Perhaps some of you might remember a familiar scene while playing poker during your teen years.
Very frequently someone who was upset at how the game was doing would yell out “DEUCES WILD!” to change the rules. It was especially suspicious if the person had just been dealt a new hand before yelling out that rule change.
Well, New York Times op-ed columnist David Leonhardt is essentially yelling out “DEUCES WILD!” Now that the economy is soaring under President Donald Trump he wants to change the rules on how it is measured as you can see in his September 14 column, “We’re Measuring the Economy All Wrong.”
Over the course of history, financial crises — and the long downturns that follow — have reordered American society in all sorts of ways. One of those ways happens to involve the statistics that the government collects. Crises have often highlighted the need for new measures of human well-being.
Yes, let us now develop new measures of economic growth in the wake of the latest quarterly Gross Domestic Product report of 4.2% under President Donald Trump. Very interesting timing on your sudden desire for a rules change, David.
The unemployment rate was invented in the 1870s in response to concerns about mass joblessness after the Panic of 1873. The government’s measure of national output, now called G.D.P., began during the Great Depression. Senator Robert La Follette, the progressive hero from Wisconsin, introduced the resolution that later led to the measurement of G.D.P., and the great economist Simon Kuznets, later a Nobel laureate, oversaw the first version.
Almost a century later, it is time for a new set of statistics. It’s time for measures that do a better job of capturing the realities of modern American life.
As a technical matter, the current batch of official numbers are perfectly accurate. They also describe some real and important aspects of the American economy. The trouble is that a handful of statistics dominate the public conversation about the economy despite the fact that they provide a misleading portrait of people’s lives. Even worse, the statistics have become more misleading over time.
Let’s be honest, David. The real trouble for you is that those official numbers which you admit to be “perfectly accurate” show that the economy under President Trump is booming.