Monday, August 23, 2010


Macaulay Culkin from the movie Home Alone

Have you noticed the use of the word “unexpectedly” in reporting economic data?

We see it in the first or second paragraph of reports on the performance of our economy. It sometimes even appears in the headline.

The data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or The Conference Board don’t include the modifiers “unexpected” or “unexpectedly.” The organizations just present their data. It is up to our media to color the data with the appropriate characterizations.

What are the appropriate characterizations to use? It actually depends on whether or not the data are being generated under a Republican administration.

(I know, I know, you are thinking, “This guy never lets up! He sees anti-Republican culture everywhere.”)

Professor Glenn Reynolds, at his Instapundit blog, might agree with me this time. In a post from today (8/23/2010) he highlights an article by Randall Hoven at American Thinker and includes a link to a search of his site using the string “unexpectedly!” Here is a slightly more expansive search, leaving off the exclamation mark.

Take a look at the results of the search. You see a markedly different outcome for the word “unexpectedly”, depending on whether the timeframe is 2004 to 2008 or 2009 to 2010.

As an example, this link from January 25, 2005 points to a Bloomberg article that begins, “U.S. consumer confidence unexpectedly rose in January.” A link to a CNBC article from May 19, 2009 has the headline, “Housing Starts, Permits Both Unexpectedly Lower.”

The idea that good economic news is unexpected during a Republican administration and bad news is unexpected when the Democratic Party is in charge could not be more clearly demonstrated. It is an implementation of the Democratic Party theme, “Republicans are turning the economy into a catastrophe.”

I think back to Madeleine Albright assuring us that she was doing all that could be done during the Rwanda genocide. Her statements were accepted because we trust the Democratic Party as our authority on domestic and foreign matters.

That trust is now reflected in reports of our current economic data: negative outcomes are an outlier, an anomaly, an unexpected event.

We accept this style of characterization so long as it does not affect us directly. But look out: When we end up “living the numbers,” our perspective changes.

Then it’s personal.

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