March 14, 2017

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Evidently Mark Twain "popularized" (not originated) the old saw: "Lies, damned lies, and statistics", to describe how numbers can indeed be used erroneously, slant, or tell just part of the story. Washington interest groups are famous for having their "own" sets of numbers.

Using all three categories of late, the President has highlighted in my mind which of these I hate the most and is most dangerous for the country. The President is well known for "intentional misstatements" frequently on the campaign trail to describe the past, the state of America as he sees it, or his opponents. He has gotten a pass on this by his supporters claiming everybody does it and it is actually a positive to upset the "normal politics applecart" with such blunt and rude speech (true or not).

Such "intentional misstatements" continued into inauguration day as he fabricated and embellished the attending crowd size. (Refer to category one: "just lies") But that, was funny to most of us. Silliness that is almost unpreventable with his childish ego.

New statistics from the Republican headed Congressional Budget Office about the effects of the Republican replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (entitled: "The World's Greatest Health Plan Act of 2016". Again refer to category one: "just lies"); seem to reveal an obvious truth rather than just tell one side of the story. We may save over three hundred billion dollars over ten years, by 14 million people in one year and 24 million in 9 years, loosing health care coverage.

Far from misconstruing things, this makes rational sense and informs our national debate clearly. Do we want to be a country that saves money on the backs of its poorest citizens? Do we want to go backwards and have fewer not more people in the country with life saving health care protection? It may be me, but this doesn't sound very much like the President's promise of "insurance for everyone".

It's the "damned lie" category that American's need to be worried about; because it obscures (or worse) the very soul of our country. The President said before the campaign that his predecessor, the first African American President of the United States, was not born in America. It is a "damned lie" because of what it implied: that he is not "one of us". Not a real or full citizen. (Does three fifths of a human being ring a bell?). This has now been compounded with statements that the previous "President tapped his phone" and that he is a "bad or sick guy". This is not a question of mere civility when the United States Justice Department is unsuccessfully pulling out the stops to try to justify such unsubstantiated slander.

We may never get to scripture's injunction of "simply, let your yes be "yes" and your no be "no". But we better be more careful with this middle category. And the caution needs to be begin with Republican members of congress and this administration. A little ethical backbone would not hurt. Or maybe even some soul searching, realizing what is really at stake.

Bob Bell


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