When the End Justifies the Medians

SYNOPSIS: Krugman debunks the OMB's spin about government spending. The previous is a permanent link to the chart which Krugman mentions in this article since the OMB will eventually remove it from its homepage (out of embarassment?).

How the Bushies lie with statistics, part 667: Sorry, I can't help myself. The home page of the Office of Management and Budget  home page currently carries a chart purporting to show that government spending has raced ahead of personal income, comparing growth in department budgets with median household income.

Two problems:

1. Median household income is income per household - it grows much more slowly than total income in part because the number of households is growing. Shouldn't the other numbers be spending per household?

2. Median income also grows more slowly than average income because of growing inequality. In fact, when touting tax plans the Bushies always use averages - that way they obscure the fact that most of the tax cut goes to a few wealthy families. But now, suddenly, they've become proponents of the median.

Oh, and a 45 percent increase over 5 years isn't a 45 percent "rate of growth" ...

The New Republic had it right: Bush claimed to be a uniter, not a divider. One thing's for sure: he and his people aren't adders or subtracters.

Originally published on the Official Paul Krugman Site, 2.4.03