There are lies, damn lies and statistics, and the political season means that the lines between them are frayed and worn, like an electrical cord that is almost ready to short out.
Three memes beloved of the conservative right were front-and-center this week, either during the presidential debates, the rumble between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly, or both. Health care (Sandra Fluke’s birth control pills plea); gasoline prices; and average household income.
There has also been a lot of chatter about the debt.
I challenge you to look at these two charts — historical debt (data from the Treasury Department) as per capita and historical debt in deflated dollars — and then think long-and-hard about what you think you know about the debt. Remember, whenever you’re thinking about dollars across time — whether it’s movie box office receipts or taxes — it’s important to index them or deflate them. If we lived where inflation was 0 percent, we would not have to worry about this. But we don’t!
Oh. Know how much interest we are paying on the debt? It was $360 billion for fiscal 2012. And you wonder why the Fed is keeping interest rates low?
OK, let’s take those three memes, one-at-a-time.
Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice