What I wish an American politician would say
While the rest of the financial world focuses on the new U.S. sanctions against Iran — one of the reasons oil spiked past $92 today — I was struck by a small item from Iran that tells us in one crucial respect, Iranians enjoy a more freewheeling political debate than we do in our own country:
Iran's former president Mohammad Khatami has fuelled speculation of a possible comeback by bluntly accusing his successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, of peddling false statistics to hide rising inflation and unemployment. Mr Khatami, who was regarded as a reformist, said Iran's worsening economic woes did not tally with the rosy picture painted by the government, and warned that officially endorsed "lies" would destroy Iranians' trust in the Islamic system…
Central bank statistics put inflation at 15.8% but independent economists say it is well over 20% and official figures exclude sharp rises in housing and rent.
President Ahmadinejad, who vowed to alleviate poverty by redistributing Iran's oil wealth, has rejected criticism about rising prices, blaming Mr Khatami's government of 1997 to 2005.
If only we could have a debate like this in the United States! If only I could read a news story along these lines:
[Insert your favorite candidate here] has bluntly accused President Bush of peddling false statistics to hide rising inflation and unemployment. [Favorite Candidate] said the United States' worsening economic woes did not tally with the rosy picture painted by the government, and warned that officially endorsed "lies" would destroy Americans' trust in the democratic system…
Bureau of Labor Statistics figures put inflation at 3.2% but independent economists say it is over 10% and official figures exclude sharp rises in food and energy.
President Bush, who vowed to expand prosperity by cutting taxes, but failed to accompany the tax cuts with cuts in government spending, has rejected criticism about rising prices, blaming President Bill Clinton's government of 1993 to 2001.
The independent economist whose figure I cite is none other than John Williams of Shadow Government Statistics.
And for those who think I'm engaging in Bush-bashing here, I'm keenly aware that Clinton got the ball rolling on a lot of the statistical legerdemain that Williams does a dandy job of unpacking on a regular basis.
We sorely need a wide-open debate in this country about doctored economic statistics. If Ron Paul is looking for a "signature issue" that could stake out dramatic new ground in the campaign — and link it to the real-life fears of millions of voters — this might be it.
(Hat tip TPM)