The LA Times Blows It On Inflation

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The LA Times copy desk needs to cool it on the clickbait headlines:

The Fed says inflation is low but you don’t agree. Here’s why you both might be right

The motivation for the accompanying article is a recent poll showing that 44 percent of Americans don’t trust the government’s economic data. This, in turn, is motivated in part by Donald Trump’s insistence that the Fed is keeping interest rates low to help Hillary Clinton despite the specter of massive inflation.

However, the bulk of the article is about the technical difficulties of calculating inflation, which can produce massive differences like these between the two leading inflation indexes for August:

  • CPI: +1.09 percent
  • PCE: +0.96 percent

Obviously somebody is rigging the data here, amirite?

Despite the obvious lack of any chicanery in the inflation figures, the article quotes nutbag Peter Schiff, who insists the government is cooking the books, and “contrarian” David Stockman, who believes he’s come up with a more accurate inflation measure by rejiggering the government’s calculation to give more weight to prices that are going up the fastest. The article also mentions that inflation might be higher in one city than another, and that sometimes inflation seems higher than it is due a rise in a very visible product like gasoline.

But nowhere in the article does it say flatly that the conspiracy theorists are wrong, and inflation is what it is. It reads more like a he-said-she-said account of whether the government is playing fair. And the headline just reinforces that. This is not good journalism

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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