Niall Ferguson Claims He Was Smeared by Facts, Fights Back

It is very nice to see the Financial Times correction of Niall Ferguson--although it does not, in my opinion, go far enough.

A word, however, to Lionel Barber, Gillian Tett, and company: The Financial Times's only current assets are an incredibly skilled and hard-working journalistic team and a reputation as a trusted information intermediary. You are not going to be able to out-pander the Spectator, the Wall Street Journal, the Torygraph, and Fox News as a place where the rich feel comforted rather than afflicted by the news. That means you cannot risk your reputation as a trusted information intermediary by routinely publishing pieces that undermine it.

Jonathan Chait: Niall Ferguson Claims Smeared by Facts, Fights Back: "[Ferguson's] most recent example of ‘correct politicalness’ is the humiliation Ferguson suffered when...

...the Financial Times was forced to correct his recent column there. Ferguson, the FT concedes:

incorrectly stated that at no point after May 2010 did business confidence sink back to where it had been throughout the past two years of Gordon Brown’s premiership.

Ferguson... [also] wrote:

Weekly earnings are up by more than 8 per cent; in the private sector, the figure is above 10 per cent. Inflation is below 2 per cent and falling.

That passage would seem to convey that wages had grown sharply and stayed well above the rate of inflation. In fact, the opposite is true. As the FT concedes,

Real wage growth was negative from 2010 until September 2014.

Ferguson defended fiscal austerity on the basis that it produced higher wages, when in reality it produced lower wages [and on the basis it produced higher business confidence, when it produced lower]. As Ferguson notes, this episode is not the first time he has been victimized... 'a Newsweek cover story in 2012'... [which] was, as The Atlantic’s Matthew O’Brien called [it]...

a fantasy world of incorrect and tendentious facts.

In that essay, Ferguson used his trademark habit of switching statistical measures halfway through, in order to conjure pseudo-evidence for a claim that is actually false.... Ferguson wrote:

The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012-22 period.

Any reader would interpret that passage to mean that Obama promised his health-care law would not add to the deficit, but according to the CBO and the JCT, it adds $1.2 trillion to the deficit.

Then Ferguson pulled a sleight-of-hand. The first sentence describes Obama’s promise that health-care reform would not increase the deficit... [that] he kept.

Ferguson’s second line begins ‘But,’ implying that it contradicts the promise and shows it to be false.

[However,] that next sentence describes ‘the insurance-coverage provisions’ of Obamacare... not the savings from spending cuts and higher revenue. Obviously the new subsidies to cover the uninsured add to the deficit. Obama’s promise was that the savings would exceed the costs, which they did. Ferguson... does not mention other episodes, such as his use of laughably false inflation statistics to bolster his hysterical analysis, or his bizarre argument that Keynes opposed the harsh reparations in the Treaty of Versailles because he was gay and in love with German dudes.

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