The Financial Times – How Can You Be So Amateurish??

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The headline in today’s FT says “Rift grows between old and young – Chancellor continues to shelter older people from austerity measures.”

What follows is a pathetic attempt to construct an argument to justify the headline claim. It is worth marketers understanding the technique the FT attempts to employ. When done well it can be very effective – when done like this it is beyond contempt.

Step 1. Get a lot of statements from likeminded people with fancy sounding titles to support the gist of your argument

A selection of the statements from the article

The stark generational rift emerging in Britain is highlighted by a Financial Times analysis showing that the real disposable household incomes of people in their 20s have stagnated over the past 10 years just as older households are capturing a much greater share of the nation’s income and wealth. Notice – no connection to the FT headline

The FT analysis of 50 years of official data also shows that the living standards of Britons in their 20s have been overtaken by those of their 60-something grandparents for the first time, with the household incomes of pensioners in their 70s and even 80s also catching up rapidly. Notice – no connection to the FT headline

The co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, a charity which seeks to promote fairness among generations, said: “These figures demonstrate that generational imbalances are becoming so serious that they risk alienating the younger generation. The chancellor must use the budget to address this intergenerational unfairness.” Notice – no connection to the FT headline


OK, lots of emotion but either no substantiation or the incorrect conclusions from the so called ‘data’

Step 2. Get some data from a well respected organisation and then draw either incorrect or suspect conclusions

The data is from the Family Expenditure Survey and the Family Resources Survey. We have to assume that it has been correctly analysed (although I have my doubts).

If you look at the first chart is shows that the youngest age cohort, born 1985-94 are not as well-off as the previous cohort. What it also shows is that they are a hell of a lot better off than the cohort born 1945-54. The group often called Baby Boomers. So implications can we draw from this – nothing of any value and certainly nothing that substantiates the claim from the headline: “Chancellor continues to shelter older people from austerity measures.”

If this was not bad it gets a lot, lot worse. The article then goes on to claim that it appears that the peak earning of the three youngest cohorts is occurring earlier than the older groups.

What it doesn’t say is that if you look at the profile of the Baby Boomer cohort the earnings actually declined not increased. At the very end of the FT article it does make note of this point but as a totally separate conclusion. This is blatant misrepresentation of the numbers.

I embarrassed to say that during my life I have taken a set of numbers and extracted the conclusions I want rather than what they really say. I am also arrogant enough to say that I was pretty good at doing it. If the FT had asked me I could have made a much better job of ‘proving’ a set of conclusions from the data.

Not only has the FT intentionally misled its readers but it has done it badly. 

Why? Why?

My guess is that it is a planted story, prior to the budget to soften up the media for a set of tax changes that are going to hit older people even more than the present set of disastrous government policies. Senior members of the Coalition (we are talking about you Mr Willetts) have made not secret of the fact that they want to milk the Baby Boomers wealth. The only thing that makes me doubt this conspiracy explanation is that the media and politicians are normally not that bright.

Whatever, this is a useful lesson for us all not to believe what you read in the press and certainly not the FT.

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