### URLs du Jour

2021-10-07

• The third kind of lie. Don Boudreaux pulls back the curtain and reveals what's Behind Seemingly ‘Objective’ Statistics.

As is well-known to all who regularly deal with statistics, it’s surprisingly easy to tell lies with data that are truthful. If, for example, a country lowers barriers that obstruct the ability of low-skilled immigrants to find work, more low-skilled immigrants will find work. These new workers – being low-skilled – will earn wages below the national average. Thus, this policy of liberalized immigration will soon result in a lowering of both the median and mean wage – a fact that is easily trumpeted as evidence that allowing more low-skilled immigrants into the workforce is bad for the economy, or at least bad for the average worker.

But of course the fall, in this case, in the mean and median wage is a statistical artifact caused by expanding the size of the workforce by adding more low-skilled workers. While all too easy to do, it’s illegitimate to conclude from this statistic that the addition of low-skilled immigrants into the workforce caused the typical worker’s wage to fall. Only the most careful users of statistics will understand that the decline in the mean and median wage under these circumstances is consistent with every individual worker’s wages rising.

For those of you who are skeptical, consider this mental experiment. Suppose that on January 1st, 2020, the Jones’s calculated the average height of their two children – 5-year-old Sarah and 2-year-old Seth – and found it to be 39 inches. Now suppose that the Joneses had a third child, Sam, on December 31st, 2020. On January 1st, 2021, mom and dad again measured the average height of their children, who now are three in number. Newborn Sam is only 21 inches tall. The average height of the Jones’s children on New Year’s Day 2021 was, at 33 inches, six inches less than it was one year earlier. Yet no one would conclude that in 2020 one or more of the Jones’s kids shrunk or even failed to grow!

So beware of that. Lying with statistics is one of those things that all sides can do. (However, I'm sure my side—the one I'm on today, anyway—never indulges in that.)

• There's lying with statistics, and then there's just plain lying. You'd think that Democrats would have to chop out some of their more expensive spending proposals out of that multi-trillion-dollar legislation in order to make Senators Manchin and Sinema go along. But no. Brian Riedl warns of the inevitable: Democrats will resort to tricks to hide true cost of \$3.5T spending bill.

That is the approach that congressional Democrats are brazenly employing to make their spending bonanza appear smaller than it is. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) openly discussed their use of budget gimmicks over the weekend when she told CNN that “our idea now is to look at how you make them funded for a little bit of a shorter time.”

Progressives have been abusing these gimmicks from the start. They began with a reconciliation proposal that would cost nearly \$5 trillion over the decade. Then, in order to cut the bill’s “official” cost closer to \$4 trillion, the bill’s authors included a December 2025 expiration of the \$130 billion annual expansion of the child tax credit to \$3,000 per child (or \$3,600 for children under the age of 6). This made the 10-year cost of the proposal appear \$750 billion smaller.

Of course, no one believes that Congress will actually allow the child tax credit to be reduced at the end of 2025, and progressives have declared this policy one of the cornerstones of their long-term antipoverty agenda. In fact, Democrats purposely selected for “expiration” a popular middle-class benefit that they know even a future Republican Congress or president would not dare take away from voters. Congress already renews a small group of expiring tax policies each December, and this is expected to become an expensive addition to that list.

Will this sort of thing put the legislation into the end zone? You'd think it would be too stupid a ploy to convince anyone but … you know … politicians.

• There's nothing wrong with Facebook that government can't make worse. Or, for that matter, government threats. Glenn Greenwald looks at the latest PR campaign to get Facebook to do what government is prohibited from doing: Democrats and Media Do Not Want to Weaken Facebook, Just Commandeer its Power to Censor.

Much is revealed by who is bestowed hero status by the corporate media. This week's anointed avatar of stunning courage is Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager being widely hailed as a "whistleblower” for providing internal corporate documents to the Wall Street Journal relating to the various harms which Facebook and its other platforms (Instagram and WhatsApp) are allegedly causing.

