Friday, April 25, 2008

Conservative Porn

ABC's John Stossel is without a doubt a frontrunner for winning the prestigious Dumbest Fucking Person in the Media award, and in a group that includes morons like Chris Matthews, Richard Cohen, and John Gibson, that's really saying alot. I mentioned him in a recent post on the charitableness of liberals and conservatives, but his column on the subject was so hackilicious that I decided to devote an entire post to it.

One of his claims thatwas so outrageous that I'll repeat it again here was his suggestion that a meatpacker in Sioux Falls, SD making $35,000 a year is part of the "working poor," and "have the same income" as people on welfare, even though the Heritage Foundation said in 2004 that the typical single mother on welfare receives a total of $14,000 in benefits, which includes Food Stamps, Medicaid, and other non-cash benefits. And this is from a group that is critical of the lofty sum these welfare queens receive.

But I guess this makes sense, seeing as how his fellow ABC newsie Charlie Gibson seems to believe that a family making $200k counts as "middle-class." I suspect the issue isn't that they're out of touch, but rather that these guys have so much foresight that they actually perceive life in the future. They just need to adjust their amounts to compensate for those of us still living in 2008 and they'd be fine.

Testing Charitableness

But one of the funniest bits was Stossel's "experiment" to prove that red state people were more charitable than blue state people. Sure, one way to do that would be to actually find out how much people were donating of their disposable income and reporting that, but that'd involve actual work, and what'd be the fun in that? Besides, that's already been done before and it completely disproves Stossel's point, and he can't have that at all, can he?

And even then, he actually knew the answer to that question, though he used the wrong numbers and went with the percentage of total income, rather than of disposable income; which favor red states, because they're cheaper to live in due to their high crappiness factor (no offense intended, red states). I mean, what's the point of only using the percentage of income donated, if you're still not using comparable numbers?

And what does the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy(PDF) have to say about South Dakota and California's charitableness? According to page 32, South Dakotans gave on average $969 total contributions, which was 2.21% of their disposable income. Californians gave $1,736, which was 5.35% of their disposable income. So not only did California give far more in absolute dollars, but they also gave a much higher percentage of their disposable income. That's why Stossel couldn't include either of those numbers, but only mentioned percentage of total income and hoped that you wouldn't know the difference. I'm sure few of his readers did.

The Two-Bucket Experiment

So what was his clever experiment?
To test them, ABC's "20/20" went to Sioux Falls, S.D., and San Francisco. We asked the Salvation Army to set up buckets at their busiest locations in both cities. Which bucket would get more money?

Wow, that's really scientific, isn't it. Two buckets in two cities for two days, and this is going to prove more than the actual numbers that we already have. And there are lots of variables here that are entirely unaccounted for. Like what type of area the buckets were placed in, what type of person manned the bucket, whether the smalltown Sioux Fallians were personal friends with the collector, etc. All we know is that these were the "busiest intersections" according to the Salvation Army and that's it.

He doesn't even give us any official results of this "experiment" Instead, we get the vague "three times as many people" and "twice as much money" as the only indicators of how the buckets did. We don't even know if there was someone officially counting the number of folks who walked by the bucket, or if that was a guesstimate Stossel pulled from the database he sits on.

On a scale of one to ten on the Biobrain Science Index, this has definitely got to rank a big zero. Yet the moron Stossel clearly imagines himself to have proven some grand point that he clearly had set out to prove from the beginning.

It's the Religion, Stupid

And one other big factor in all this: The Salvation Army is a Christian organization with a specifically Christian agenda. They even have church services. And that's fine, if that's what they want to be, but it's understandable if an atheist might not want to give to them. I never do. That's not to suggest that I don't think they do good things, as I'm sure they do. But I don't support Christian organizations. I don't have anything against them, mind you, but I won't support them any more than I expect a Christian to support a specifically atheist organization. (As an aside, I don't support any atheist organizations and could only imagine joining one as a joke.)

For christ's sake, the Salvation Army's first doctrine is: "We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice."

And their last doctrine is: "We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked."

So is it really a big surprise that liberal San Francisco might not have given them much money? This was ridiculous. Let's try setting up "Pot for Jesus" buckets in San Francisco and Sioux Falls and see which town is more charitable. Hell, I betcha that'd have done better in SF than the Salvation Army's did, especially if they had a guy playing some Grateful Dead tunes next to it. I'm sure it would here in Austin too.

Half As Much Money

And it's obvious his whole piece was written with the intent to denounce selfish liberals, with his "people in Sioux Falls make, on average, half as much money as people in San Francisco" which was supposed to indicate that the San Franians had more money to give, but refused to. But I'm fairly sure that he's wrong about that. (Please note that he uses the vague "average," rather than "mean" or "median" average, which is generally required to know what number somebody's talking about.)

First off, I don't know what numbers he looked at when he gave that "half as much" number, but the median income for a household in Sioux Falls in 1999 was $41,221, while it was $57,833 for San Francisco in 2005 (not exactly comparable years, but it's the best I could easily find). And while that shows that San Franians made more money, it's hardly the "double" that Stossel suggested. Moreover, it's far more expensive to live in San Francisco. According to this Cost of Living Calculator, someone making the median income in Sioux Falls would need to make $83,914 in San Fran to have the same standard of living.

In other words, the average person in Sioux Falls has WAAAY more disposable income than someone in San Francisco. But that was completely excluded from Stossel's report, where we're erroneously told that people in Sioux Falls make half as much as those selfish bastards in San Francisco, who had "three times" as many folks pass the bucket that only collected half as much money.

As Stossel says at the end of his piece: Another myth bites the dust. Indeed it did. And speaking of myths, I definitely think that Stossel's continued employment with ABC is clear evidence in support of the liberal bias myth. Why else would anyone allow such a moron on the air other than to embarrass conservatives?

1 comment:

John of the Dead said...

While I agree with the overall thrust of the post (John Stossel is an ass), I feel the need to muddy the water a bit more. Measuring giving as a percentage of disposable income may not be the best metric for Christian giving. One of the Christian teachings is that the giving should come first. So, that tithe is 10% of the gross, not of the net. :-)

Despite that, I understand your secondary point - folks in Souix Falls will still have a higher percentage left over. I really don't know how you can account for those various factors, unless you do the really hard work of finding out what those various contributions will eventually buy. I'm pretty sure there's a doctoral thesis in that particular study.