HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS; ALSO, LAZINESS.

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.

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  • 10 Responses to “HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS; ALSO, LAZINESS.”

    1. FMguru Says:

      His cherry-picking is the best. Remember last year, when the financial pages would be 99% bad news and 1% good news, he'd post every story in the 1% with a heading of "Dude, Where's My Recession?". Come to think of it, that was his M.O. regarding Iraq. Concentrate on the 1% of news that was arguably good news, flog the hell of it, and declare that it was the real story that the Liberal Em Ess Em was trying to hide from you because they were manipulating the news to make it look like Iraq was a violent, disintegrating charnel house.

      It's like reading those copies of Socialist Worker's Weekly or whatever they'd hand out at the folding card table in the student union on campus back in the day. If that was your only source of information you'd swear that 1994 was a glorious year for striking back against the imperialists and that the revolution was surely just around the corner.

    2. Susan of Texas Says:

      Hey, that link wasn't Althouse/Goldberg slash. Tease!

      I saw Kudlow have a fit when a reporter on his newtwork told Kudlow that the facts didn't support his conclusion. I've seen toddlers with more restraint.

    3. Skepticat Says:

      That many people might well still be happy with their health care. It's the cost of the health insurance that lets them access that care that makes them miserable. I was happy with my health care right up until the cost of the insuramce forced me to give it up.

    4. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

      A lot of criminal justice statistics widely used to support this or that political agenda rely on similar statistical calisthenics. It's very rare that anyone challenges such activities, as they're generally sold under the implication that they support tougher crime legislation, while failing to note that certain flavors of crime have continued to rise in direct correlation with increasingly stricter laws. Challenging such legislation is political suicide, therefore, rubber stamps rule the day.

    5. jazzbumpa Says:

      Sir -
      Well stated, Sir.

    6. Chris Wren Says:

      "luminaries" is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Reynolds and his shrinking raft of supporters

    7. ill duce Says:

      You don't even have to go to the new survey to see that people are dissatisfied.
      54% said they were dissatisifed as a whole with the health care in this country
      80% were dissatisifed with the cost
      and,
      wait for it
      52% said that the general lack of health insurance in this country was a critical problem.

      But they are all perfectly happy.

      Oh, and 76% of them were white.
      But surprisingly, the incomes were well distributed.

      There are other problems with phone surveys. Lack of phones on the part of poor people which correlates to a lack of insurance.

      The lack of cellular phone use whcih correlates to younger people who in turn correlate to lack of insurance.

      etc.

    8. Lacy Says:

      The basic principle of insurance is protection from calamity. Things went awry when marketers and providers created a system that promoted vast use for routine needs.

      What has resulted is a system in which the supposed insurers desperately evade helping those who are the very ones who in principle should be those who truly needed it.

      So they say 89% are "happy" with their "health" insurance? Maybe so….So maybe "only" 11% are devastated, bankrupt, or flat on their backs?

      Here's another polling statistic for the statistically challenged: Nearly 100% are still happy with their life insurance.

    9. Oscar Richardson Says:

      Absolutely true!! And of course, "conservatives" lie and obfuscate all the time, like Ronald Regan and Iran Contra. Lliberals" would never do such a thing. Take for instance the honesty and moral integrity of Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky, Teddy Kennedy at Chappaquidick, John & Bobby Kennedy/Marilyn Monroe. Is a pattern emerging here? If you buy into the bigger lie of our elite are the "good guys", so it's okay because they are agianst those evil elitist other guys, you are being suckered big time. Obama is just as crooked as Nixon was and just as dishonest as Bush was. Like the bumper sticker says – "Liberal or conservative: same shit, different piles."