Sunday, July 29, 2012

The argument is so bad, it must be on purpose: Catherine Rampell

At Economix, at the NY Times, Catherine Rampell writes:

‘Big Government’ Isn’t So Big by Historical Standards. It’s Also Shrinking.

While Washington debates whether big government is holding back the economy, it’s worth keeping a couple of facts in mind: Government has been shrinking steadily for two years, and compared to the size of the overall economy, government is actually slightly smaller today than it has been on average in the postwar era.

Lame, lame, lame. Lefties will love it. But lefties are not the ones who have to be convinced. Get my drift?

While President Obama has been pegged as a big-government politician, the total number of government jobs has actually fallen under his presidency. Federal payrolls have risen a little bit...

"A little bit"? That's your best argument, Catherine??

Impressions matter. Glance at Catherine's second graph:

Look how tiny that white space is, that little strip just above all that government spending! What Catherine says she wants us to see is that the top edge of the blue area is just an eensie bit lower than it was before. That's not the impression I get from her graph.

And her third graph. Catherine Rampell writes:

Finally, to help you further put the size of government in perspective, consider that government spending relative to the size of the overall economy is actually slightly below its long-term, postwar average.

And then she shows this:

Look at all the damned white space under the government spending! And there's almost none above. Impressions matter. Yeah, the vertical scale really goes up to 100%. But nobody gets that impression. The highest number on that vertical scale is 20%. That's not even as high as the average value of the spending she shows. But the lowest number on the scale? Well, that goes all the way down to zero. That puts it in perspective, all right.

And you know, graphs are always wider than they are high; it's an unwritten rule. But not this graph. Catherine's graph is higher than it is wide. It's just stupid. It makes government spending look higher than it is!

Can it be that Catherine is so inept that she doesn't realize that what she's doing undermines what she's saying? I don't think so. I think she's making a different argument than her words suggest.

Take another look at her opening:

While Washington debates whether big government is holding back the economy, it’s worth keeping a couple of facts in mind

Yeh. Keep in mind the fact that big government is NOT holding back the economy. And keep in mind the fact that excessive private debt IS holding it back.

Get your shit together, Catherine, or get off the horse.

// from Reddit

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