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Sunday, May 08, 2016

When Rhetoric Distorts Statistics

At the New Yorker:

When Rhetoric Distorts Statistics, by Zachary Karabell: On Friday morning, Donald Trump appeared on Fox & Friends to talk about running mates and bad-mouth the economy, which, he said, was “terrible,” proof that the Democrats don’t know what they are doing. “The real unemployment rate is probably twenty per cent. ...”
Never mind that, on the same morning, the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate was five per cent, unchanged from the previous month, and that a modest hundred and sixty thousand new jobs had been created in April. ...
For Donald Trump, all that data was worthless. It is true that the official unemployment rate often understates real unemployment... But by another measure, which includes both discouraged workers and part-time workers who would like to be full-time workers,... the rate was more like 9.7 per cent—certainly nowhere near twenty per cent. ... Donald Trump is running in part on the narrative that the “official” unemployment rate is a lie. ...
Trump is only articulating what others have asserted. ... Yet it is a small but consequential step from blasting the numbers as lies to the territory of conspiracy, imagining reasons for why we are being lied to, none of which augur well for the thread of collective trust that is very nearly frayed already. That poses a challenge to any who prefer to argue in terms of an agreed-upon set of facts and numbers, even accepting how limited and incomplete those numbers often are. ...

    Posted by on Sunday, May 8, 2016 at 02:25 PM Permalink  Comments (48)


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