Thursday, January 17, 2013

Be Wary of Government Statistics

Jesse has a post up today that, on balance, is great.  I like his simple, straightforward and tenacious moralizing a lot because, well, he's right.

The one glaring problem is his reliance on the BEA's "Domestic Corporate Profits" metric to make his point. Like Jesse, most people (including Simon Johnson!) believe that domestic corporate profits were earned domestically, i.e., in the United States.  That simply isn't the case: the BEA's NIPA Domestic Corporate Profits measures profits earned worldwide by companies headquartered in the U.S.  Thus, for example, the FIRE sector's share of "domestic corporate profits" says nothing about the FIRE sector's share of "gross domestic product," i.e., nothing about the U.S. economy, real or otherwise.