Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, January 16, 2014 7:18 pm

You keep using that word. It does not mean what you think it means.

And speaking of invaluable economist Dean Baker, he schools NPR, not that they’ll pay any attention:

This adjective [“enormous” — Lex] appeared in a top of the hour news piece (sorry, no link [this NPR blog post uses the adjective “massive” — Lex] referring to the spending bill approved by Congress on Wednesday evening. It would be interesting to know how it made this assessment. While the government spends more money each year than any of its listeners will see in their lifetime, it spends less relative to the size of its economy than almost any other wealthy country. It is also spending less relative to the size of the economy than it did in the years 2009-2012. The domestic discretionary portion of the budget, which was close to half of the spending bill, is smaller relative to the size of the economy than it has been in decades.

It’s a simple point, but one journalists at even the biggest outlets in the business can’t seem to learn: a number is meaningless — or, worse, misleading — absent context. I bolded the last part because although I want to shout this in all upper-case letters, I have chosen merely to emphasize it instead.


Monday, September 6, 2010 2:24 pm

We’re talking about “equality” here. No wonder a Republican senator is having trouble.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 2:24 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I have long believed that the Congressional Budget Office is staffed by robots — not because of the quality (or lack thereof) of their work, but because I think carbon-based life forms would be unable to respond to idiotic question after idiotic question from congresscritters and their staffers, day in and day out, year in and year out, without allowing at least a modicum of snark to seep into their reports and responses. And yet, as with the watchdogs of the Governmental Accountability Office, they manage to continue to produce reports and analyses from which every last bit of partisanship, emotion and edge has been thoroughly expunged.

If you think I exaggerate, consider the recent question posed by the felicitously named Sen. Mike Crapo, Republican of Idaho (flagged by Sarabeth at If passing certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act was estimated to reduce the deficit by $455 billion over 10 years; what effect would repealing these same provisions have on the deficit?

Picture, if you will, the CBO office in which this communication is first received. Normal, carbon-based life forms would be saying things to an imaginary Crapo like, “OK, Mike, it’s like this. See this cookie? This cookie is the part of the deficit affected by the act. If we enact the act [holds cookie behind back], the cookie goes away. But if we then repeal the act [brings hand forward again], the cookie comes back. Got it?”

But because normal, carbon-based life forms aren’t involved, instead we get this:

Finally, you asked what the net deficit impact would be if certain provisions of PPACA and the Reconciliation Act that were estimated to generate net savings were eliminated—specifically, those which were originally estimated to generate a net reduction in mandatory outlays of $455 billion over the 2010–2019 period. The estimate of $455 billion mentioned in your letter represents the net effects of many provisions. Some of those provisions generated savings for Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and some generated costs. If those provisions were repealed, CBO estimates that there would be an increase in deficits similar to its original estimate of $455 billion in net savings over that period.

In other words, a = a. It’s standard pre-algebra. It’s called the Reflexive Property of Equality. Learn it, love it, live it.

And then there’s this lagniappe, which I am not making up: Crapo is considered such a whiz on this subject that his party has made him the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance subcommittee on healthcare.

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