The War On Math

Dwight D. Eisenhower photo portrait.

Dwight D. Eisenhower photo portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The story goes that President Eisenhower was shocked to learn that half of all Americans were of below average intelligence. True or not, this humorously illustrates the pitfall of statistics for the unwary.

I just read another of those articles stating how much more the average college graduate earns than the average high school graduate. Whoa! Wouldn’t the average for college graduates be pulled up by many graduates entering well paid professions like law, medicine, or engineering? And, if you are majoring in something else, what does that have to do with you? A far more informative statistic would be to compare medians rather than averages, but even that requires careful handling.

In this political season, politicians are given to quoting a lot of facts, figures, and statistics. Beware – the numbers often don’t mean what they seem to mean, even when they’re true. The Dems accuse the GOP of a “War on Women” while the GOP accuses the Dems of a “War on Jobs”, but, from where I sit, both parties are waging a War on Math.


Higher Ed Observations

Here are some excerpts from an interesting article:

It’s no secret that a college degree no longer confers the virtually sure path to affluence that it once did. The costs of education have increased rapidly in recent years. Meanwhile, the employment prospects for graduates have dwindled.


education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

it is becoming increasingly easy for college and post-graduate students to build up tremendous debt through education loans but increasingly difficult for them to pay these back with their post-graduate income. The similarities of today’s higher education markets to the housing markets of a decade ago are striking.

Further complicating the problem is the difficulty that parents now have in saving for their children’s education. Interest rates have been so low that the fees for a college fund are often higher than the interest earned. By the time the kids ready to go to college, the money in the fund is substantially less than the sum of the amounts that were put into it.

Yet education is more important than ever.

What we can expect to see in the next decade is an increasing insistence on the part of students and parents that any type of higher education pay for itself within three years or less after graduation. Many technical schools, community colleges, for-profit colleges and adult education programs already meet this requirement. Most public universities do not.

via Real Estate Opportunities for the Next Decade, Part 2: Classrooms | The Daily Capitalist.

Goodies for Thinkers – Freedom Fries Edition

Menu from a House cafeteria featuring "Fr...

Menu from a House cafeteria featuring “Freedom Fries” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More to ponder:

  1. Your favorite Web site reveals your politics? Google for Obama, Bing for Romney? Really?
  2. More Outsourcing! A company that goes bust employs no one.
  3. What Economists Would Do – And Politicians Wouldn’t … which explains a lot.
  4. Common Sense from France. What next? Get me some Freedom Fries, quick.
  5. Is it only in America that the obvious is taken as profound?

Goodies for Thinkers–Outsourcing Edition

English: A small plate with a serving of mashe...

English: A small plate with a serving of mashed potatoes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Interesting things to ponder:

  1. Our presidential candidates are soaked in economic ignorance. Is it now unpatriotic to travel abroad?
  2. Childish Nonsense Revealed! But remember, a politician can’t get elected without spouting childish nonsense.
  3. The mashed potatoes and gravy Slurpee – could it get any better?
  4. What would you do if you wanted to make a better world for your descendants? Probably not what you think.
  5. The middle class is changing. Did it commit suicide?

Goodies for Thinkers, Mid-Summer Edition

I’m trying a change in blogging style and re-considering my prohibition on cross-posting. What do you think?

  1. Before there was economics, there was the Montaigne Fallacy. Many still believe it.
  2. The curse of the Ashanti is being visited on us today. Has it ever not?
  3. Arnold Kling opines on the value of humility. He’s on to something.

Health Care in Wonderland

Wow. The surprising Supreme Court decision has caused an avalanche of commentary. The sequence of events and the underlying logic is bizarre. The bottom line is that the mandate (“not a tax”) would be unconstitutional if it were a mandate, but it is constitutional because it really is a tax (not a mandate). You can’t make up stuff this funny!

So, we have the biggest tax increase in history falling almost entirely on the middle class, sponsored by the folks who say there should be no tax increases for the middle class. You can’t make this stuff up!

Despite the Alice in Wonderland nature of the law and politics involved, the reform is chugging on – at least mostly. Big chunks have already been thrown overboard because the administration said they were unworkable. It remains to be seen how much more will collapse under it’s own weight. And, outside government, insurance rates are skyrocketing in anticipation of Reform and employers everywhere are deciding whether they can any longer afford to provide insurance for their employees. The fun has just begun!

Meanwhile, lots of economists have described what needs to be done to fix this mess. Their plot makes sense to me, but a real solution would not sound attractive to the poorly educated voters who decide elections. Democrats won’t touch the good ideas and even the boldest Republicans offer only faint echoes.

So, where are we headed? My guess is that health care will soon get a lot more expensive and a lot more people will do without or without enough. At some point we might hit rock bottom and entertain real reform, but only after the current cast of characters in government are only an unpleasant memory. I hope I’m wrong.

Washington DC: United States Supreme Court

Washington DC: United States Supreme Court (Photo credit: wallyg)

French Logic

I’ve blogged a lot about the minimum wage (try searching), so I won’t go into it again. The situation is well understood, at least by economists. The American public, however, almost always supports an increase in the minimum wage in the apparent belief that it will make things better. Politicians are inclined to follow the public’s lead, even when they know better. The French seem to feel the same way, with their new head honcho declaring a boost in the minimum wage, claiming it will boost consumption. Economists everywhere are beating their heads against whatever wall they can find. The only good thing that I can see in this is that it proves that French politicians are no better than American politicians. Shed a tear for France.