Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Tim Bean

10/9/2012

We have all been inundated with political advertisements for the past several months.  So much so that I think it is a safe bet that most of us have probably long since started tuning them out.  Even I have come to the point where I barely pay them any attention anymore.  My particular reasons stem largely from the fact that I already know who I am going to be casting my vote for with regards to the Presidential race.  If you have read any of my posts here then you know who my vote in that race is going for – Gov. Gary Johnson.  However I think we all know that the Presidential election is just one of a great many other races being conducted in this, and all, election years.

Depending on where you live, you will be asked to vote for candidates running for offices ranging from school board positions, city council, county commissioners, mayors, state representatives/senators, as well as those seeking seats in the US House and Senate, as well as others.  It is hard for anyone to really have a full and complete grasp of who all of these candidates are, let alone what or where they stand on the issues.  This is particularly the case in the local races, because few candidates in those races have the money to place television ads, so often times we as voters cast our ballots for those whom we either already know, or according to their party affiliation.  When it comes to the races for the US House of Representatives, and Senate however, many of those candidates who are running under the Republican or Democrat banners are funded by those big parties and as such we are “treated” to many advertisements espousing how horrible their opponent is, and how wonderful they are.

The problem that comes with these commercials is that they are typically 30 seconds long, and due to that small timeframe the details of a candidates position gets glossed over on both the attacking of the opponent and the endorsement of whichever candidate “approved this message.”  I recently saw a commercial in my hometown that did just this.

The commercial was for the challenger to the sitting Senator and it made claims that he (the sitting Senator) was for the abolition of the Federal Department of Education, and a war on women by defunding Planned Parenthood, and how he’s in the pocket of Wall Street, because a lot of people in the financial industry have contributed to his campaign.  In a 30 second ad all of those things sound absolutely horrible.  I mean taken at face value one would think that the current Senator must want our kids’ educations to suffer, and make women 2nd class citizens, and perpetuate the perceived greed of Wall Street.  Based solely on that short 30 seconds it wouldn’t be hard to imagine many people to believe everything they just heard.

However, when one considers that American student test scores have plummeted since the establishment of the Federal Department of Education in 1979, despite the fact that we as a nation spend more per student on education than all other western nations, and then consider that the average school district gets something like 40 cents (I have seen numbers as low as 16 cents) for every tax dollar that gets paid to the Fed. Dept. of Education; then from a local and state level that department is actually a net taker from schools, rather than a net provider.  Knowing all of this how can anyone be for the continued robbery this department is conducting on our children, whose test scores continue to decline, our teachers, who are forced to teach for a standardized test, a test which has not proven to raise our children’s competency, and our schools which again only get 40 cents out of every tax dollar paid too this department.  So, why not do away with this department?  It would be one less federal money pit, which means more revenues could be directed elsewhere; like towards paying down our debt; and it puts the municipalities and states back in control of curriculum, and possibly higher test scores.

Then there is this fictional war on women that will be perpetrated should we end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood is a nearly 100 year old nonprofit charitable organization, meaning it still should exist with or without federal monies.  Sure, if the federal government turned off the spigot tomorrow it would more than likely have an immediate impact on this organization’s operations, but that just means that it would have to mobilize its fund raising efforts.  Please don’t take this as me not believing what Planned Parenthood’s fundamental cause is, which isn’t just providing abortions as many on the right would lead you to believe, they do a lot more than that.  Rather it has more to do with the federal government spending money on things that they have no real right to dabble in – in this case our reproductive systems.  Some will say that it is “only” $350 million paid to Planned Parenthood, so defunding it will not have any sizable impact on federal expenditures.  To me it isn’t the amount so much as the government being involved.  As far as a “war” on women goes, take a look at the Taliban and see their treatment of women (the attempted assassination of a teenage girl for example) that is what a war on women looks like.  Here it is more about the government’s involvement in a woman’s reproductive rights; to which I stress that I believe the government has no business in being a part of.

Finally there is the Senator’s egregious act of accepting campaign donations from people in the financial industry.  First, people are allowed to contribute to whichever candidate they most identify with, regardless of what industry they work in.  Second the Senator used to work in that industry, so I would imagine that is where he has many friends, and connections.  Neither of which are necessarily wrong, nor is it illegal.  Then there is the fact that when I went to www.opensecrets.org (a great place to do some research on candidates) and looked up who/what industries finances both campaigns they both are getting money from many of the exact same organizations and industries.  The financial industry sits at number 5 of top contributing industries for the sitting Senator, and that very same industry sits at number 8 on the challenger’s.  That’s not the interesting thing about this though.  Despite the ranking difference of the financial industry in each candidate’s campaigns, it is the dollar amount that is more striking.  The sitting Senator’s campaign has received $213,000 from the financial industry; while the challenger has received $230,000 from the very same industry.  Hmm, can you say two faced?

I guess this is a very long way of saying, don’t base your vote upon a television commercial.

 

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.  (Mark Twain)

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