More Fact Checking Problems at the Washington Post

Last Tuesday, I pointed out that a front page Washington Post article had overstated Mexico's growth in the post-NAFTA era by a factor of five (Mexican Deportee's U.S. Sojourn Illuminates Roots of Current Crisis, 4-17-06:A1). It appears that the Post's problems with arithmetic are continuing.

The front page of the Sunday Outlook section had an article that refers to the rise to power of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia (Old States, New Threats, 4-23-06;E1). The article comments that "social tensions have exploded as a result of the unleashing of market economies that create rapid but uneven growth."

Growth in Venezuela and Bolivia may have been uneven, but it certainly was not rapid. According to data from the Penn World Tables and the World Bank, per capita GDP in Venezuela was more than 10 percent lower when Hugo Chavez took office in 1998 than it had been in 1980. In Bolivia, per capita GDP had fallen by almost 15 percent between 1980 and 2005 (see also "Bolivia's Challenges").

The Post is a serious newspaper. It should be able to at least get basic facts like economic growth rates right.

--Dean Baker

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