John Lott at it again

John Lott in his Fox news column claims:

During the 2000 election, with Bill Clinton as president, the economy was viewed through rose-colored glasses. According to polls, voters didn’t realize that the country was in a recession.

Pgl has the graphs to show that the US was not in a recession in 2000.

Lott alos has:

Indeed, research has indicated that media bias is real. Kevin Hassett and I looked at 12,620 newspaper and wire service headlines from 1985 through 2004 for stories on the release of official government releasing numbers on the unemployment rate, number of people employed, gross domestic product (GDP), retail sales, and durable goods.

Even after accounting for how well the economy was doing (e.g., what the unemployment rate was and whether it was going up or down), there was still a big difference in how positive or negative the headlines were. Democratic presidents got about 15 percent more positive headlines than Republicans for the same economic news.

But Lott and Hassett did not analyze their data correctly — it actually shows no evidence that haedlines are biased against Republicans.


  1. #1 QrazyQat
    April 8, 2008

    Seriously, has John Lott ever said anything accurate on policy or research? I know that sounds snarky, and I guess it is, but it’s a serious question too. Has he? Anyone?

  2. #2 SpotWeld
    April 8, 2008

    Got to love how he closes out with a Ben Stien quote from NewsBusters.

  3. #3 Rich
    April 8, 2008

    A google search on 2000 recession came up with this article from the Washington Post.

    Economists Say Recession Started in 2000
    By Nell Henderson
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 22, 2004; 1:34 PM

  4. #4 cactus
    April 8, 2008


    A recession has a very precise term. In particular, one piece of the definition of a recession involves a declaration by the National Bureau of Economic Research. (I’m an economist, but I’ll be the first to tell you economics is not a science.)

    Here is the “official” list of recessions so far. If we’re in a recession now, and my guess is that we have been in one for a couple of months, the NBER will probably get around to declaring it later in the year or early next year, when a lot more data becomes available.

  5. #5 Coin
    April 8, 2008

    And don’t miss Lott’s column this week, in which he claims that he “knew” Barack Obama “during the mid-1990s”, and that during that time Obama privately told him, quote, “I don’t believe that people should be able to own guns.” Um…

  6. #6 Eli Rabett
    April 8, 2008

    Recession or not, the US economy was noticeably slowing in 2000 and it had an effect on the election

  7. #7 Rich
    April 9, 2008

    OK, Cactus, the Washington Post argues that the 2001 “recession” was not a recession by any previous measure used by the NBER. Apparently, it is claiming that if the NBER is going to claim that two nonconsecutive negative quarters are a recession, the economists are arguing that the same is true for 2000 to early 2001. Can you explain why the NBER got a new measure of a recession for the first time in 2001, but did not apply that new definition prior to that date?

  8. #8 Robert
    April 9, 2008

    Rich asked:

    Apparently, it is claiming that if the NBER is going to claim that two nonconsecutive negative quarters are a recession […] Can you explain why the NBER got a new measure of a recession for the first time in 2001, but did not apply that new definition prior to that date?

    Why ask Cactus [when the NBER itself explains it]( The key is that your understanding of how the NBER determines business cycles is incorrect: they do not claim that two quarters of negative GDP growth, whether consecutive or nonconsecutive, determines a recession. The main issue is that NBER dating procedure works on months not quarters, so they look at multiple indicators. Among those multiple indicators is quarterly growth in GDP but it is not the sole criterion, especially since there is a quarterly-to-monthly estimation that has to be made.

  9. #9 Mark Shapiro
    April 9, 2008

    Yes the economy was slowing in 2000, in direct response to the Fed, with Alan Greenspan at the helm, ratcheting up interest rates for the entire year.

    Not only that, but VP candidate Dick Cheney said, just before the election, that he thought we were already in a recession. Hey, aren’t politicians supposed to avoid “talking down” the economy? !? ?

    Oh yeah, IOKIYAR.

  10. #10 Jonathan Bradley
    April 10, 2008

    One wonders how (as Coin notes) Obama would have known Lott as “the gun guy” in the mid-1990s, given that (at least as it appears from his CV) his first (academic) works on firearms took place in 1996, and MGLC wasnt published until 1998.

  11. #11 z
    April 10, 2008

    i believe that obama was one of the subjects in a survey lott once did. (joke)

  12. #12 Nomen Nescio
    April 14, 2008

    i suppose it’s possible that Lott may have been incidentally correct at some point, in the fashion a stopped clock is right twice a day, but it’s not something one should rely on. given how the man’s gone on to subsequently discredit himself, i’m amazed he gets any airtime whatsoever, from anybody. (obligatory snark: was it Lott that Obama knew as the “gun person”, or was it Mary Rosh?)

    similarly, it’s possible that Obama was strongly anti-gun ownership in the mid-1990’s; it’s even possible he feels that way now. but that doesn’t mean he’s politically unwise enough to try pushing such a policy, knowing he’d risk a serious political backlash against his entire party for it. (of course, he might be. but i’d much prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt, because surely some politicians in this country must be smarter than dubya…)

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