The social media giant hurts America and the world, this narrative maintains, by permitting misinformation to spread (presumably more so than cable outlets and mainstream newspapers do virtually every week); fostering body image neurosis in young girls through Instagram (presumably more so than fashion magazines, Hollywood and the music industry do with their glorification of young and perfectly-sculpted bodies); promoting polarizing political content in order to keep the citizenry enraged, balkanized and resentful and therefore more eager to stay engaged (presumably in contrast to corporate media outlets, which would never do such a thing); and, worst of all, by failing to sufficiently censor political content that contradicts liberal orthodoxies and diverges from decreed liberal Truth. On Tuesday, Haugen's star turn took her to Washington, where she spent the day testifying before the Senate about Facebook's dangerous refusal to censor even more content and ban even more users than they already do.

Nobody studies the harm done to young girls who read Teen Vogue.

• The impossible dream. Kevin D. Williamson's goal in his Tuesday column is Making Sense of the Tax Debate. Good luck with that, Kevin.

“We are going to tax the rich and make them pay their fair share!” Senator Manchin thunders the sentiment from his yacht, Senator Sanders from his lakeside dacha, Senator Warren from her gilded Cambridge retreat. Tesla-driving Met-gala debutante Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez insists that Democrats are going after the top 1 percent, not doctors, blissfully ignorant that doctors are more common among the top 1 percent than are members of any other occupation. Jonathan Chait, the dim and dishonest New York magazine typist, denounces the inconvenient facts about federal tax policy as — and I am not making this up — “deeply misleading” even though the figures in question are “literally true,” italics in original.

Much of the stuff Kevin writes about will not surprise, I suspect, most of the readers of this blog. It's nice to have the issues summarized by a master stylist. I like this very much:

Using the tax code to raise revenue for necessary government spending is different from using the tax code for social engineering and revenge.

• And I assume the IRS is already on the case. Robby Soave observes the latest landmark in our slide down the slippery slope: A.G. Merrick Garland Tells FBI To Investigate Parents Who Yell at School Officials About Critical Race Theory.

Taking note of a supposed "spike" in harassment and intimidating behavior directed at public school officials, Attorney General Merrick Garland has instructed the FBI to be on the lookout for angry parents demanding accountability at school board meetings.

On Monday, Garland sent a memo to the federal law enforcement agency directing it to coordinate with the nation's 14,000 school districts. This action comes after the Biden administration received a plea from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to protect schools from the "imminent threat" of parents sending "threatening letters and cyberbullying" school officials. The association considers such activities to be akin to "domestic terrorism."

"As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes," wrote the NSBA.

How long before next Ashli Babbitt incident?

• For more on that… see Christopher F. Rufo at City Journal: Biden Criminalizes CRT Dissent.

The school board association letter, however, is riddled with falsehoods, errors, and exaggerations. It begins with the claim that “critical race theory is not taught in public schools,” despite a vast body of evidence, including my own reporting, showing that the teaching of CRT is widespread in public schools. Even the national teachers’ union has admitted as much and called for CRT’s implementation in all 50 states.

The NSBA deliberately misrepresents debates at school board meetings as “threats” and sometimes-vociferous and angry speech as “violence.” The letter refers to dozens of news stories alluding to “disruptions,” “shouts,” “argument,” and “mobs,” but, contrary to its core claim, cites only a single example of actual violence against a school official: a case of aggravated battery in Illinois, which is obviously condemnable, but hardly the justification for a national “domestic terrorism” investigation.

The association even fabricated entire storylines to support its political objectives. For example, the NSBA claims that a Tennessee school board official named Jon White resigned due to “threats and acts of violence”; the linked source, however, reports that White resigned for “concerns about too much time away from his family,” with no mention of threats or violence. (In another local report, White complains about parents calling him a “child abuser” and other epithets, which, while harsh, are hardly the equivalent of an “act of violence.”)

It's a holy war, government schoolers vs. the infidels. I'd say "pass the popcorn", except I kind of feel bad for the kids and the parents.