Who is he: Walter J. "John" Williams publishes the subscription electronic newsletter called "John Williams' Shadow Government Statistics" newsletter, "that exposes and analyzes flaws in current U.S. Government economic data and reporting, as well as in certain private-sector numbers, and provides an assessment of underlying economic and financial conditions, net of financial-market and political hype," as part of his economic consulting services. A series of powerful articles he wrote for his late friend Doug Gillespie led to the creation of Shadow Government Statistics in 2004.
Williams's website, Shadow Government Statics: Analysis Behind and Beyond Government Economic Reporting, is at www.shadowstats.com and includes a section of "Primers on Government Economic Reports."
John Williams reports that during his early years as an economist he worked with a large commercial aircraft manufacturer that had created an econometric model for predicting yearly revenue passenger miles, which was the company's primary sales forecasting tool. When Mr. Williams was asked by his client to correct their model he realized the GNP/GDP numbers reported by the Department of Commerce on which his client's model was based were wrong. When he corrected the numbers the model again worked until "GNP methodological changes eventually made the underlying data worthless."
This realization was a catalyst for Williams and he began to explore the nature and history of economic reporting, interviewing key people who have at some point been involved in the process of governmment reporting. Williams surveyed business economists on their assessment of government statistics reporting – the vast majority rated it very bad – and the New York Times and Investors Business Daily covered the results with front page stories, broadcast media coverage and "a joint meeting with representatives of all the government's statistical agencies." Williams states that government reporting has "deteriorated sharply in the last decade or so," in spite of minor changes.
Williams states that over the last thirty years Washington politicians have pressured federal economist to tweak the methods used to assess the key metrics that play a role in the economy. The numbers have been deflated to protect incumbents from voters who would certainly want answers if the true state of the economy was presented.
The truth is the economy does not perform as well as the government's numbers indicate. More people are unemployed, prices are higher, and the economy is growing at a much slower pace. The US is facing the greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression and Williams says that the real numbers are still shrouded by political gimmicks.
The term "Pollyanna Creep" is credited to John Williams, and is used to describe the way the US government reports numbers and manipulates statistics in such a way as to present a "Pollyana-ish" – falsely optimistic – view of economic factors, which often cause incorrect decisions in investments and politics.
John Williams's Shadow Government Statistics report lists the current unemployment rate, the inflation rate, housing market figures and other important figures in real terms, that the government reports differently for political purposes. Thousands of people read Williams report daily because they believe that government economic date is out of touch with the everyday experiences of the American public.
Background: Walter J (John) Williams was born in 1949. He is a native of New Jersey and a 1971 cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College. He was awarded a M.B.A. from Dartmouth's Amos Tuck School of Business Administration in 1972 and was named an Edward Tuck Scholar that year. Although his name is formally Walter, he is now goes by John. John Williams has been a private consulting economist for nearly 30 years, and now specializes in government economic reporting.