HIGHTOWER: Boskin Lies

They say that the art of statistics involves drawing a mathematically straight line from a wrong assumption to a foregone conclusion.Meet Mr. Michael J. Boskin, who is drawing a straight line to your wallet. Boskin is the former chief economic advisor to President George Bush who, you might remember, did not know the price of a gallon of milk or a pair of socks during his presidency, so why we are listening to this economist is beyond me. Like baseball managers, though, failed economists tend to get promoted, and now Boskin is in the news as the head of a government panel that claims today's inflation is overstated by the Consumer Price Index. This is important to us because the CPI is the index that keeps our monthly social security checks, veterans benefits and other payments even with inflation. If the CPI is overstated, as Boskin's panel asserts, then your monthly check is going to be less.The problem for Mike is that lots of experts think he's full of it; that the CPI is NOT inflated.However, Boskin recently released the results of a survey of economists showing that they embrace his findings. The New York Times headline blared: "Survey Supports Theory that Inflation is Overstated." But wait. Who was surveyed? Boskin only sent it to 24 economists -- out of probably 200,000 economists in the U.S. And of those 24, four were members of his own panel that recommended the cutback in cost-of-living increases.Six economists didn't even return Boskin's survey, leaving only 14 supposedly-independent responses. Boskin wouldn't name the economists standing with him, but at least three nationally-known experts who DISAGREE with Mr. Michael said they did NOT get the survey. So, apparently he only sent it to those who already agreed with him -- a foregone conclusion. Beware of Boskin's Commission . . . it lies.Source: "Survey supports the theory that inflation is overstated" by Louis Uchitelle. The New York Times: Feb. 13, 1997.

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