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Enough spin to make you dizzy

Marketplace Staff Jul 6, 2007

Enough spin to make you dizzy

Marketplace Staff Jul 6, 2007


KAI RYSSDAL: We’ve all gotten used to spin as a political art. The way candidates and incumbents shape information so the public perceives things in ways that are most favorable to the person doing the spinning. And of course during presidential campaigns it becomes more important than ever. But commentator Robert Lyle observes spin is present in everyday economic life, too.

ROBERT LYLE: Went into my local supermarket the other day and bought a bag of my favorite soy crackers. I was surprised when the register showed I was saving 32 cents on a sale price of $2.87. Now that amazed me since for the past year or so — and just last week, in fact — the same crackers sold for $2.79, 8 cents below the so-called sale price.

Talk about spin. They raised the price by more than 14 percent, yet told me, the consumer, they were saving me over 10 percent. Wow, I can hardly see for the spin I’m in.

Nothing new here. It just shows how far down spin — or misleading us — has come.

But it’s worse at the top. Here’s a recent tale from Great Britain.

The government financed company which owns all the tracks and rail stations — Network Rail — announced that it’s senior executives were having their pay cut “by more than 60 percent” because of a series of crashes caused by poor maintenance of the tracks.

Boy, talk about having to take responsibility.

But wait. It wasn’t their salaries that were cut — those remained at many times the average workers’ pay.

No, what was cut was their bonuses. The chief executive received only about 89,000 pounds. Poor chap. Just three to four times the average wage. Other senior executives got bonuses of only two-and-a-half times a regular worker’s yearly pay.

In this case, the spin didn’t take. When it was learned that lower-level workers were having their bonuses — equal to about 2 weeks pay — entirely withheld, Network Rail quickly backed down and deferred all bonuses. For now, anyway.

Meantime, back here in Florida, where skyrocketing property taxes are driving people out of the housing market or even out of the state, the new governor and legislature took two sessions to enact a $25 billion tax-cut package. Fantastic. It will actually save the average homeowner a measly $174. I can hardly wait.

Ryssdal: Robert Lyle is a semi-retired international economics journalist.

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