Knowing the Facts and How You Look at the Facts Isn’t the Same, @crampell

Washington Post columnist and fellow Palm Beach Day Academy alum Catherine Rampell hits on the “facts” during her hometown address:

Rampell, who focuses on data-driven journalism, said she is worried about Trump’s stance on federal agencies such as the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis. She said his attitude toward analytics has ranged from “indifference” to “contempt,” noting Trump has called the unemployment rate a hoax and made budget cuts to the Census Bureau.

“It really bodes ill for a lot of people because numbers, good data, that’s how we know how to hold our public officials accountable, how to tell whether their policies are doing a good job and how to make good business decisions,” Rampell said.

This is a classic fallacy of our time: we have the data, therefore we know what it means and how to solve the problems it presents.  A good example of that is income inequality: it’s gotten worse under just about every president in my adult lifetime (and her entire lifetime) including Barack Obama.  And there’s been a great deal of hand-wringing about this.  One would think that he, of all people, would have reversed that trend, but he didn’t.  Perhaps the interest in achieving that goal isn’t as strong in a Palm Beacher like Rampell (and others at the top) as it is with those whose income has actually gone down.

The result of this in our electoral system was two candidates–Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump–who built their candidacies on basically the same problems, but looked at their solution entirely differently.  Had the Democrats not been as fixated on Hillary Clinton as they were, a race between the two of them would have been exciting, to say the least.  (The one we had was exciting enough…)

Climate change is another one of those “facts” problems.  All other things being equal, the earth will warm with an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: therefore, we must replace our fossil-fuel based energy generation with only “renewable” sources.  Another intramural problem: another fellow Day Academy alum, Kerry Emanuel, and two others did a piece a while back supporting nuclear power, which would make the replacement of fossil fuels a much more rapid process.  And isn’t time of the essence here?  (Speaking of intramurals, wonder if Rampell is a Pelican or a Flamingo…)

One other note: Donald Trump’s disdain for the unemployment rate is probably based on the fact that it doesn’t include those who have given up seeking employment and left the labour force.  That’s a legitimate problem; it masked that exodus all during Obama’s presidency.  His response, in part, was to expand the disability program and attempt to pension off the victims of economic change.  And that, truth to tell, was partly successful.

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