Getting It Wrong with the Globe

Today's Globe and Mail on the impending $3.7 trillion US budget. This comes with the following graphic (which takes up most of a two-page centrefold in the print edition). To add some historical context it shows revenue and expenditure - in inflation adjusted dollars - for the last 80 years or so.

Except . . . a closer look shows that, according to the scale, government dollars in and out have been wobbling around the $20 billion mark since 1950. Since this would amount to an annual tax take of about $66 per person it can't be in today's money.

And then, America has twice as many people 50 years ago, those people are at least twice as productive and government takes a bigger slice of the pie than it used to. How does that translate into government revenue in 2010 being less than in 1960? That's some inflation-adjustment. Or maybe it's just that the Globe had to fire some fact-checkers as circulation spirals down to a hard landing.