The NYT published an oped last week by Jochen Bittner, a political editor for a major German newspaper, asking what is wrong with German's Social Democrats. The focus of the piece is the collapse of popular support for the party as shown by its poor performance in several recent elections.

Bittner attributes this drop in support to its unwillingness to push an agenda that combats Germany's rising inequality. As one example, he comments:

"Nor did the SPD [the German Social Democratic Party] seem to mind that the chief executive of Deutsche Post earns 239 times the salary of his average employee."

Deutsche Post is the privatized German postal and delivery company. A state-owned bank still has a 20 percent share of the company.

While Bittner's piece raises good questions (there is nothing in the rules of a market economy that says a CEO should be allowed to rip off the company they work for), he alludes at one point to the German unemployment rate. He notes that it has fallen by more than 50 percent to "around 5 percent."

In fact, Germany's unemployment rate according to the OECD's harmonized measure, which essentially uses the US methodology, is just 3.4 percent. Bittner's 5 percent figure refers to the official German measure of unemployment, which includes workers who are employed part-time as being unemployed.

The NYT should have adjusted the unemployment number in Bittner's piece to the OECD measure to avoid giving readers a misleading picture of Germany's economy. Unfortunately, this is a common problem in the NYT and elsewhere. If the point is to convey information to readers, then the terms should be adjusted to measures readers would understand. 

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