Uncovering the Bad Math (or Logic) of an Economic Analysis Embraced by Bernie Sanders – The New York Times

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The New York Times – Justin Wolfers

Published: February 26th, 2016

Difficulty rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Credibility rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.


This article breaks apart an Academic study by Professor Gerald Friedman that predicts Bernie Sanders 2016 economic platform would cause an enormous economic boom. According to the article Friedman alleged that “fully implementing the Sanders program would lead per capita gross domestic product to grow one-third higher in 10 years’ time than it otherwise would be.” 

Most economists believe that temporary increases in government spending will yield temporary increases in output but Friedman calculated it such that temporary stimulus has a permanent effect, which greatly exaggerated the increase.


Justin Wolfers is a Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

Analysis of Potential Bias

  • The author admits that one of the professors who examined Mr Friedman’s claims used to work closely with him.
  • We have to acknowledge the possibility of political bias, the article alleges that Bernies’ campaign lavishly praised the study.
  • The author put a link to a blog to back up this claim, however that blog has been criticized severally for misinterpretation of data and promoting violent racialist views and so is not a credible source.

Article Decryption

Mr. Friedman based  his calculations on an “alternative view of the world” instead of the conventional view supported by most economists. So essentially his calculations were right but not for the way the current economy operates. Friedman misapplied mainstream economics which led him to his conclusion. This is something to watch out for in articles, mischaracterization of anything even real and nominal variables can give a different meaning altogether of what the author is trying to portray.

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