The dumbest (and most harmful) analogy in politics

Well, maybe not the dumbest, but its gotta be up there.  Yglesias today nicely explains why the analogy of the government budget to a household budget is simply non-sensical.  And earlier today I listened to the New Yorker’s politics podcast in which Ryan Lizza and James Suriowiecki pointed out just how politically stupid it was for Obama to publicly buy into this analogy.  Anyway, here’s Yglesias:

Back to the federal budget. When the US government borrows money and builds an aircraft carrier, it hasn’t just taken on debt it’s acquired an aircraft carrier. And when the US government borrows money and pays a teacher to teach a kid to read, American society gains a literate citizen.

So there are two relevant questions to ask yourself about any kind of expenditure, neither of which is about debt. One is how valuable is a given purchase (of a car or an aircraft carrier or a company) and the second is what’s the most affordable way to raise the funds. Under ordinary circumstances, it makes a lot of sense for the government to finance its expenditures through taxes. But under the unusual conditions of a depressed economy and negative real interest rates on government debt, it’s much more reasonable to finance purchases through borrowing. A separate issue is what kinds of things it makes sense to purchase. Obviously one important philosophical difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is that Obama thinks lots of things the federal government buys (health care and food for the needy, schools, transportation infrastructure, public health and safety regulators) are valuable whereas Romney thinks that only its military purchases and health care for the currently elderly are valuable.

If a household needs more revenue one of its members can at least try and get more work.  The government clearly needs more revenue yet one politically party is theologically opposed to government doing the one thing it can most easily do to raise revenue– raise taxes.  If we’re going to go with the household analogy it’s like the troglodyte husband saying the wife cannot work no matter what and then complaining when there’s not money for the new HD Television.

The politics of parenthood in 2008

Well, what’s the point of having a blog if you cannot plug your own research.  My latest article on the aforementioned topic is now available on-line.  Here’s the abstract:

This project employs 2008 National Election Study (NES) data to explore whether parents are different than nonparents in terms of their political attitudes and candidate evaluations. We find that parenthood does have political consequences although often not in ways suggested by conventional wisdom. Rather than finding parents to be a conservative group, our results support the idea that raising children has liberalizing effects on the attitudes of women. Fatherhood shapes attitudes less than motherhood, but these fewer effects are in a conservative direction. We argue that the distinctive politics of mothers and fathers reflects the impact of parenting as a gendered socialization experience combined with the contrasting parenthood themes articulated by the Republican and Democratic parties. Finally, despite media coverage suggesting Sarah Palin’s “Hockey Mom” image would attract parents, especially mothers, to her candidacy and the Republican ticket we find no support for this idea.

And a couple of the tables:

As you can see, on these social-welfare issues, it’s really about being a mom  and really not about being a dad.

Photo of the day

Love how there’s all sorts of great shots of the Space Shuttle flying over DC on the way to it’s new home in Northern Virginia (can’t wait to go see it next time I visit my sister):

Facebook is not making me lonely

Really interesting article about Facebook in the latest Atlantic.   All sorts of fascinating nuggets, but I found the following most compelling:

Moira Burke, until recently a graduate student at the Human-Computer Institute at Carnegie Mellon, used to run a longitudinal study of 1,200 Facebook users. That study, which is ongoing, is one of the first to step outside the realm of self-selected college students and examine the effects of Facebook on a broader population, over time. She concludes that the effect of Facebook depends on what you bring to it. Just as your mother said: you get out only what you put in. If you use Facebook to communicate directly with other individuals—by using the “like” button, commenting on friends’ posts, and so on—it can increase your social capital. Personalized messages, or what Burke calls “composed communication,” are more satisfying than “one-click communication”—the lazy click of a like. “People who received composed communication became less lonely, while people who received one-click communication experienced no change in loneliness,” Burke tells me. So, you should inform your friend in writing how charming her son looks with Harry Potter cake smeared all over his face, and how interesting her sepia-toned photograph of that tree-framed bit of skyline is, and how cool it is that she’s at whatever concert she happens to be at. That’s what we all want to hear. Even better than sending a private Facebook message is the semi-public conversation, the kind of back-and-forth in which you half ignore the other people who may be listening in. “People whose friends write to them semi-publicly on Facebook experience decreases in loneliness,” Burke says.

On the other hand, non-personalized use of Facebook—scanning your friends’ status updates and updating the world on your own activities via your wall, or what Burke calls “passive consumption” and “broadcasting”—correlates to feelings of disconnectedness. It’s a lonely business, wandering the labyrinths of our friends’ and pseudo-friends’ projected identities, trying to figure out what part of ourselves we ought to project, who will listen, and what they will hear. According to Burke, passive consumption of Facebook also correlates to a marginal increase in depression.

Not surprisingly, I am a very active user and feel that FB has significantly enhanced my life and feelings of social connectedness.  I have a number of real-world relationships that I know are better than they otherwise would be because they are enhanced and cultivated via FB.  I also know a lot of people who are just lurking as passive users.  Clear message: get active or just get off FB.

I’m sure somebody’s looked at it, but I also wonder about the relationship with extroversion/introversion.  I’m an extrovert who loves FB and my wife is an introvert who loves FB.  I suspect extroverts use FB more (definitely fits the bill for the most active friends in my feed), but that it is not quite the clear relationship many would think.  Anyway, the whole article is definitely worthy your time.

Feminism and how to lie with statistics

1) Women are discriminated against in the work place.  2) I don’t like it.  3) But people have to stop lying with statistics.  (From Momsrising)

Today is not just Tax Day. It is also Equal Pay Day – the day that symbolizes how far into 2012 women must work to earn what men already earned in 2011.

That’s right. Women have to work for 16.5 months to earn what men make in 12 months. Even though it is 2012 and even though the Equal Pay Act was passed almost 50 years ago, the sad reality is that across industries, women are still not getting equal pay for equal work.

Yes, it’s 2012, but Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman offered this justification for his bill repealing the state’s fair pay law:

You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious.

WHAT??? State Sen. Glenn Grothman seems to think that money just isn’t that important to women and mothers! And sadly he isn’t alone in this dated, inaccurate thinking since the fair pay legislation in WI was actually repealed.

Did I wake up in the 50s? No. I did not. It’s 2012 and State Sen. Grothman said this in a time when women, for the first time in history, now comprise half of the entire paid labor force, yet still make only 77 cents to every dollar earned by men.  That lost money is more critical than ever since more and more women are now the primary or co-breadwinners for their families.  Money, most certainly is not “more important for men” as he says.

I’ve said it before I’ll say it again– this statistic is the median wage for a wage-earning female as opposed to the median-wage for the wage-earning male.  The truth is that a lot more men are doctors and women are nurses.  Men are more likely to be attorneys; women paralegals.  Men in construction; women as office help.  The list goes on.  Maybe that’s discrimination, but this oft-repeated statistic is just hugely misleading of the actual situation.  Also, the presumably trogolodytic State Senator is onto something.  Men actually do work harder than equivalently-placed women.  They sacrifice family life to do so.  It’s a choice I personally reject, but it does actually lead to higher earnings.   I’m pretty sure that there’s evidence men start working more when they become a parent; definitely not the case for women.

Listen, there’s very real discrimination in the workplace– primarily against mothers– and there’s a very real cultural impact of how society seeks to constrain the career choices of men and women, but I’m just tired of people pretending as if it’s a simple matter of wage discrimination.  This is a very complicated issue and I don’t think basically lying with statistics gets us any closer to solving it.

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