Chart of the day

Love Ezra’s title for the link to this story and accompanying charts: “worst. socialist. ever.”  For such a socialist, government (as a percent of GDP) has shrunk quite considerably under Obama:

And the context:

FOR the first time in 40 years, the government sector of the American economy has shrunk during the first three years of a presidential administration.

Spending by the federal government, adjusted for inflation, has risen at a slow rate under President Obama. But that increase has been more than offset by a fall in spending by state and local governments, which have been squeezed by weak tax receipts.

In the first quarter of this year, the real gross domestic product for the government — including state and local governments as well as federal — was 2 percent lower than it was three years earlier, whenBarack Obama took office in early 2009.

The last time the government actually got smaller over the first three years of a presidential term was when Richard M. Nixon was president. That decrease was largely because of declining spending on the Vietnam War.

Of course, a lot of cuts have been at the state/local level, but, of course, that’s still “government” last I checked.  And, of course, if you actually take out the state job losses, you’d see that private sector job growth is not quite as weak as it looks.  These jobs numbers ever month are net jobs and that net includes a lot of fired teachers, etc.

Gender wage gap. Yet again.

Kevin Drum had a post the other day in response to Bob Somersby’s frustration with Rachel Maddow refusing to back down on misleading her viewers on the gender wage gap.  First, some Somersby:

Overall, when you aggregate everybody working, women get paid 77 cents for every dollar that men get paid. For the same work, dudes get paid more.

True believers often think it: If they just keep repeating a claim, that will make the claim accurate. In this case, Maddow kept saying that men get paid more “for the same work.” And she used the statistic from Meet the Press, the statistic that launched this dispute:

“Women get paid 77 cents for every dollar that men get paid. For the same work, dudes get paid more.”

Those claims may still be technically accurate—but they’re grossly misleading. Consider what happened when Maddow ended her monologue and let an expert speak…

Hartmann told Maddow she had the far better part of Sunday’s argument. Then, she quickly began to show that this claim isn’t accurate.

Duh! “Of course, these numbers from the…Census Bureau are not really talking about discrimination,” Hartmann said, referring to the “77 cents” figure which Maddow had now been reciting for two straight days. Having thrown that statistic under the bus, Hartmann cited a GAO study.

This study did attempt to measure discrimination, Hartmann said. And what did that GAO study find? According to Hartmann, the study said this:

“Even when you put everything you can possibly think of in the regression equations, the statistical analyses to try to make that gap go away, you can’t explain at least 20 percent of it.”

But twenty percent of “that gap” is only 5.6 cents. (That’s 23 cents divided by five.) According to Hartmann, the GAO study said that women are discriminated against to the tune of 5.6 cents on the dollar. Maddow had been saying the discrimination factor was 23 cents for the prior two days.

Alright, enough of all that.  As you know, I generally love me some Drum, but I think he really got it wrong here:

But this argument sort of misses the point. It’s true that some of the gap goes away when you account for the fact that women tend to work in different jobs than men and take more time off to have children. But that’s all part of the point. When all’s said and done, women are punished financially in three different ways: because “women’s jobs” have historically paid less than jobs dominated by men; because women are expected to take time off when they have children, which reduces their seniority; and because even when they’re in the same job with the same amount of experience, they get paid less than men. All of these things are part of the pay gap. Whether you call all three of them “discrimination” is more a matter of taste than anything else.

Now Drum is, in a way, exactly right about this.  What he does not seem to appreciate is that– in my experience– the vast majority of the purveyors of this statistics would have you believe (as would Maddow) that this statistic means that women are getting paid 77% as much for exactly the same work.  And that’s so not true.  Every semester when I go through this with my classes– this false interpretation is exactly what most of my students think.  I do not object at all to trying to shrink this gap, but it is so much more than just flat-out wage discrimination, as Maddow would have you believe.  We are talking about undertaking fundamental changes in how society understands the roles of men, women, work, and caring for children.  And I’m all for that, but please, let’s be honest in what we’re talking about on this issue.

For those really into this issue, I recommend the summary sections of this excellent analysis prepared for the Department of Labor.

Photo of the day

Pretty amazing photo of Everest at sunset via May 1 National Geographic Photo of the Day:

Photo: The sun sets over the west shoulder of Everest and Nuptse.

