Politifact Hopelessly Biased. Also, Water Still Wet.

Senator-elect Rand Paul was on ABC's This Week on Sunday and, when pressed for spending cut proposals by Ms. Amanpour, said:

The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year. The average private employee makes $60,000 a year. Let's get them more in line, and let's find savings. Let's hire no new federal workers.
Politifact jumped all over this with a "Truth-O-Meter" rating of "FALSE".

Only problem is, when you read Politifact's explanation, you'll see this:

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a federal statistics-gathering agency, federal worker compensation in 2009 averaged $123,049, which was double the private-sector average of $61,051. That's a gap of almost $62,000 -- and is pretty close to what Paul said on This Week.
So how can Politifact rate Paul's statement—which they admit is "pretty close" to reality—"false"? Primarily by this trick:
However, that figure includes both salary and benefits. This is a legitimate number to raise, but using it requires more explanation than Paul gave it. Since most people usually think about how much they, their spouses and their colleagues get paid in salary alone -- not salary plus benefits -- we think most people hearing this statement would assume that Paul means that the average federal employee gets paid a salary of $120,000. That's simply not true.
In short: let's ignore the amazingly lavish benefits provided to Federal employees. Because that's what "most people" do. If we do that, then Rand Paul is wrong. And "true" becomes "false", just like that.

Which is nonsense, an argument pulled out of somewhere dark and smelly. Note the context: Paul was asked specifically about cutting government spending. For that argument, what really matters is not the take-home number on an employee paycheck; it's what the government is—duh—spending per employee.

It's not just right-wing wackos that make this point. Here's a recent USA Today headline:

Federal workers earning double their private counterparts
Politifact purports to be about the "facts". But when they claim some conservative/libertarian has said something "false", it can mean: "OK, what he said was true, but…"

Give Blood

parade your pallor in iniquity:

  • Gosh, this is intriguing:

    A tiny electric current applied to the back of the head can significantly improve a person's mathematical skills for up to six months, a study has found.

    That's allegedly a real news story, but stuff later in the article makes me think it might be a joke:

    "I am certainly not advising people to go around giving themselves electric shocks, but we are extremely excited by the potential of our findings," Dr Cohen Kadosh said.

    Hmm. And:

    The study, published in the journal Current Biology, involved numeracy tests […]

    Right. I'd be shocked if this were actually true.

  • [Cathy
Poulin] Pun Salad's official, unaware (and, as always, uncompensated) mascot, Cathy Poulin, will be in Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA, tomorrow (November 13) for a "mega" blood drive. And frankly, it sounds like the best blood drive ever: in addition to Cathy: Roland James, Steve Nelson, Pats cheerleaders, scads of prizes.

    Cathy's sidekick, Bob, will also be there. But you can probably avoid him.

    I'm unfortunately ineligible, having given only a couple weeks back. No celebrities, but I got a nice t-shirt and a coupon for a free Pizza Hut personal pan cheese pizza.


Last Modified 2012-09-30 9:32 AM EST