Friday, June 3, 2011

Phantom Comparisons

Do you understand phantom comparisons? Maybe you have seen the classic example where a product is offered at “50% off.”

The problem is in determining the product’s original price. If that price is a “phantom” and the product never actually sells in the store at that price, then the business could be involved in deceptive practices and subject to sanctions.

That seems pretty straightforward.

Unfortunately, we don’t see the same standard applied to the operation of our federal government. Here are some examples:

--A spending program is advertised as “saving jobs” when there is no measure of the potentially “lost jobs” and no recognition of the cost of displaced resources.

--A spending increase is characterized as a “budget cut” when it only reduces the rate of cost increases.

--A government program is considered a success because any negative outcomes are “unexpected.”

Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City, has a document on “False Advertising” that gives New Yorkers advice on what to look for in deceptive practices.

It’s too bad our federal legislators don’t have such a document to help them manage our government.

But then, maybe some of them are actually the problem.

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