Friday, April 23, 2010

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Statistics are great for getting to down to brass tacks and weeding the BS out of a debate, but they are not the nail that closes the lid on a case.  Consider Major League Baseball, a realm awash in statistics.  Experts still argue over who was the best hitter or second baseman.

Bill Quigley at Common Dreams wrote a piece entitled "Nine Myths about Socialism in the United States."

His argument is that those on the right who accuse the government of creeping socialism are engaging in hysteria. He argues that we do not have socialism in this country by plucking statistics from an OECD study, favoring categories that we lag behind in.  We are not socialist, he argues, because we are embarrassingly behind in areas like mandatory maternity leave, worker and family support (whatever that means), and education spending.

First off, he's tilting at straw men, probably in an attempt to lampoon conservatives who have overused the "S word."  We do have some Western European-style socialistic ideas creeping in, but few rightwingers are raising the specter of Soviet tanks rolling into the town square.

I find it funny that implicit in his argument is that if we were socialist we would rank high in these categories.  So while he chastises conservatives for indiscriminate use of the socialist smear, he tacitly argues that more of it would be a good thing.  Also, ridiculously, his argument presumes there is a socialist Valhalla somewhere out there where everyone is taken care of, and if we only provided more social services like the Europeans do all would be Nirvana here. 

Yes, the European safety net is more generous than ours, but they suffer chronic double-digit unemployment, high rates of permanent disability, and have less living space.  Which would you prefer? 

Common sense makes you scratch your head and think "Somethin' ain't right...  How can Cuba have a better health care system than the US?  Why aren't heads of state flocking there (or to Finland) instead of the US?  Why did Cuba's communist dictator call for Spanish doctors when he fell ill?

A statistic without context is just a sterile number.  Placing it in context and relating it to relevant facts, unwinding it, is where we actually learn something useful. 

Consider these three facts about life in These United States:
  • Women make less than men 
  • Life expectancy is lower and infant mortality is higher than in other developed nations
  • Young women pay more than young men for health insurance
Not fair?  Let's investigate!

Why Women get paid less than men 

Dr. Thomas Sowell shows how one can aggregate or disaggregate sample data to make a point. 

A good example is pay inequality.  Men make more than women.  Stated technically, the male cohort in the Unites states makes more than the female cohort, on a per person basis.  Sounds bad, doesn't it?  Well, women take time off to have babies and care for sick friends and relatives more than men do, causing them as a group to have more interruptions in work history.  Some professions place a premium on that.  

But put that aside and look at education.  Are men more educated?  No.  Aha!  But wait.   

All college degrees are not deemed equal in the marketplace.  Men tend to get the degrees that earn high income, while women tend more towards liberal arts and social sciences, which do not make as much money.  Compare profession by profession, and the pay disparity disappears.

Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality
BigGovHealth breaks this one down, as does David Hogberg.  Life expectancy is lower here, but not because of our health care system.  We are an adventurous and violent people.  Control for murders and accidents, and our life expectancy actually beats everybody.  Dying from a drive-by shooting or losing your grip while cliff climbing is not the fault of the greatest health care system in the world. 

Infant Mortality numbers are affected by how a country defines and reports it.  We use a broader definition than Canada and European countries, which increases our numbers.

WebMD notes that a higher incidence of premature births in the US contributes to our high numbers, and BigGovHealth shows that Europe and Canada don't even report certain categories of preemie deaths.

Teen pregnancies and women over 40 giving birth are higher risk categories, and we have more of those.  Add in octo-mom scenarios caused by fertility drugs, where it is rare for all babies to survive, and we have a more complete picture.

Studies and anecdotal data have shown that some communities lack access to adequate pre-natal care, but is that a valid reason to reorder the nation's entire health care system?  And why play games to make things look worse than they are?  It must be to manipulate the masses.

Why young women pay more for health insurance than young men
Consider this simple fact:  Young women pay more for health insurance than young men.  Unfair, right?

The reason is that women in their childbearing years consume more health care, and more expensive care, than men.  Also, as people age, it flips:  Men over 50 pay more for health insurance than women in the same age category.  Still unfair? 

It's not fair!
We can argue whether all of this is "fair," as liberals are wont to do, but let's establish facts first before the jousting begins.  A logical next step for the liberal would be to set up laws that make an employer not consider work experience or degree discipline, and to demand insurance companies charge everybody the same rate.  I'll leave it to you to consider the consequences...

