How to Discover the Truth with Statistics

Regular readers may remember my post, “How to Lie with Statistics,” where I criticized ASU economist Richard Rogerson for misleading the public with bad math. I showed the nonsense in his claim “that raising taxes will turn us into a bunch of lazy old Europeans.”

Since I’m going to be writing about taxes a lot this week, now is a good time to show how a responsible statistician approaches this issue. The following is a summary of two excellent posts by University of Arizona political scientist Lane Kenworthy.   Continue reading “How to Discover the Truth with Statistics”

5 Ways to Sound Stupid When Discussing the Debt Ceiling

In the past week, I’ve had conversations with people who voiced the following myths. Read and learn, lest you embarrass yourself in the same way.

Myth #1: Federal debt has been increasing under all presidents since World War II.

Reality: Federal debt steadily declined from the mid-1940s to the early 1980s, then it increased dramatically (with a brief hiatus in the mid-to-late 1990s). Ronald Reagan reversed four and a half decades of safe, responsible fiscal policy, and every successor except Bill Clinton followed his lead. See for yourself:   Continue reading “5 Ways to Sound Stupid When Discussing the Debt Ceiling”

What to Read on State Finances

The Shameful Attack on Public Employees — Robert Reich

They say public employees earn far more than private-sector workers. That’s untrue when you take account of level of education. Matched by education, public sector workers actually earn less than their private-sector counterparts.

The final Republican canard is that bargaining rights for public employees have caused state deficits to explode. In fact there’s no relationship between states whose employees have bargaining rights and states with big deficits.

The Texas Omen — Paul Krugman

Wasn’t Texas supposed to be thriving even as the rest of America suffered? Didn’t its governor declare, during his re-election campaign, that “we have billions in surplus”? Yes, it was, and yes, he did. But reality has now intruded, in the form of a deficit expected to run as high as $25 billion over the next two years.

Some Right, Some Wrong in “60 Minutes” Story on State Budgets — Nicholas Johnson

[States] aren’t guilty of “reckless spending.”  Total state and local spending, not including federal grants, is no larger now as a share of the economy than it was 20 years ago…  State general fund spending in 2011 will be 6 percent lower than it was in 2008, without adjusting for inflation…

Behind the Population Shift — Edward L. Glaeser

Low incomes and productivity in the growing states of the Sun Belt strongly suggest that their expansion is not driven by outsize economic success.

A rich body of research shows that regulation, which is intense in the Northeast and California but lax in the Sun Belt, explains why housing is supplied so readily down South. The future shape of America is being driven not by quality of life or economic success but by the obscure rules regulating local land use.