Quote of the day

Chait:

The first set of regulations in the Affordable Care Act is now in effect. Big government has now capriciously taken away the right of average Americans to start an insurance company, sell other people insurance, and then arbitrarily cancel the policy when that person contracts a horrible illness.

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Generation X rules social media

Great friend (and loyal blog commenter) Jeff P posted this link about the ages of various social media users on facebook.  I found it really cool.  Of course, I’m so tragically un-hip, I haven’t even heard of most of the social media websites mentioned.  Nonetheless, here’s the key chart:

Age distribution on social network sites

I have no idea what Bebo is, but obviously I’m too old for it.  Age-wise, I’m actually the perfectly typical facebook user:

Estimated average age on social network sitesT

That’s right– the average facebook user is 38, just like me.  I think its quite interesting that despite starting as a site exclusively for college students, the bulk of users are now between 35-54.   In fact, the 35-54 age group tops the list for 11of the 19 sites studied (including Twitter).  I got to thinking, don’t we have another name for 35-44?  Generation X.

Defending the bailout

Great column from Fareed Zakaria on the bank bailout this week.   As friend and loyal reader, John F. says, “Zakaria’s last article in Newsweek was fantastic.  No doubt he’s brilliant but while his observations are usually dead on there’s something typically lacking in his conclusions.  This one is spot on.”  Here you go:

In the month after the fall [of Lehman Brothers], the U.S. government made a series of massive moves to restore stability to the financial system. And it’s clear that those actions saved the American—and thus the global—economy from total collapse…

The contraction in global trade in late 2008 and early 2009 was worse than in 1929 and 1930. In other words, we were surely headed for something that looked like a Great Depression.

The U.S. government’s actions stopped the fall. Between the passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the massive quantitative easing of the Federal Reserve, markets realized that the government was backstopping the financial system, that credit was beginning to flow again, and that if no one else was going to inject capital into the system, the U.S. government would do so. Part substance, part symbolism, the effect was to restore confidence and stability to the system. In fact, the financial system bounced back so fast that the government will likely recover almost 90 percent of the funds it committed during those months, making this one of the cheapest financial bailouts in history.

Here’s the insight I really like:

The best evidence that TARP worked is that now, most people think it was unnecessary. In fact, about 60 percent of the country thinks it was a bad idea…

Bank bailouts have always been unpopular. People hate to pay the bills for other people’s improvidence, and they detest having to do so for rich people. Viewed in moral terms, TARP is unconscionable. Financial institutions created the mess, and yet they were the ones being bailed out. But governance is sometimes about practical realities. Had the financial system gone under, the American economy would have come to a standstill. It very nearly did. We had to save the banks to save the economy.

And the nice “spot-on” conclusion:

The American system had a heart attack and we responded fast and well. Unfortunately, the problems we face in the future are less like heart attacks and more like cancer—problems that if unattended will grow and metastasize. In the long run, though, they’ll have the same effect on the patient.

I’ll simply add that what people have to say about the bailout is yet another way to judge whether they are serious and knowledgeable about politics and recent American political history; or rather just political hacks depending upon the ignorance of most Americans to score political points.

How to lie with statistics

Ezra Klein’s post yesterday on how Republicans have some incredibly misleading charts in their “Pledge to America” reminded me of my very favorite statistics book: How to Lie with Statistics.  (bet you didn’t know I had a favorite statistics book)  The example Ezra cites is absolutely classic, and would be worthy of inclusion in a new edition.  First, the GOP graph:

gopspendingasshareconomy.jpg

Notice the Y-axis. Makes it look like Obama doubled the size of government, rather than an increase from about 20 to 23%.  Now, here’s the original correction:

honestgraph.png

Defensible, but actually not all that “honest” as it clearly downplays things.  Here’s the final “fair” compromise:

government_size_as_percentage_of_economy.png

Just goes to show that you can take the same data and show pretty much whatever you want.  Caveat lector.

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