Americans for America

I enjoy making fun of all the absurd names of political 527’s, e.g., Americans for Job Security, Americans for Prosperity, etc., so I’ve always used “Americans for America” as what I thought was just a joke on the silliness of these names.  Turns out they’re real! And much to my dismay, a liberal group.

Anyway, now you can make up your own 527 name via the Sunlight Foundation: (they actually have an embed code, but stupid WordPress is too damn paranoid about embeds, so you’ll have to click the link).

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Chart of the day

Via Ezra Klein:

budgetforeignaid.jpg

Source.

This is one of my “favorite” misperceptions about American politics.  If I had a dollar for everybody who thought we could solve our budget problems just by cutting foreign aid, I’d be a very rich man.  I always spend some time on this little factoid in my Intro to American Government class.  Most students are pretty much shocked to find out that foreign aid is less than 1% of the budget.

As for the 11-12% that people seem ready to spend on foreign aid, I really would not put a lot of stock in that.  Classic example of the anchoring effect.  They are using the anchor of the 1/4 of the budget that they think it is (on average, obviously)  and then thinking half of that sounds more reasonable.  If you simply told people we spend about 1% of the budget on foreign aid and then asked them what we should spend, I bet it would still be lower.  Certainly not 12%.

Leads me to a series of experiments on just how amazingly irrational people are with numbers (that I think I recall reading about in Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational). Ask people the last two digits of their social security number and them ask them what they think you should pay for a good bottle of wine.  Obviously, there should be no relationship between the two numbers you get, but those XXX-XX-XX94 people ending up willing to spend a lot more on a good bottle of wine than the XXX-XX-XX04 people.  Once that 94 or 4 or whatever is in your head, it influences judgments which are completely independent.  Nobody who knows what they’re talking about ever suggested humans are actually rational thinkers.

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