The life expectancy and infant mortality information, placed in context, shuts down the "inadequate health care is killing Americans" argument.  Do people lack health care in this country?  You betcha!  But you need to find another line of argumentation, this one has been disproved.

The next time you see anyone spouting statistics, go and search for an opposing (or corroborating) point of view.


Linda said...

Great informational post! Those pesky FACTS alway seem to get in the way of beloved liberal "statistics." Don't joke about government requiring businesses to ignore work experience and/or degree. It will probably happen...after all, Obama has at least three more years!

KOOK said...

Reposted at Kook's

Silverfiddle said...

I know you are not joking, Linda. It really could happen.

It just upsets me that we do have a problem of access to health care, and we could have addressed it without this grossly expensive monstrosity.

Thans Kook! I'll stop by...

Fredd said...

All good stuff, Silver, and common sense to most reasonable folks (liberals excluded, of course).

Common sense: men make more than women. On aggregate, ther is a fundamental reason for this. Women by a large margin choose to be the primary caretaker of their offspring. Accordingly, they step out of line at work while their male counterparts continue waging war in the rat race. The males continue to work on more projects, run into and solve more problems, and in general gain valued experience, while their woman coworker chose to take some time off to raise their child.

This women got out of the line.
By her own choice (most of the time).

To expect that once Sally's child enters, say, Kindergarten, that she go back to her old boss and say, 'I'm back! I want my old job and I want the same pay that Ted gets! The boos knows that Ted gained 6 additional years of experience through managing 75 tough projects in those 6 long years, in addition to dealing with all of the headaches, the problem solving, the grief, etc. to bring these projects in on time and on budget, time on the job that Sally did not have to deal with. Does anyone reasonably think that the boss is going to say, 'Sure Sally, welcome back, we saved your seat for you and you get all of the pay raises that everyone else got through experience just because its the right thing to do!'

What boss is going to say that? If you find that boss, let me know who she is, as I want to forward my resume to her immediately.

Fredd said...

More common sense: European socialism works? Hardly. You point out the high unemployment, higher disability rates and lower standards of living.

I lived in Europe for 6 years. I saw this, it's all true. The average German's apartment is 700 square feet. That estimate may even be somewhat high. They have no space for washers, dryers, refrigerators, and if they do, they get tiny apartment sized ones. They drive teensy, dangerous cars, and pay through the nose for gas. I saw this with my own eyes. I, as an enlisted sergeant in the U.S. Army, lived a much higher standard of living as a 20-something year old kid than the average working German citizen. I had more living space, a larger car, bigger refrigerator to chill more beer...well, maybe that's not fair to say, since Germans like drinking their most excellent beer warm.

And how is all of this poor standard of living financed? By taxing the bejeebers out of everything, to include a 20% Value Added Tax (Mehrvertsteuer) on top of all of the other income, property and sales taxes.

But the huge elephant in the room (and by huge, I mean YOOGE) is that they pay virtually NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH for national defense. AMERICAN tax payers pay for ALL of Europe's defense.

All of Socialist Europeans are just dependent 'children' of the U.S. taxpayers. Their economy is not even close to paying for their Valhalla, their Nirvanna, their Utopia: WE are paying for most of it. And it's NOT a Valhalla, it's a cramped shadow of the U.S. standard of living.

And liberals want to point at them as our models for paradise on earth? Morons, all of them.

Silverfiddle said...

Thanks for the added backup, Fredd. Wise words, as usual from you.

What you describe is what they want to drive us to: All cramped together in dingy phone booth apartments, driving lawn mowers with doors or taking public tranportation everywhere. Of course, the ruling elite and the intelligentsia who think this crap up won't live like that; just us proles.

TKZ said...

I spent my schooling breaking down studies, reading methods sections, and figuring out which studies and statistics are valid and which are trash. LOTS of them are pure trash.

Thanks for the break down! Fantastic post!!

