Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Seeing situations as a dynamic of changing positions clarifies much of what is happens and allows us to better predict their future. Each change in position was made possible by past positions and foreshadows future positions. For example, the chances that Iraq turns into a dictatorship is less likely because they are coming from a dictatorship. Past positions educate people about what to avoid in the future. After Afghanistan, Islamic republics are much less appealing throughout the Middle East, at least among those that know what really happened there. Strangely enough, this brings us to issues in the coming presidential race. Given the political facility for language, almost any topic can be turned into an “issue,” but the solid reality of positions tells us which of these issues are real and which are merely chatter. For example, the Democrat claim that President Bush has lost 3 million jobs. Is this claim real in the sense that it reflects something most Americans are really feeling? There are two surveys that measure unemployment. The one from which the employment rate comes is the household survey. The establishment survey is larger but only counts known businesses and is the one from which the 3 million figure is gleaned. The Labor Department's household survey -- which actually interviews workers instead of known businesses -- now stands at 138.3 million, an all-time high. The previous peak came way back in January 2001 at 137.8 million. More importantly, the unemployment rates during the late 90’s were an historic anomaly. Not since the last economic bubble at the end of the 60’s had they been so low. The unemployment rate continues to hold at 5.6 percent, lower than the averages for the Clinton administration and all the 80's. They are much lower than the peak they reached during Clinton's first term at over 7%. Since the end of 2002, 1.8 million more people have gone back to work. American’s have short memory for numbers, but they know their position in the job market today is not that bad at all compared to their expectations.