Re "Shaken consumers clamp wallets shut," April 30
The Times has a reputation for fairly and accurately presenting the facts. However, you regularly represent data in a deceptive and distorted manner.
The purpose of presenting data graphically is to increase understanding of the numbers. If a graph makes the data less clear, you are defeating your purpose -- unless your purpose is to dress up the front page with colored graphics.
On April 30, you printed four graphs on the state of the economy, none of which started at the origin (zero). When a graph is truncated in this way, the relative change is distorted to seem larger than it is.
The food-price graph (shown above) visually showed the price of food increasing from one vertical graphic unit in 2006 to four units in 2008, an apparent increase of 300%. But according to the data, the food-price index increased from 194 to 209, an increase of 6%.
If a reader has to go back to the data to understand a graph, it would be better to leave out the graph and just give us the data.
The time for consumers to shut their wallets is overdue. For too long, Americans have been indulging in a consumption binge, buying material goods that provide a fleeting high. Many items are thrown away with a deleterious effect on the environment.
America needs to reorder its priorities and invest instead of spending its money on imports and eroding the value of the dollar. We should invest in quality of life by providing healthcare for all, saving Social Security, cleaning up the environment, maintaining parkland and building modern transportation and improved roads and bridges. Decreased spending on consumption would offset any increased taxes.
Lloyd A. Dent