Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance Strikes Again!

Curious George offers this rare guest post. (Thanks! I hope there will be more.)

We all want to believe the data we receive is good, sound information from a thoughtful and honest process. Good data is so important to making good decisions. Consider the recent reporting of December 2009 retail sales.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports December US retail sales up 2.9%. Reuters estimates US retail sales for December up 1.3-2.0%.  Yahoo reports a 2.8% increase. All my searches for retail sales reported increases for December 2009. So, if retail sales are up, then what about sales tax revenue. It should be up too, right? Nope, it’s down.
Really down. The Dallas Morning news reports Texas sales tax revenue for December 2009 down 11.6% from 2008. The Texas economy has not been hit as hard as other states with respect to unemployment and mortgage foreclosures and yet sales tax revenue is -11.6%. It’s true, all the retail sales tax revenue numbers are not in. The early returns from Texas look ominous.

This is a huge disconnect. Cognitive dissonance. Where do these retail sales numbers come from? They appear to be as reliable as the government produced CPI, unemployment and GDP statistics. We are told “things are getting better and the recession is over.” I think we need to be careful where we get our information. Cognitive dissonance is receiving information that challenges established beliefs or information. Caution is advised.

Curious George