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Econospinning: How to Read Between the Lines When the Media Manipulate the Numbers Hardcover – August 4, 2006
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"There is lots more to Epstein's book and it is all of the highest quality." (Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Winter 2007)
From the Inside Flap
That's the finding of Gene Epstein, who should know a thing or two about the economy, having covered the subject for Barron's since 1993, when he became the Dow Jones financial weekly's first Economics Editor and began writing the regular column, "Economic Beat." Now, in Econospinning, Epstein cuts through the veil of economic misinformation commonly reported in today's media. Each chapter of Econospinning is structured around fairly simple propositions about the economy or about specific economic datafrom tracking employment numbers to measuring corporate profitabilitythat are then contrasted with the distortions of today's media coverage.
Along the way, Epstein exposes loose reporting by focusing almost strictly on the elite media, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The Economist.Wherever relevant, Epstein expands on criticisms originally leveled against the reportage of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman by the paper's then-public editor Daniel Okrent. At the time, Okrent touched off a firestorm of protest from bloggers and credentialed professionals eager to defend their champion, even when his criticisms were more than transparently valid, as Epstein shows in painstaking detail.
Econospinning also devotes separate chapters to the coverage of outsourcing and globalization by CNN newscaster Lou Dobbs, whose slant on these topics Epstein finds to be jingoistic at bottom; to the bestseller Freakonomics, whose better-known argumentson the connection between abortion and lower crime rates, and on the deleterious role of real estate brokersare exposed as groundless; and to the semi-classic Nickel and Dimed, whose core thesisthat hard work by the working poor is a sucker's gameis easily disproved. The book also critiques coverage of the employment numbers by the CNBC-TV show Squawk Box.
As a corrective to certain key misconceptions about the economy and economic data, and as a series of lessons on how to discriminate between spin and substance, Econo-spinning is an informative, entertaining, and unforgettable read.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
If you're going to "review" my book without bothering to read any of it, your remarks should at least be cribbed from someone who actually has read it. But blogger Brad DeLong, whose critique you parrot in detail, barely finished a few paragraphs, as you yourself will discover if you check out my response to DeLong on my own blog, econospinning.com--a running commentary on media reaction to my book.
Just for starters, you'll find that if DeLong had only finished reading the three pages my book devotes to the employment report and the bond market, he would have discovered that I did not commit the naive error he attributes to me--and which you, as DeLong's dupe, then repeat.
Of course I looked at the bond market's response to the employment report immediately before the data are released, as DeLong would have discovered if he'd only read a few more paragraphs in that three-page section. Do you think I could write for a sophisticated market weekly like Barron's for the past 14 years and not know that markets move on expectations?
By trusting DeLong, dear Auros-of-Palo-Alto, you remind me of the dumb guy from junior high who didn't even know to cheat off someone who had actually done the reading!
But it's not too late to reform. Try reading my blog, then try my book--and then I suggest you try writing a review based on your own opinions.
The reviewer below apparently hasn't read the book--he simply read the blog of Brad DeLong. He has plucked out exactly same sections of the book as Delong, while echoing verbatim what DeLong wrote about Epstein's book. DeLong, a University of California economist, happens to be criticized in Epstein's book, which apparently set him off on a rant on his blog peppered with phrases like "Epstein has the stupids" and "Must... adjust medication doses."
One disappointment about this book is that it itself commits errors. In the name of identifying journalist errors, it commits author errors. They are of the sort a non-economist editor would notice. They may not always affect the author's thesis or argument but they make the thesis and argument less accessible to the public.
(Page number references are from the year 2005, hardcover edition.)
One type of error is carelessness. In a somewhat unimportant error, Epstein says that unincorporated self-employment is the only category that the Household Jobs Survey includes and that the Establishment Survey omits (33). Epstein himself was pointing out three paragraphs earlier, though, that agricultural occupations -- farming, forestry, fishing, and hunting -- are overlooked by the Establishment Survey while included in the Household Survey. Even though the growth of agricultural occupations was flat over recent years, to say later that only unincorporated self-employment is tracked by the Household Survey and omited by the Establishment Survey is to speak too loosely for the average reader to follow.
Epstein complicates acceptance of his views by committing errors of inconsistency.Read more ›
If you decide to read this book, your payoff for going through rather dry writing is greater transparency of some of the key economic and social data as well as unmasking political agendas of New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. The pay off to the reader could be even greater if Mr. Epstein spent more time describing his rationale for choosing certain sets of data. For example, it would be interesting to hear why it makes sense to measure corporate profits as a percentage of GDP (and why not adjust profits to reflect accounting changes). It would also be interesting to hear why Mr. Epstein did not push the numbers further in his critique of Nickel and Dimed by taking a closer look at the debt burden of the poor and trends among working poor.
Finally, the book would be a little easier read for an average reader if Mr. Epstein used consistent data for a number of civilian noninstitutional population of 16 and over (or explained such a big difference from one year to another): 292.4 million for 2005 (on page 29) and 222.8 million for 2004 (on page 23).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What appealed to me when I obtained this book was in the subtitle "How to Read Between the Lines When the Media Manipulate the Numbers." A very important subject. Read morePublished on April 1, 2010 by Thad McIlroy
I skimmed this book and I find it ironic the author is talking about skewed ways the media presents data. Read morePublished on January 5, 2009 by J. Kim
The idea to uncover the complacency and the ignorance of media about the meaning of economic data, is great. Read morePublished on May 24, 2007 by Serio Matteo
The author contends much of the economic news we get is wrong. Some of it is intentionally
wrong, provided by politicians or partisans, and hence the title. Read more
This is one of the best books I've read in several years. Epstein's arguments are fact-based and logical. Read morePublished on February 10, 2007 by Amazon Customer
This book by Gene Epstein who writes a column titled Economic Beat for Barron's magazine argues that the other writers and commentators on economics often manipulate economic... Read morePublished on December 28, 2006 by 1opinion2many
My husband tells me that he is enjoying the concepts and insights which the book offers. He will be sharing this with his students.Published on November 9, 2006 by Patty Wilkes
Econospinning is beautifully written, funny and provocative in a good way.
Author Gene Epstein confronts the elite media and helps us think more clearly about the... Read more