Our Daily Bleg: Your Inaccurate Statements, Please

Our resident quote bleggar Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, is back with another request. If you have a bleg of your own — it needn’t have anything to do with quotations — send it along here.


In 1929, the economist Irving Fisher is said to have stated, “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”

Recently, John McCain famously said, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.”

Can Freakonomics readers supply other examples of statements by politicians, economists, businesspeople, or other individuals that appear to be wildly inaccurate in light of recent economic events?



"There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home."

Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977


What’s good for the country is good for General Motors, and vice versa

A statement made by Charles E. Wilson while president of the General Motors Corporation


Well, unfortunately I have no quote. I was not intending on posting anything until I saw this:

Steve @ 66, Gonzalez was right.

MHS @ 28, Hannity was right.

First off:

The United States Constitution specifically includes habeas corpus, located in Article One, Section 9. It states:"The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it."

About the separation of church and state, you will not find those exact words in the constituion, but the concept is due to the 1st amendment. So, I suppose you can argue that it isn't in the constitution, but I usually consider the amendments to be part of it.


You mean like just about anything the MSM or any Democrat said during the election cycle? Not that Republicans don't lie, they just try not to.


The person that called Bush's speech on the aircraft carrier was inaccurate. They imply Bush said or meant Mission Accomplished. That was a sign put up by the crew.


King Louis the XVI:

July 4th 1776

Rien (Nothing)

Wynship Pemacin

> I think senator mccain been very unfairly quoted on that one.

Maybe so, but we've got to get Obama into the White House so let's not quibble.

Nicolas L.

That's funny, not one person has mentioned George Tenet's remark to the Bush Administration that the case for Saddam Hussein having WMDs was a "slam dunk."

goatboy slim

This doesn't really fit into this category since it can't be proven to be false, but here's my favorite quote by a politician:

"Things are more like they are now then they ever have been."-Gerald Ford 1976.

Barry Ritholtz

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson:

April 20, 2007: 'I don't see (subprime mortgage market troubles) imposing a serious problem. I think it's going to be largely contained.'

July 12, 2007: 'This is far and away the strongest global economy I've seen in my business lifetime.'

August 1, 2007: 'The market has focused on this. There's a wake-up call, and there's an adjustment to this repricing of risk, but I see the underlying economy as being very healthy.'

February 28, 2008: 'I'm seeing a series of ideas suggested involving major government intervention in the housing market and these things are usually presented or sold as a way of helping homeowners stay in their homes. Then when you look at them more carefully what they really amount to is a bailout for financial institutions or Wall Street.'

March 16, 2008: 'We've got strong financial institutions . . . Our markets are the envy of the world. They're resilient, they're...innovative, they're flexible. I think we move very quickly to address situations in this country, and, as I said, our financial institutions are strong.'


There is more at the Big Picture, with full sources and links, but you get the flavor . . .




On the basis that the words "Hannity is right" makes my stomach turn, I present to you the connection between the Constitution and Separation of Chuch and state, thanks to Wikipedia:

"The concept of separation is commonly credited to the combination of the two clauses: the establishment clause, generally interpreted as preventing the government from establishing a national religion, providing tax money in support of religion, or otherwise favoring any single religion or religion generally; and the free exercise clause, ensuring that private religious practices are not restricted by the government. The effect of prohibiting direct connections between religious and governmental institutions while protecting private religious freedom and autonomy has been termed the "separation of church and state."

And here's a quote for the actual topic:

"And that [increased U.S. oil production] will help ensure that our economy remains the strongest, most vibrant, and most hopeful in the world." President Bush, August 2, 2008.


Barry Ritholtz

Amity Shlaes, defending Phil Gramm's Nation of Whiners comments, does not know what a recession is:

"Gramm was right about the recession and stood by his recession comments on Thursday. A recession is two consecutive quarters in which the economy shrinks, and last quarter it grew."

Um, that definition is from the 1970s or os. It has since been replaced by the NBER with "A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales."



In December, 2001, John McCain, with five other senators, wrote in an open letter to the White House urging war action against Iraq: "In the interest of our own national security, Saddam Hussein must be removed from power," they insisted, claiming that there was "no doubt" that Hussein intended to use weapons of mass destruction "against the United States and its allies."


Joe Smith


Symptoms are not fundamentals. The fundamentals of the American economy are sound. What we have here is a business cycle on top of a substantial, but manageable, wealth destruction from overbuilding in housing. Because the fundamentals are sound the economy will bounce back in a year or two once the current grand game of financial musical chairs gets resolved and we determine who will actually bear the loss on housing.


Billy, Joe Smith, and BobbyG

Let me clarify. I was talking about the aggregate of the "fundamentals", AS MEASURED BY the GDP, unemployment,inflation/deflation, "ETC."

I did not say that they individually were "unsound" I said that those fundamentals TOGETHER (or an analysis of the fundamentals using these tools, to be more specific for Bobby G and Joe Smith) indicate a serious problem.

Production of goods, for example, would be a "fundamental" of our economy, as would participation in the labor force and savings. We use tools to measure the well being or "strength" of these fundamentals, and these tools indicate that the fundamentals of our economy are not strong. They may not be "unsound" fundamentals, but if fundamentals can fluctuate between strong and weak as McCain implies, then I wonder how else to measure their strength but by the tools I mentioned above. The fundamentals are not simply vulnerable or "at risk" as McCain would later say.

Furthermore "Fundamentals" such as infrastructure and American ingenuity seem unlikely to be threatened by things such as recessions, unemployment, or inflation/deflation.

The road I take to get to class hasn't gotten worse with the latest crisis, and the financial system does not affect my ingenuity.

So again, McCain was either wrong about what the fundamentals ARE, or he was wrong about them being strong, as all indicators show that these fundamentals.



Comment 59, LOL, great post or greatest post??? Although some may argue that much like the supercomputer in "I, Robot", he has some omniscient perspective that nobody else can comprehend... yet.


"key indicators such as GDP, the CPI, unemployment, etc. THESE fundamentals, which are the REAL fundamentals of our economy, indicate a very serious problem."

What're you talking about Joel? I'm an economics major undergrad and even I know GDP had shown a decent growth last quarter, CPI is in check as of the numbers that came out TODAY, and the unemployment rate dropped more than expected as of TODAY as well. So how does that not fit in with sound fundamentals?

I do however admit we are in a recession currently, no duh. Now change your definition of "key fundamentals"........


Widely rumored quote from Bill Gates in 1981:

"640K [of memory] ought to be enough for anybody."

Though, to be fair, he denies having said that.

Sail Boffin

"I did not have sex with that woman" -Bill Clinton


''These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis,'' said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ''The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.''

Taken from - Labaton, Steven. "New Agency Proposed to Oversee Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae." The New York Times 11 Sept. 2003 16 Oct 2008