The News Media Should be Ashamed

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The News Media Should be Ashamed

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It happens every day.  Someone in the news media will report about a new program or a new business investment being the biggest and most expensive of all time.  They make that claim based on the value of dollars cited by the entity providing the cost information or by their own calculation, or by historic comparison.  The media do not take the time to compare the value of dollars today with the value of dollars applicable to the other projects and programs in the past to which the present program/project is being compared.

Example: Let’s say a government construction project  (a bridge) cost ten million dollars in 1996.  In 2016, the news story about a new bridge project costing $10,200,000 will carry the headline: The Most Expensive Bridge Project in History.  But in fact, the new bridge cost less than the 1996 bridge because after adjusting for inflation, the 1996 bridge in 2016 dollars would be $10,555,000.

Why do news media almost always fail to account for inflation?  I guess because it makes a better story:  “The Most Expensive Bridge Ever Built,”  or “The Most Expensive Jet Fighter Ever Developed.”  But it is so misleading!  The news media should be ashamed.

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