No news is better than fake news

The Washington Post complains that the Trump administration has decided not to release updated economic projections this summer. The administration says it won’t release projections because of the “unprecedented state of play in the economy at the moment.” In other words, although the economy clearly will be in bad shape for a while, and everyone knows it, no one has a clear idea of what the numbers will look like.

The White House also notes that there is no law requiring it to release updated projections. There is precedent for doing so, as the Post emphasizes. However, the Post cites no precedent for releasing projections where this much uncertainty stems from highly unusual non-economic events.

The Post quotes several sources who speculate that the administration’s decision is based on a desire to hide the ball. The Trump team wants to avoid “bring[ing] attention to the high level of unemployment they’d have to project for this year, and into next year,” says one critic.

Maybe. However, Daniel Tenreiro at NRO points out that the Federal Reserve and scores of large American companies have also declined to make economic forecasts, citing the massive amount of uncertainty about the economy. According to Tenreiro:

86 companies in the S&P 500 Index have withdrawn guidance this year. Perhaps the White House, the Fed, and the corporate sector are all obfuscating the state of the economy. More likely, they don’t want to mislead the public (a concern not shared by WaPo).

Speaking of misleading the public, the Post observes that the Obama administration continued to release projections during the last recession even though they were unflattering.

True. However, Tenreiro reminds us that Obama’s projections underestimated GDP contraction by nearly 50 percent. They were, in a sense, fake news. No news is a better option.