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The News Is In Debt: The Problem With Economics Reporting

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The news is in debt: The problem with economics reporting

Every now and again the BBC reminds us why we love it. The latest effort is a wonderfully self-flagellating document of the sort no other media group would produce about itself.

The title isn’t snappy: Review of the impartiality of BBC coverage of taxation, public spending, government borrowing and debt.

But the conclusions are really important.

The best one is this: “We think too many journalists lack understanding of basic economics or lack confidence reporting it. This brings a high risk to impartiality. In the period of this review, it particularly affected debt. Some journalists seem to feel instinctively that debt is simply bad, full stop, and don’t appear to realise this can be contested and contestable.”

Indeed. The ingrained narrative is that the national debt is a burden on our grandchildren. Something they will have to pay back, which just isn’t really so.

It is perfectly possible to see the public debt as a national asset – a good thing.

Instead, we get Laura Kuenssberg talking about it in terms of a credit card we have maxed out, which is a straight forward right wing talking point, one of those “common sense” things, that is anything but.

The authors continue: “Another is that the alternative to debt might be worse. Many economists argue that debt can be positively good when it enables us to invest in productive capacity for the future, or if it spreads the cost of an economic shock (like Covid-19 or a war).”

Economics hacks of course get all this and do a fine job. The trouble comes when political reporters get their hands on it.

For our Find Out Now poll this week we asked the public what they most blamed for present economic woes. Brexit was top, Putin third, and the unions fourth.

You can see the full results below.

Press release of the day

A quarter of WFH Brits admit they are less productive than in the office, says this from Vita Group. Chores, distractions and feeling disconnected from colleagues are the causes.

On average, we have spent £4300 adapting our homes for hybrid working – a boon to DIY shops if so.

A good one for those who think everyone should be back in the office, all the time.

Stories that will keep rolling

1) Is US employment rising? What about pay?

2) Where will recession be worst and longest?

3) Who has fallen out of the Sunday Times Rich List?

4) Is H&M doing better than Primark?


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