Berkeley J-School students are in for a treat: Brad DeLong is going to explain to them how not to get snowed by politicians spouting economic statistics See Covering the Economy for a taste of what he’s up to.
Just a few basic rules — understanding trends, comparing like with like, doing everything in real dollars would be a good start.
And, Brad, I know you are mainly intersted in public data from federal sources, but may I mention one of my pet peeves? I hatehatehate the way the business section reports corporate profits. Neither I nor anyone else cares if profits were up or down twelve million percent over last year. That depends so much on what last year was like. We want to know how much it grew in real dollars, or maybe the ROI compared to last year, to other players in the industry, or the industry as a whole. Or anything else standardized and meaningful. BUT NOT % CHANGE OVER LAST YEAR. (Please?)