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Worst AP Article of the Week
August 4, 2011 Economic Illiteracy

Is this one. And that’s an achievement. Rather than rant, here’s just a few of the goodies:

Recent estimates show 49 million Americans make food decisions based on cost, she added.

Right, so the other 261 million Americans have food handed to them. And there is no reason to believe that these 49 million are the same ones that have trouble eating nutritiously. The point of a market system is to have cost be a part of every decision we make, because without doing it, there won’t be much stuff to consider in the first place. I know the survey instrument, so defenders would probably say something like, “the survey asked what is the MOST important driver of your food choices” and then these folks selected it. But to indicate the sentence in this manner seems to indict costs (and prices and markets) as being evil allocative mechanisms. Finally, is 49 million out of 310 million Americans make choices based on cost a lot? A little? How does it compare to our housing choices? I’d bet that over half of Americans make those decisions based on cost, and wished they lived in safer, healthier, more comfortable houses. What about cars? I’d bet an even larger share makes those decisions based on cost? But when it comes to food, apparently all bets are off. Hogwash. And by the way, we’ve done the simple calculations, eating extremely health is within reach of every single American today – to suggest otherwise is to suggest fairies exist.

Just a couple more:

He said diets get more and more expensive depending on how many rules a person applies to himself, such as eating organic or seeking local sources for food or eating vegetables out of season.

Can you stand it? The author leads us to believe that organic food and local food are somehow healthier and have more nutrients than non-organic and non-local food. There’s just one little problem: that’s not true. But why should something like the facts get in the way of good “reporting?” I know it’s a quote from someone else, but I guarantee if I were quoted as saying that mass-farmed food is as nutritious and safe as anything else my quote would be prefaced with some caveat like, “wack-job liberal economists like Wintercow say …”

And don’t forget the requisite state-worship:

The government should provide help for meeting the nutritional guidelines in an affordable way.

Well, at least the very last line in the piece mentions subsidies. It says not a thing about ethanol of course – and hey econ-people, even though ethanol is made from corn, how might that have an impact on potatoes?

"10" Comments
  1. Here’s another line I’d like to point out from the article:

    “But the study found introducing more potassium in a diet is likely to add $380 per year to the average consumer’s food costs, said lead researcher Pablo Monsivais…”

    How did they get this $380 figure? Well I found another article that explained it:

    “With potassium, for instance, the participants consumed an average of 2,800 milligrams a day — 700 milligrams below the recommended amount. To get up to par, they’d have to spend an extra $1.04 a day, or $380 a year. For a family of four, that’s $1,520 annually.”

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44013462/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/

    Yep, no problems with the way calculated that. By the way the title of that article is “Healthy eating adds $380 to yearly grocery bill, study shows: Fresh food choices can feel like luxury in lean times”.

  2. In addition to the wonderful quotes you included, I also liked the following: “”Almost 15 percent of households in America say they don’t have enough money to eat the way they want to eat,” Seligman said. ” Really? Only 15 percent? I know for a fact that I don’t have enough money to eat all the things I would like to eat. I would love it if I had enough money to eat things like crab legs and lobster tails at least once a week. Is this not the case for just about everyone else? We live in a world faced with unlimited wants by people, but in a world faced with scarcity. To pretend other wise, or to imply that government policies can change this, is almost as ridiculous as the AP article. After all, is this not why we need economics?

  3. And don’t forget dietary requirements of special minorities, like the Rastafarians. Those high-octane brownies can cost a lot in states where medical marijuana is not available at state-authorized clinics.

    It’s also important it is to have the proper variety of wine with one’s meal. I recommend Mad Dog 20-20, or, if a beer is more to your liking, Colt 45. It works every time. Be sure to maintain the proper temperature of your wine or malt beverage by keeping it in a plain brown bag, which itself can be recycled.

  4. I guess I am not going to go bananas over this dog- bites-man story, but bananas are cheap and rich in potassium. What this story confirms is that the wire services are brain-dead, and before anybody objects, consider the following:

    A week ago I read a story in the sports section of a daily published in Atlantic City, about an Angels pitcher who threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. The score was 3-1.

    It turns out the pitcher walked a batter and threw a wild pitch after the batter stole second. The headline should have been, “Indian Robs Angel” and the lead should have been about the first one-run no-hitter since Honus Wagner robbed the Black Sox. No, it did not make the front page of any newspaper, printed or electronic.

    You heard it first on The Unbroken Window, trusted across the globe.

  5. And Honus made the theft as a shortstop!

    So many news organizations, in print and in broadcast media, use the AP that it has become widely assumed that AP stories are factually correct and free of bias.

  6. All the more remarkable because Honus Wagner was a shortstop.

  7. I don’t know how that post appeared to be done twice. It wasn’t for emphasis. A senior computer moment.

  8. Pingback: 100% of My Food Decisions Take Cost Into Account | The Pretense of Knowledge

  9. Pretense of knowledge, indeed. What other blog do you know that allows one to use “epistemology” in a post?

    I used to go into a Whole Foods store once in a while just to get a reaction to my Toomey for Senate bumpersticker on the bumper of my 300-horsepower Thunderbird. Isn’t it strange that people who are smart enough to become big earners and live in Westport are such suckers for high-priced “organic” food? Also, the majority of people going into the store looked pretty unhealthy to begin with, and they did not appear to be much improved when coming out of the store. They needed the excitement of seeing the Toomey bumpersticker, for sure.

  10. Pingback: The Unbroken Window » Blog Archive » Worst AP Article of the Year: Update

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