Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Dean Baker Does It Again

Dean Baker’s Tuesday column proves once again my theory that studying economics in college causes brain damage, when he says that this nation’s cuts in economic support to the United Nations were a waste of time because doing so didn’t really save us any significant amount of money.

He’s obviously not a parent. When you dock a kid’s allowance, do you calculate how much money that is going to save you?

He references a New York Times article which informs that a cut of $1.2 billion amounted to 22% of the UN operating budget, and that another cut constituted 28.5% of the UN’s budget for peacekeeping operations, which calculates to a cut of $1.94 billion. From that, a reader whose brain was intact could derive the information that Trump’s punitive cuts to the United Nations for its votes on the Jerusalem issue, no matter how ill advised, was fairly effective punishment.

Dean Baker, whose brain is clearly not intact, was critical of the Times for not telling their readers that the cuts of “slightly less than $3.1 billion” amounted to a mere 0.08% of federal spending. I’m not sure I trust the percentage, since he clearly is not a mathematician: the total of the cuts he cites comes to $3.14 billion, which is slightly more than $3.1 billion.

I’m surprised he didn’t related it to GDP, and I suspect he tried to but came up with a few thousandths of one percent and didn’t know how to express that in print. 1.65e-4% would be even less understandable to readers than… Readers would simply think his calculator blew up, and he’s talking about “informing readers.”

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Jayhawk, I like your math. Your "$3.14 billion, which is slightly more than $3.1 billion" had me laughing out loud.

    I came here from Angry Bear where Bill H said:
    "What’s interesting to me is what economists have to say about the national debt. For many years they claimed it was not a problem as long as it remained below a certain percentage of GDP. As I recall, that figure started at somewhere around 75% and migrated upward to 100%. Now that ours is well above 100% they have stopped talking about the issue altogether, other than Dean Baker, who said the other day that ours was 'well below the sustainable maximum.'"

    I love little histories like that... Little ironies like that.

    I keep going back to my econ textbook by McConnell, from 1975:
    "Although the size and growth of public debt are looked upon with awe and alarm, private debt has grown much faster. Private and public debt were of about equal size in 1947. But private debt has grown much faster and is now over three times as large -- about $1,350 billion, compared with $470 billion -- as the public debt.
    If you insist upon worrying about debt, you will do well to concern yourself with private rather than public indebtedness."

    I will drop by again.