I have about had it with "The Numbers Guy" at the Wall Street Journal.
Because almost =every=one= of his articles are of the form: "People try to quantitatively estimate -blah-, but it's so haaaaaaaaard, and who can say?"
So what do I see today?
Many economists say the 120% threshold of Greek debt to GDP that is key to bailout talks isn't based in any particular economic principles. And the source of the figure isn't totally clear.
Is it so hard to say: "Models are based on various assumption sets, and one can have lots of different such reasonable sets, giving you different results"? "All models are wrong, but some are useful"? Come on. Throw me a bone.
If you'd like to have an "it's okay" ratio that doesn't have much basis in reality, it's the "It's okay to have public pensions only 80% funded". That's another that came from absolutely nowhere.
I understand the belief there needs to be some sort of "conflict" to make an interesting article. But there was little enlightenment other than this bit:
Gabriel Sterne, an economist with the investment-banking company Exotix in London and a former IMF economist, says the IMF's projections for Greece have gotten more realistic. Mr. Sterne praised their work but added, "Any forecast has a top-down element. There's a politically acceptable number you need to get to, and you get there."
Someone decided what the answer needed to be, and then they jiggered everything to get there. That's your usual political numbers game. At which point, it's not useful to say "it's haaaaaard" but "Because most people are scared of numbers, all sorts of bullshit is spouted to support whatever political decision has already been made as they figure it doesn't really matter."