How to Lie with Statistics
The Daily Howler
today points to this editorial
on the Washington Post which states:
"Under this plan, 92 million Americans receive an average tax cut of $1,083," Mr. Bush said. "That's fair." No, it's deceptive. The vast majority of taxpayers -- 80 percent -- would receive less than that amount.
President Bush clearly does not believe that a tax cut has to be fair--I'm sure he believes that the rich get bigger tax cuts because they pay more taxes. Given that belief and his famous preference for straight talk, why does he not just say so. I can imagine a convincing argument for that position--I probably wouldn't buy it, but others might, and it would not be a distortion.
So why lie? I believe that the reason is a disturbing character flaw in the President. Given two choices, he would always choose to do which ever one was easier. He would rather distort his tax plan than try to be persuasive, attack Iraq than fight terrorism, pay for allies rather than use diplomacy, talk about funding AIDS, hydrogen fuel cells, education rather than actually fund them.
The Democratic strategy has to be direct confrontation. They need to get Bush into a situation where he has to admit that he's hasn't been straight with us. This might not be possible until the 2004 presidential debates, but the press will have a chance to question him before then if he ever gives another press conference. The Democrats need to get their act together and basically tell the press what questions to ask. Each Democrat should hold press conferences where they basically say:
Someone should ask the President why his sales pitch for the tax plan only takes into account 92 million taxpayers--is it because the other 200+ million Americans bring the average down. If not, what is the average when you take into account all tax payers.
Someone should ask the President why he wants all people who pay income tax to receive a cut. Why only income tax payers? Why won't payroll tax, property tax, and sales tax payers receive a tax cut? Is it because the bulk of income tax (which includes dividend taxes) is paid by wealthy supporters of his party, and they don't care much about the other kinds of taxes.
Someone should ask the President why he always uses averages to describe tax cuts. An MBA from Harvard surely realizes that this distorts the large differences between the top 20% and the bottom 20%. When we were told we were getting a CEO President, we were expecting Lou Gerstner, not Ken Lay
The press is too lazy to think up their own questions. Newt Gingrich realized this in the early 90's and fed them lines. The Democrats need to figure this out and get the press to ask the tough questions that President Bush won't let them ask directly.
How the War Will Be Marketed
ClearChannel is gearing up for the war. Pud from fuckedcompany.com has released this internal memo
with the plans for how ClearChannel radio stations will present the war. Here's one strategy:
CNN-TV audio feed will undoublty [sic] be our first on air coverage. [...] They were first by a mile in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War and again on September 11th. Despite all the news sources out there they are the best in spot situations and could be first again.
Monitor TV networks and local stations for contacts and leads. If they have good ideas, turn them around and quickly make them our own.
Don't forget, when appropriate use language like 'a Newstalk 1530 KFBK exclusive' 'a story you are only hearing on KFBK' or 'a story you heard first on KFBK'. Make sure we own being FIRST.
That's a good one. Listen to CNN and then repeat what they say, but add "You heard it here first". Priceless. And here's another quote just in case you're wondering what coverage will be like
Talk shows are also a very important piece to the coverage puzzle. After the long form coverage dies down talk shows should live it and breathe it 24 hours a day. YOU CANNOT OVERKILL this story. It's like disc jockeys playing records. When the jock gets tired of it, the public is just getting warmed up. Stay focused and on Topic 'A'. Fresh angles, relentless promoting and pre-promoting. Talk shows are very important for the public just to vent at first.
Can somebody please Take Back the Media
Howard Dean is a New Yorker
No wonder I like this guy--I'm also an ex-New Yorker living in New England. Got this article
. Favorite excerpt:
He enjoys watching New Yorkers’ attitudes change when they discover he’s not a hick from the state of Ben & Jerry’s. “New Yorkers are tough; they want to know what you’ve got,” says Dean. “But I’ve never had people open their hearts to me more than when they discover that my wife is Jewish and I’m from New York. They look at you completely differently. It’s flabbergasting.”
That sums up New York attitude right there--you're a hick until we say you're not a hick. My girlfriend says that I look down to non-NY'ers, but what does she know--she's from New Jersey.
The 17th Amendment
On today's DailyKOS
, we learned that Estrada "advocated the repeal of the 17th Amendment", which is supposed to make him sound ridiculous because the 17th allowed for the direct election of Senators, rather than the original system, in which state legislatures appointed Senators. I had heard about this movement before from Todd Zywicki of the Volokh Conspiracy - here
- who points to this piece
on CNN by John Dean. In it, Mr. Dean writes:
James Madison [...] explained in Federalist No. 10 the reason for bicameralism: "Before taking effect, legislation would have to be ratified by two independent power sources: the people's representatives in the House and the state legislatures' agents in the Senate."
The need for two powers to concur would, in turn, thwart the influence of special interests, and by satisfying two very different constituencies, would assure the enactment was for the greatest public good. Madison summed up the concept nicely in Federalist No 51:
"In republican government, the legislative authority, necessarily predominate. The remedy for this inconveniency is, to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them by different modes of election, and different principles of action, as little connected with each other, as the nature of their common functions and their common dependencies on the society, will admit."
and then concludes
Returning selection of senators to state legislatures might be a cause that could attract both modern progressive and conservatives. For conservatives, obviously, it would be a return to the system envisioned by the framers. For progressives -- who now must appreciate that direct elections have only enhanced the ability of special interests to influence the process -- returning to the diffusion of power inherent in federalism and bicameralism may seem an attractive alternative, or complement, to campaign finance reform.
To me, anything John Dean says is suspect, but I like the use of "progressives" rather than the often pejorative "liberals". For that reason alone, I'm cutting him some slack. Also, I find the argument persuasive. It doesn't matter, since anyone who argues against the 17th is automatically seen as a loon.
Update: Eugene Volokh on the 17th