By Ted La Vaque
“Lies, damned lies and statistics” is a quote often attributed to Mark Twain. It should be a required quotation printed at the top of each government report and on the TV screen during an Obama speech. I once sat on a committee whose function, for want of a better description, would be that of quality control. It was our job to review records for compliance with legally mandated report formats. I quickly learned that the small group that physically reviewed the records had an interesting way of reporting results. The meeting would go something like this: “The number of records that met the compliance criterion for XYZ improved by 66 percent in the month of July.” I foolishly asked how many records had been reviewed.
“You mean that two out of the three records that you examined were in compliance?” “Yes.”
One can imagine that the discussion went in an interesting direction from that point on but the procedure followed by the small review group never changed. They would report their results as percentages while carefully avoiding providing information that contributed to that statistic. That led to some interesting discussions both in and out of the meetings to no avail. Which brings us to government reports. On January 10, 2014 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate in December 2012 was 6.7 percent, down from 7.0 percent in the previous month. It was reported that a paltry 74,000 new nonfarm payroll jobs were added to the workforce.
“Uh, wait a minute,” a perceptive and educated individual might say. “How does an addition of only 74,000 individuals to the national workforce produce such a large decrease in the unemployment rate?”
Well, what they were not reporting was the number of individuals who simply gave up the fight and stopped looking for work. That being the case those individuals are no longer counted as being part of the workforce and are not included in the unemployment statistic. Percentages are great for politicians, just like they were for the quality assurance group I described earlier. A percentage makes you think you are getting useful information when in fact it can be a completely empty statistic. That certainly makes it much easier for Obama to come to the White House podium and report a significant decrease in the unemployment rate without having to discuss the severely damaged economy. You know, if you change the numerator and denominator when working out fractions you can change the end result without actually having changed anything in the real world. Which grade school class taught that? You can’t exactly accuse a politician like Obama of lying in an instance like this, but he is not exactly providing truth either, is he? Remember that Urban Dictionary definition of ObamaSpeak that I provided several weeks ago. “Say whatever you want whenever you want and whatever you say at the moment you say it is the truth.”
In 2009 Obama promised that he would “focus like a laser” on the unemployment problem. More recently he assured us that jobs were the first thing he thought about after waking up, and the last thing he thought about before going to sleep. Apparently that was his total activity because he did nothing of an effective nature while he was awake. His Jobs Council is defunct and never did meet productively. Now he has promised that, with regard to jobs, 2014 would be a “year of action.” Someone should ask him by what percentage his policies will grow employment.
We all have been told that over 90 percent of scientists believe that global warming is manmade. That sounds pretty strong, doesn’t it. Let’s go through the fourth grade analysis. Which “scientists” are those? How many “scientists” were in that sample? What were their degrees? How were they selected? Since when is science a matter of some oddball consensus of unidentified individuals? I will admit that consensual validation is an important attribute of science, but that is not what is meant by “consensus.” This is merely a setup to justify the new carbon tax that Obama is working on. Obama’s speeches are factually empty, filled with “lies, damned lies and statistics.”
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Stumptalk is published weekly in the Crossville Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. To contact Stumptalk, email coordinator Jim Sykes at email@example.com.