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More on Lying with Statistics


More on Lying with Statistics

The Left Coaster has a good post on how to counter GOP misinformation about taxes -- read the whole thing.

Also, there is another trick Russert/Bush like to play. It's the old percent increase (or percent decrease) trick. It completely removes all context from the numbers. For instance, how would you feel about hearing that someone's taxes went up 900%? Sounds pretty awful, doesn't it? But that could just be a raise from $1 to $10. When we talk about taxes, it's ok to talk about absolute numbers as a percentage of all income, but it's not ok to talk about the percent of increase, since that is pretty meaningless.

Also, let's examine that married couple a little more closely. They make $40,000 and have 2 children and pay $45 of income tax. What if the couple made $50,000 -- Since almost all of the savings comes from the tax credit for their children, the savings is exactly the same amount. This also means that if you have 1 less kid, the savings is nearly halved, and if you have one more, it is only slightly more (there is no more tax to credit back). This is what I mean by "cherry-picked". The 40k couple with 2 children is a local maxima, and almost any change to their criteria exposes how the cut was specifically designed to help just this family so that it could be touted as typical.

Here is an excerpt using the "average trick". (from Atrios)

Russert: But in the middle of an economic downturn, Howard Dean wants to raise taxes on the average of $1,200 per family.


If I average your tax cut with a millionaire's tax cut, that would be about a 40k tax cut each (on average). Even if I count you 100 times and average you in with a millionaire, we're still talking an average $1,400 tax cut (assuming the millionaire gets 80k and you get $600). Don't give me that "They pay more taxes" nonsense -- the cut is disproportional even to that, and I don't have to factor in that they get much more out of government than you do-- how much more? -- Ask Warren Buffet.

To see the "Average Trick" on rare display, check out this press release from the US Treasury
In 2003, 92 million taxpayers would receive, on average, a tax cut of $1,083 under the economic growth plan.
• 69 million women would see their taxes decline, on average, by $1,289.
• 46 million married couples would receive average tax cuts of $1,716.
• 34 million families with children would benefit from an average tax cut of $1,473.
• 6 million single women with children would receive an average tax cut of $541.
• 13 million elderly taxpayers would receive an average tax cut of $1,384.
• 23 million small business owners would receive tax cuts averaging $2,042.
Let's see Russert challenge Snow on this the next time he's on Meet the Press.