Friday, January 13, 2012

Figures Lie/Liars Figure

I often took the stat on those poor Americans languishing without healthcare coverage and used it in class to demonstrate the need to question everything. That concept is core to understanding politics in America. Just because someone gives you a number and it seems to indicate an outrage which must be corrected does not necessarily mean that is the fact.

The folks without healthcare coverage were variously estimated at between 30 and 40 million Americans. There are a number of ways to parse that statistic to bring it down to a figure which represents the truly indigent, but let's just take the median, 35 million. Do you realize that then means 280 million Americans are covered by various healthcare plans?

Or the terrible statistic that Texas ranks in the lowest five states in per-capita funding for public education (K-12). Actually, that number applies to state subsidy of K-12 and the state really ranks  near the top 10 for total tax support per-capita since the state only pays about 38% of school budgets, the feds about 9% and the majority comes from local district property tax. But the real question is, do dollars spent equate with quality of education provided? And maybe equally important, does a dollar spent in Texas buy as much as a dollar spent in Chicago or New York or Washington DC? Whether the statistic is true or not, the relevance to the issue is negligible.

Numbers don't lie, but sometimes numbers don't respond to the question which was asked.

That is why this item is so interesting:

Racism, Redlining, and Redistribution

Sometimes apparently, the numbers tell a story that really doesn't have much of a plot.

Keep that in mind next time a statistic gets you all outraged and ready to take to the streets and storm the Bastille.

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