HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS; ALSO, LAZINESS.

Posted in Rants on June 23rd, 2009 by Ed

I am astounded daily at the lack of shame, originality, effort, and reading comprehension skills shared by the right-wing luminaries on the internet. Having just written up the phenomenal laziness of Glenn Reynolds yesterday afternoon, he forces me to do so again less than 12 hours later. Here is a post from Instarube, late Monday evening:

LARRY KUDLOW: “According to a recent ABC News/USA Today/Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 89 percent of Americans are satisfied with their health care. That could mean up to 250 million people are happy. So why is it that we need Obama’s big-bang health-care overhaul in the first place?”

Note Professor Assrocket's original contribution to this post ("LARRY KUDLOW:"). Keep up the good work, G-Ren. Mr. Kudlow, for his part, hasn't done much more work. He's cherry-picked a single statistic which (he believes) supports his predetermined conclusion. Here are some facts that Mr. Kudlow either refrains from mentioning or was too lazy to learn in the first place.

  • 1. He doesn't link to the survey he mentions, probably because he doesn't want you to realize that it's two years old. Took me about 45 seconds to find it, and it would have taken less if I weren't simultaneously downloading so much Ann Althouse/Jonah Goldberg slash porn. Here. Survey date: September 12, 2006. Before the financial crisis, before the recession, before millions of layoffs, before the last midterm election. On Monday, June 22, 2009 Larry Kudlow is making a point about a contemporaneous health care debate using a survey from two thousand and fucking six. But I'm sure his omission was accidental.
  • 2. Using a slightly more recent survey (June 8, 2009) the Kaiser Family Foundation tells us that 55% of Americans have put off needed health care – filling prescriptions, getting a lab test, seeing a doctor at all – because of cost in the past year. But apparently all 55% were happy to do it. It also tells us that 61% of Americans believe that serious health care reform is "now more important than ever", down from…62% in October of 2008. Happy, though! And a majority of survey respondents believe that reform should be financed through cigarette taxes, reduced Medicare payments, and/or taxing people with incomes above $250,000. Support for several specific reform proposals is high. 75% of those polled favor (either "strongly" or "somewhat") expanding Medicare down to age 55 while 69% favor "Requiring employers to either offer health insurance or pay money into a government pool," i.e. a Wal-Mart Law.
  • 3. Note Mr. Kudlow's fallacious conclusion that "satisfaction" as measured by his two year-old survey implies a lack of support for reform. I am satisfied with the amount of tax I pay on my income, yet I support reforming the tax code. I am satisfied with my housing costs, but I believe that fundamental reform in the mortgage lending industry is necessary. I am satisfied with the number of times I have been raped today, but I believe sexual assault is a major problem in our society which requires action. If only Larry could conceive of a world in which people give a shit about anything but their own interests.
  • 4. While the KFF has a good reputation, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that, like all surveys, both the 2006 and 2009 examples discussed here did a mediocre or worse job of getting actual poor or uninsured people to participate. The people who are most likely to be polled are the same middle-class people more likely than not to be "satisfied" with their own personal health care arrangements.

    I often complain about the imbalance of effort that goes into left-right political discourse. Conservatives just make shit up as fast as possible – if it sounds good, it is good – and their opponents waste endless hours researching and looking up the facts to counter their pant-seat arguments. But in this instance it took me all of a minute to figure out that Larry Kudlow is absolutely bursting at the seams with bullshit. Perhaps he's intentionally omitting facts to strengthen his argument or perhaps he's too lazy to have done any research. As for Professor Cut-Paste-Link-Heh-Indeed, I have taken dumps that had more integrity than him. At least they didn't lie about being turds or try to claim that they didn't reek.