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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Mark Twain was Right!

There are Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.
Mark Twain

Porcupine ADORES the Sunday papers. In addition to the varied sections, there are coupons and the Coloured Comics (while Porcupine laments the passing of Pogo and Judge Parker, he still has Mary Worth, Shylock Fox and Prince Valiant – any tampering with THEM, and it may be time to go on-line altogether!). The Cape Cod Times also carries Parade Magazine, a glossy feature supplement full of celebrity trivia and some ‘serious’ articles. This Sunday brought us, “Is the American Dream Still Possible?” (Parade seems doubtful about it) with the sidebar shown below – as edited by Porcupine:

The Stressed Middle Class – always a popular theme right around tax-time

National statistics show the increasing pressures on middle-income Americans:

The real median household income declined 3% from 2000 to 2004. Good grief, that includes the period when the national economy went off a cliff after 9/11! With a margin of error of +/- 2%, as it says in the VERY fine print – that’s a NEGLIGIBLE decrease – the economy is doing better than Porcupine thought!

The percentage of households earning $25,000 to $99,999 (roughly middle-income range) shrank 1.5% from 2000 to 2004. – and that 2% margin during that VERY bad time frame?

Last year, real average weekly earnings actually fell 0.4%. – again, with a margin of error of 2% - did we actually see an increase?

The savings rate for Americans is the lowest it has been in 73 years. – And the fault of that would lie with….self-indulgent Americans, who have redefined ‘necessity’ to include cellular phones, cable television, and a week in Cancun as a bare MINIMUM of livability?

Credit-card debt is at an all-time high, averaging $9,312 per household. – Porcupine didn’t think it was THAT low!

The average cost per year of a public college (in state) is $12,127, a 25% increase since 2001. – since the pool of available applicants is declining since the Baby Boom was educated, and the colleges are making no effort to curb the salaries of tenured professors – why are we surprised by this?

A private university costs $29,026. – likewise, the sweetheart deals that academia was able to negotiate twenty years ago when classrooms were full are coming home to roost.

So – it’s officially an election Year! Time to convince the Middle Class that they are badly off, when the NYSE is only a few hundred points off of its all-time high, despite $70 per barrel oil! Yes, if the new Consumer Confidence Index is up despite a Republican Presidency, it’s time to let people know how badly off the really are! Let’s find SOMETHING to convince them!

Mark Twain was correct in his analysis; every statistic can be used or twisted to reflect a certain agenda, which demonstrates the futility of Governing to the Poll, the civic equivalent of Teaching to the Test. That is why Porcupine is so bemused with the constant hawking of Approval Ratings – the only ones that matter are taken every two years in November. They are the only ones worth getting excited about.


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