A job for Hillary.

A mostly political Weblog.
Sept. 5 2006 5:33 AM

A Job For Hillary

Plus--Shorter summer.

(Continued from Page 2)

Maybe Cocooning Is Easy! Eric Alterman, in a post titled "Extreme Poverty is US," writes (quoting today's NYT poverty numbers story):

Again, moreover, "although the numbers living below the poverty line held steady between 2004 and 2005, there has been a sharp increase in those living in extreme poverty." [Emph. added]

That's funny, because if you look at the Census numbers, they show that the percent of people living in extreme poverty--defined as below 50 percent of the poverty line--was 5.4 percent in 2005, a jump of ... well, zero from 2004, when the rate was also 5.4 percent. I contend that "zero" is not a "sharp increase." ...

P.S.: So how did Alterman get his bogus spin? 1) What he's quoting is NYT reporter Rick Lyman paraphrasing "advocates for the poor"-- specifically Robert Greenstein, whose influential outfit (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) specializes in devising esoteric measurements to suggest that good poverty news is really bad poverty news. Lyman's next paragraph reported:

And 43 percent of the poor earned less than half of the poverty limit, Mr. Greenstein said, again the highest such percentage ever recorded.


Those may be the highest percentages of the poor ever recorded, but what does that mean if the absolute number of people in "deep poverty" didn't really increase? I think it means that there were fewer other kinds of poor people! Do we care what "percent of the poor" is extremely poor? (As opposed to, say, what percent of Americans is extremely poor?)

Actually, there's something fishy about that 43 percent 'record.' In 2004, complaining about the 2003 numbers,  Greenstein's group wrote

Some 43 percent of all poor people had incomes this low, as the percentage of poor people living in extreme poverty reached the highest level on record.

The 2003-2005 "increase" from 43 percent to 43 percent cannot have been "sharp"! (Greenstein didn't mention the equivalent "extreme poverty" percentage in his complaint about 2004, perhaps because--by my calculation--it was ever-so-slightly slightly lower, at about 42.37 percent versus 42.56 percent the year before, and would have to have been rounded down to 42!)

Basically, it's a relatively meaningless percentage that has been flat for three years. Greenstein's making a big deal about fluctuations in the tenths of a percent. Lyman was fooled by Greenstein's statistical spin, mischaracterized it as a "sharp increase," and Alterman in turn trumpeted his mischaracterization. Easy as 1, 2, 3! ... 1:02 P.M. link

Paris Hilton is no Zsa Zsa Gabor! ... 2:54 A.M.


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