Manipulation (OR “Better than expected”?)

October 31, 2008

It’s been a busy week for me. I had a business trip, which did it’s damndest to keep me busy and away from a computer from which to keep track of the news in the world.

Anyway- this is, of course, the last full week of some election-type thingy. And that’s not a vague, jokey reference. This country’s elections are probably best described as “election-type thingies”.

So, a lot happened, and I’m going to assume that you all have other places to get info on the goings on in the world. What I did catch, in all of one place:

[I]t is hard to explain the 18.1 percent jump in the third quarter in any other way. Over the last 40 years, this increase is exceeded only by a 36.3 percent jump in the 2nd quarter of 2003 (the Iraq War) and an 18.2 percent rise in the fourth quarter of 1984, at the height of Reagan’s military buildup. At a time when we are supposed to be de-surging in Iraq, it is difficult to identify any events in the world that would warrant such a large jump in military spending.

The increase in defense spending added 0.86 percentage points to GDP growth for the quarter. In other words, GDP would have fallen at a 1.2 percent annual rate in the absence of the leap in defense spending.

I can’t say I’m surprised by the dramatic increase in spending. But, like Dean Baker, who brought us this news, I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen this nugget anywhere else. I keep hearing that the decline in GDP was less than expected. It might be nice to hear why expectations weren’t met.