Methods Fraud - Right and Left

June 30, 2010

Two links:

1. Fox News used a really, really deceptive graph to make job loss data look even worse than it really is. Media Matters has the story.

2. Research 2000, a polling firm, may have been faking its data. Kos, who has been relying on their polls, has a long post detailing the tell-tale signs – things people would do if they were trying to make their polls appear to follow random sampling. (Makes me feel a bit more confident of my own criticism of a Research 2000 poll.)

UPDATE, July 1: I had thought that the Kos/Research 2000 story was just for those interested in technical matters (sampling, data distributions) and maybe political blogs. But the both the Times and WaPo and perhaps other newspapers have stories about it today.

Rich and Richer, Dumb and Dumber

June 28, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities ran the CBO data on income and published a report showing the huge increase in inequality since 1979, especially in recent years (the data go up to 2007 – full report here). It’s the people at the top – the default swappers and hedge funders – who’ve been making out like bandits, while the rest of us limped slowly along.

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

The graph shows percent changes. How much is that in American money?

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

We all knew this. But I’m still surprised that supposedly intelligent people can still attribute it all to individual factors. Yes, individual differences in ability account for individual differences. But they don’t make for huge changes in the overall distribution
But here we have Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, one of the most widely read bloggers in the known universe (especially the conservative universe), reprinting the comment of a reader at a tax blog that posted the data.
A reason for the “wealth or income gap”: Smart people keep on doing things that are smart and make them money while stupid people keep on doing things that are stupid and keep them from achieving.

People who get an education, stay off of drugs, apply themselves, and save and wisely invest their earnings do a lot better than people who drop out of school, become substance abusers, and buy fancy cars and houses that they can’t afford, only to lose them.

We don’t have an income gap. We have a stupid gap.
Glenn calls it “the comment of the day.”

In 1993, the average household in the top 1% was making 36 times the income of a household in the lowest fifth. In the next 14 years, those top guys worked really hard while the poor apparently sold their diplomas to buy crack and Escalades, so by 2007 the gap had doubled. The richest now made 72 times the income of the poor.

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

The funny thing is that for a few years (1984- 1983 1993) the rich-poor gap was decreasing. It must have been all the cocaine those bond traders were doing.

The commenter is right – there may be a stupid gap. But it’s the gap that Durkheim suggested long ago. Some people look at “social facts” – large differences between one time or place and another – and try to explain them in terms of individual facts. Other people seek an explanation in social facts – facts about the society, facts which individuals have little power to change.

(HT: Mark Kleiman)

American Exceptionalism

June 27, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

Dutch Treatment

June 26, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

My doctor poked and prodded, told me there was probably nothing to worry about but wrote prescriptions for couple of additional tests. The whole thing took a good 15 minutes.

At the checkout counter, they told me that I owed $425. I don’t know how much of that I’ll get back from the insurance company.

That same day, the Commonwealth Fund posted an update of its comparisons of healthcare quality and costs in seven countries. As in previous years, the US finished last on the overall rankings and in several of the subcategories. As for cost, literally the bottom line, we’re Number One.

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

The Netherlands won this healthcare world cup. And as Erik Voeten at The Monkey Cage writes, it’s not just about insurance. He was in the Netherlands, where, as a visitor, he had no insurance.
Last summer, I had to bring my daughter to a Dutch doctor. Not only did I succeed in seeing someone that same morning but the cost [was] less than my regular co-payment in the USA, even though I have no insurance in the Netherlands and had never seen that doctor before.

The key is that the Dutch have an extensive system of family doctors, who generally operate a practice from their homes with minimal administrative assistance. These family doctors provide basic health care, do house visits, and are the gatekeepers for (more expensive) specialized care.
House calls. Does anyone out there in the US remember house calls?