Cuba self-reports its health care statistics such as infant mortality rates, and gosh golly, they lie. Who'da thunk it? And yet those statistics get quoted and relied on as being accurate. It's absolutely absurd! You can't rely on statistics when they are collected based on different criteria. It's apples to oranges and completely invalid. Infant mortality is the worst criteria to use to compare health care systems because we all define it differently, but it gets used because the statistics make us look bad, but in reality we're way ahead because we count preemie births and fertility treatment induced multi-births, and some countries allow a month of life before considering the baby a birth. That means that if a 2 week old dies they don't report it as a part of the infant mortality stats. It's ridiculous! We're the best and trying to be like the worst. How stupid!

Silverfiddle said...

It's all a web of lies and deceit, TKZ!

RealityZone said...

Man that piece really got to you. I thought you would have been over it by now. LOL Guess not.
Interesting comments.
Bigger is not always better. The problem is not how much we produce, the problem is how much we consume. Our consumption in unsustainable.
So either we adapt, or we perish.
Better start looking at the G20, the G8 will soon be passe.

1-2-3- Go ahead I am ready to be called a moron by your readers. LOL.

Silverfiddle said...

RZ, you are definitely not a moron!

It upsets me to see anyone just swallow whole and regurgitate what they read or hear.

As I continually say, there is more than one side to the story. I just gave three examples.

RealityZone said...

Wait ! ! Wait ! !
I post many articles.
That does not mean that I am promoting what is in each and every thread.

Statistics, 'facts' and 'half truths' have been around for a long time. Some are swallowed hook line and sinker. Others are food for thought.

America will never be what it once was.
It is too late for that. We all share equal guilt in the best government that money can buy.

Silverfiddle said...

I understand. I repeat all kinds of stuff here also. What got me was how upset the people at another blog got when I began refuting some of what was said.

thatmrgguy said...

Just "blog surfing" and read your fine article.

Unfortunately for America and Americans, our government has been slowly and inexorably infiltrated at all levels by communists and socialists. It's been happening now for over a hundred years. Some of our "greatest" presidents of the 20th century were either communist sympathizers or apologists. Think FDR, Ike and JFK.

For more information, find and read "None Dare Call it Treason" by John A. Stormer, published in 1964. I just started reading it and am amazed at the complicity of our government in the progression of the socialist agenda.


RealityZone said...

Mr. G:
You forgot to add that Mr. Stormer belongs to the John Birch Society. He as many others saw a communist under every rug back in the day.
I have actually had this book since the early 70's, still have it.

Perhaps you should also read --Tragedy and Hope---
and ---The Creature From Jekyl Island-----

Silverfiddle said...

I don't see the Birchers as any worse than other organizations with agendas, but RZ has a point. If you want to quote Birchers you've got to be willing to carry the freight.

For this reason I only use sources I can defend.

I also find it hard to believe Ike was a commie, let alone JFK, both war heroes.

I also just can't ascribe nefarious motives to what FDR did. I think he unintentionally prolonged the depression with his misguided policies, but I don't hold that against him.

I do believe he was a progressive who thought you could get the best and brightest together and fix every ill, if you could just get those pesky, freedom-loving rubes to shut up and allow themselves to be taken care of.

Progressivism is a cancer, but I don't see them in the same strain as communists, although some have shown that there was some cross pollination at levels well below these great men.

Thanks for stopping by!

RealityZone said...

Oh no.
Lets not start on FDR. :-)
I will just leave for now by saying this.
IMO: He did have some communist leaning infiltrators in his regime, and as his advisers.
What he gave up at Yalta was a crime against humanity. I believe that towards the end he was way to doped up to know what was going on.
An interesting little book on the aftermath of this is entitled. --Meeting at Potsdam.---
FDR should have stood up to the Russians once and for all.

Silverfiddle said...

Thanks for the tip, RZ. I'll see if I can find the book at the library.

I've heard this before, but I am as wary of rightwing stuff as I am leftwing. Everybody has an agenda!

William said...

In the book "The Making of the American Conservative Mind: National Review and Its Times," the Ike as a communist theme was put to rest once and for all. National Review editors claimed not only was Ike not a communist, but was a conservative. National Review put the John Birch Society out to dry during the '64 Goldwater campaign for president.

Here again, as mentioned in the post about libertarianism, a little common sense is needed to weed through the good and, not so good with any faction or philosophy. Dealing with JBS is no different

Silverfiddle said...

Thanks William.
You've stated it better than I ever could. Where are our WFB's of today? His son doesn't quite measure up, but to be fair, that would be a pretty tall order.

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