mistakes like this. (See CEPR's super keen budget calculator so you can get these numbers right.)

If the standard budget reporting can mislead Paul Krugman about the budget then I think it's fair to say it's got serious problems. Who exactly is being informed by it?