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September 24, 2010


Brendan again ignores the President's many consequestial misstatements about health reform and focuses only on the words "Death Panel." I don't know why this semantical point is more important than people losing their insurance or paying thousands more for insurance when Obama promised thousands less. Brendan doesn't dispute Palin's substantive contention that federal panels will make decisions on how care should be rationed.

Furthermore, Palin essentially conceded Brendan's point. She put scare quotes around the phrase death panels to indicate that the words are questionable. I think it's time Brendan declared victory on this quest.

One might quibble with the Republicans' graph of Government spending to GDP, but the two "corrections" are worse. It's routine to show a range slightly wider than the values on a graph. E.g. The Republicans' graphs might have started somewhat below 17% or gone a bit higher than 24%, but a jump from 19.5% to 23.5% is big anyway.

Alexander Hart's "correction" shows a range of 0 to 100%, as if goverment spending normally varies from 0 to 100% of GDP. Maybe liberals would like government spending to be 100% of GDP. :) Hart's choice hides the significance of the rise.

To see this point more clearly, imagine that some variable were rising from 1% to 2%. That's obviously a huge increase. Yet, if graphed on a range of 0 to 100%, the increase would be invisible.

Klein's graph is not as bad as Hart's, but it wrongly goes down to zero. The range on the graph should be only somewhat wider than than the actual government spending, which has generally been in the range of 18% to 25%.

BTW, speaking as an expert in presenting numbers, the Republicans would have had an even more convincing graph if they had included several more past Administrations. Such a graph would have emphasized the unprecedented magnitude of Obama's governmental spending.

Furthermore, the Republicans kindly used Democratic predications rather than actual figures. For FY 2009, actual federal spending was around $6.035 trillion and the actual GDP is around $14,454 trillion, so the actual ratio was over 40%!

David, you are right about Hart using 0-100 for the y-axis, but see Ezra Klein here: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/09/lies_damn_lies_and_the_y_axis.html. It's misleading even when he re-plotted on a narrower scale.


Your link to Klein’s post is bad. Here’s another:


Neither Klein nor Hart mention how this graph is described in the document so I am not sure why the fuss. (Klein seems to imply in his comments they claim it “doubled”, but he is not clear).

Sure, the document shows the data in a way that highlights the increase and Hart’s graph shows it in a way that hides the increase. Even Klein picks a high end (40%,) that tends to minimize the differences. (If I were developing this, I’d probably cap the graph at 30%) All this does is point out that graphs can be misused by anyone – politician’s or pundits.

More misleading IMO is Klein’s seeming off-hand assessment that the 3.5% increase (from 20.8 to 22.8 - not sure where he get’s the 3.5%?) is not that big.

22.8 / 20.8 is nearly a 10% increase – not insignificant, either in terms of dollars or historically. But rather than give his readers an educated perspective he acts as if it’s not a big deal.

Thanks for the corrected link, Marty. Note how Klein cherry-picks his comparison, using Bush's last year, rather than the average of Bush's term. The ratio increases when a recession holds down GDP. Klein is comparing a Bush recession year to a hypothetical Obama boom year.

But, the more significant mistake was made by Republicans and copied by Klein -- comparing Bush's actual numbers against Obama's fantasy projected numbers.

The Dems project wonderful things happening to the economy 3 -5 years. Does anyone believe that? We're seeing no sign of a booming recovery.

Klein says, "So there's been an increase, but not a doubling." In fact, the ratio of spending to GDP in 2009 was indeed double the average during Bush's Presidency.

In part, that was caused by a bad economy and big spending on bailouts and "stimulus". OTOH it doesn't include what Health Reform will cost once it kicks in. Also, I suspect the long term projected spending treats stimulus spending as a 1-time shot. In reality, government programs typically go on forever and continue to grow.

Today's economy is growing, but at a tiny rate. If the economy continues to drag and if radical changes aren't made in federal spending commitments, there's no reason to expect a major drop in the actual 2009 ratio. The long term ratio of spending/GDP could well settle out, not at 23%, but rather at 30% to 40% or even more.

I can't prove it, but I believe the sudden reporting of questions about Boehner's use of tanning aids was provoked by the White House's decision to demonize Boehner. It shows how Democratic allies in the media will cooperate in attacking a chosen victim, including charges that are silly or false.

This NY Times article illustrates my point in the above post that liberal media are choosing to make a fuss about Boehner's tan in order to help smear him.

In the 2nd sentence of an article that's not even about Boehner, the Times mentions what they call Boehner's "preternatural tan." "Preternatural" means out of the ordinary course of nature, or abnormal, or even supernatural. It's not a nice word. Normally the Times wouldn't discuss a politician's complexion. Or, if they wanted to mention it, they might say someone had a "deep tan."

In the past, the pejorative phrase "touch of the tar brush" was used to suggest that someone had a degree of black ancestry. IMHO the Times' and others continued focus on Boehner's tan and the use of the adjective "preternatural" tan have the ugly effect of hinting that Boehner has partly black ancestry.

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