Sunset, Mount Everest

Photograph by Cory Richards, National Geographic

This Month in Photo of the Day: Adventure and Exploration Photos

The sun sets over the west shoulder of Mount Everest (right) and Mount Nuptse.

Godless Gap

Of all the demographic “gaps” in presidential voting, I do find the religious gap rather intriguing.  Here’s Gallup’s most recent polling on the matter:

Candidate Support by Religiosity, Registered Voters, April 2012

This is where the action is– denomination, etc., matters, but not nearly as much as simple religious intensity.   For example, check out these following two charts:

Candidate Support by Religiosity, Among Protestants Only, Registered Voters, April 2012

Candidate Support by Religiosity, Among Catholics Only, Registered Voters, April 2012

Of course, I also think it is quite interesting that we have “Nonreligious Catholic” and “Nonreligious Protestant” as meaningful categories, which certainly speaks to the cultural power of religion.  (For the record, I’d put myself in that Obama-favoring “moderately religious Catholics” category).

Now Gallup’s take away on all this is that Romney needs to eat into Obama’s support among the less/non religious, but if Romney makes up ground– and I suspect he will– I think it is going to happen across all sorts of demographic categories and there will be nothing unique among non-religious.

Make yourself smarter

Really interesting article a couple weeks ago in the NYT magazine about making yourself smarter.

On each of the children’s monitors, there was a cartoon image of a haunted house, with bats and a crescent moon in a midnight blue sky. Every few seconds, a black cat appeared in one of the house’s five windows, then vanished. The exercise was divided into levels. On Level 1, the children earned a point by remembering which window the cat was just in. Easy. But the game is progressive: the cats keep coming, and the kids have to keep watching and remembering.

“And here’s where it gets confusing,” Wulfson continued. “If you get to Level 2, you have to remember where the cat was two windows ago. The time before last. For Level 3, you have to remember where it was three times ago. Level 4 is four times ago. That’s hard. You have to keep track. O.K., ready? Once we start, anyone who talks loses a star.”…

In a 2008 study, Susanne Jaeggi and Martin Buschkuehl, now of the University of Maryland, found that young adults who practiced a stripped-down, less cartoonish version of the game also showed improvement in a fundamental cognitive ability known as “fluid” intelligence: the capacity to solve novel problems, to learn, to reason, to see connections and to get to the bottom of things. The implication was that playing the game literally makes people smarter.

Psychologists have long regarded intelligence as coming in two flavors: crystallized intelligence, the treasure trove of stored-up information and how-to knowledge (the sort of thing tested on “Jeopardy!” or put to use when you ride a bicycle); and fluid intelligence. Crystallized intelligence grows as you age; fluid intelligence has long been known to peak in early adulthood, around college age, and then to decline gradually. And unlike physical conditioning, which can transform 98-pound weaklings into hunks, fluid intelligence has always been considered impervious to training…

How, then, could watching black cats in a haunted house possibly increase something as profound as fluid intelligence? Because the deceptively simple game, it turns out, targets the most elemental of cognitive skills: “working” memory. What long-term memory is to crystallized intelligence, working memory is to fluid intelligence. Working memory is more than just the ability to remember a telephone number long enough to dial it; it’s the capacity to manipulate the information you’re holding in your head

As a parent of a child with ADHD, this particular bit really piqued by interest:

Jaeggi’s study has been widely influential. Since its publication, others have achieved results similar to Jaeggi’s not only in elementary-school children but also in preschoolers, college students and the elderly. The training tasks generally require only 15 to 25 minutes of work per day, five days a week, and have been found to improve scores on tests of fluid intelligence in as little as four weeks. Follow-up studies linking that improvement to real-world gains in schooling and job performance are just getting under way. But already, people with disorders including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (A.D.H.D.) and traumatic brain injury have seen benefits from training. Gains can persist for up to eight months after treatment.

Hmmmm.  I think I may know a 12-year old who’s going to be playing this game this summer whether he likes it or not.   The Times piece links to a version of the game here.  It’s hard– I think I’m just going to have to be content with how smart I already am.   And here’s  a little bit I wrote on the topic, courtesy of Jonah Lehrer, last summer.

%d bloggers like this: