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How to Really Lie with Statistics
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Man, this New Republic article on the U.S. economy really is an irresponsible piece of claptrap. The guy who wrote it, Jacob Hacker, is supposedly Peter Strauss Family Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale, but if this is the kind of intellectual dishonesty you get from a Yale education, we're in trouble (both the major candidates are Yale grads).

Anyway, there are two references to statistics in this article that are real howlers. Given the recent discussion of how statistics can be misleading, it's worth noting how statistics can really be misleading, as long as the person who wields them makes absolutely no appeal to perspective or common sense.

The first:

[Middle-class families] are also working longer: According to Karen Kornbluh of the New America Foundation, the typical family spends 22 more hours per week at work than it did in 1969. how could that be? Hmm...let me see...

Well, about halfway through the article, when referencing another point, the author says:

The second overarching cause of increased insecurity is a shift we often take for granted: the movement of women from home to work. As mothers have entered the labor force in increasing numbers, families have gained a second income, which most desperately need.

Yeah, we often take the fact that more women work now than in 1969...even in our own article. That's the reason why "the typical family spends 22 more hours per week at work than it did in 1969". Hacker makes it sound like they have to.

They have to? Yeah, because all those families were starving to death before women started entering the workforce. Look, industry and government are much more the richer for the inclusion of both genders, but don't pretend it's a necessity. It's a choice.

We want two cars, and CDs, and all the latest electronics, and eating out, and vacations, and nicer homes, and all the trinkets and baubles. We don't need them. Most Americans could get by on far less money than they do. A single decent salary in America is far more than what most of the people in the world live on. Most families are dual-income because we want more money and we want more stuff.

But I digress.

Here's the other stupid stat:

Fourteen million more Americans lack health insurance now than two decades ago.

Here are the respective U.S. populations in 1984 and 2004:

U.S. Population 1984: 235,824,902
U.S. Population 2000: 281,421,906

I'll let you work out why this stat is idiotic.

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